Whether it's a hug, smile or a piece of special potato candy, Nancy Oliver tries to make customers feel at home when they walk through the door to Waffle House.
That's in addition to the choruses of "welcome to Waffle House" " the signature greeting at more than 1,500 restaurants throughout 25 states.
Nancy, 52, has been a server and trainer at the Waffle House on Versailles Road since 2006. She's worked a variety of jobs, including personnel, factories, home remodeling and health care.
But, Nancy said she likes Waffle House the best because of the friendly faces she sees every day.
"I love my job."
She learned the importance of making people happy when a friend visited her in the hospital 10 years ago. Nancy had been in a vehicle accident and suffered serious injuries but the visitor helped cheer her up.
"I decided from then on if I can brighten your day I will get it done. That's just how I am."
Sometimes, she even makes peanut butter Buckeye candies, bourbon balls or old-fashioned potato candy to share with co-workers and customers. Occasionally they return the favor and Nancy said she's received small gifts of cash, sorghum and pepper jellies.
However, not every customer wants to be cheered up. Sometimes, people stare at her blankly when she smiles at them - other times, they're hostile or rude. Even if they're mean, Nancy said she doesn't get short with them.
"We all have bad days."
There's also always a few rowdy customers after the bars close but Nancy said she can hold her own.
"You don't live 50 years and not learn something."
She said she sees a lot of regulars who always come in at the same time and order the same food.
"We fix it the way they like it," Nancy said. "It's like sitting down at home."
One of her regulars includes an elderly couple who just celebrated their 72nd anniversary. They come in every Sunday morning and the man orders a bowl of grits and fluffy scrambled eggs. His wife orders a waffle with bacon and sausage and they both get coffee.
Other regular customers just like to sit and drink coffee while reading the paper.
Nancy is proud of her visor, which is adorned with pins including the American flag, the Waffle House logo, the Hard Rock Cafe and others honoring her two years of service. Only employees with at least three months on the job earn the right the wear a visor and pins.
"It's a sign of accomplishment when you earn your visor," Nancy said.
There's a lot of turnover, she said and it's easy to see why. Even without too many customers, the servers and cooks are busy behind the counter, making waffles, pouring coffee and chopping up hash browns.
Nancy said it's hard to make yourself heard over the racket, including the clatter of dishes, music from the jukebox and low murmur of conversation.
"Sometimes you really have to scream so the grill operators can hear your order. It gets wild in here sometimes."
If it gets too chaotic, Nancy she she'll take a break in the back for coffee or outside to smoke.
There's also the unique Waffle House written shorthand and verbal slang for relaying orders, which Nancy says is difficult to learn. But once you learn it it's very efficient, she said.
Waffle House is almost like a home and a family for Nancy, because she spends so much time there - up to 50 hours a week. She takes all the overtime she can get sometimes working as a cook at the restaurants in Versailles or Shelbyville.
Before talking to The State Journal, Nancy worked eight hours on the second shift in Shelbyville before coming in at 6 a.m. on Versailles Road.
"You walk a lot of miles in here," she said.
However, all the hours at work leaves little time for other things. Nancy said she used to write poetry but now spends her free time cleaning or doing other chores.
She's divorced and has two children - one of whom works the second shift at the Versailles Road Waffle House. Working with her son can be difficult sometimes, Nancy said. Although they get along at home sometimes at Waffle House he doesn't listen to her advice, she said.
However, she's glad he's at the Waffle House - she said he's a great cook.
The holidays are also very busy, especially Christmas and New Years. Waffle House is one of the few places open 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
Nancy said she just met a couple driving from the South and stopped at Waffle House for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Christmas - including the restaurant on Versailles Road. She said she doesn't mind working holidays and will celebrate with her family whenever they can all get together.
"That's what counts," Nancy said. "It doesn't have to be a certain day as long as we are together."
Nancy said she doesn't know how long she'll stay at Waffle House although the pay is good and she likes meeting people.
"I just go where life takes me," she said. "I believe life puts you in the right place at the right time."