It is time to get to know the heart and soul behind every restaurant experience — the server. Here’s our Q&A with Bonnie Jo Munn at The Pantry.
How long have you been at The Pantry?
Like, since they opened; I worked at Shorty Smalls at that time. I would drive home late, and this place was still open. The lights strung on the patio were so inviting. I had a $2 beer and a $2 brat one night and was hooked. But as an employee, I’ve been there since 2016.
How did you land the job, and where were you right before The Pantry?
My two daughters were traveling with family one summer and I took a second job at The Pantry to fill the void. I liked it so much that I quit my other job by the end of the summer. I previously worked at Mellow Mushroom as the bar manager.
In your opinion, what are the traits of a top-notch server?
Being able to tailor an experience for a diner is important. Knowledge is key. Also, being present is so simple it is often overlooked.
The Pantry and The Pantry Crest have really become known for their service. What do you attribute this to?
So many things. But look, I worked in corporate restaurants that were so concerned with table times and flipping tables. The European approach, come into my place … and stay … there is no rush — it is refreshing and comforting. The attention to detail Tomas holds us to is super important as well.
You are without question one of my favorite servers in town. I think one of the reasons is that you are always smiling and seem to have such a positive mentality. You make the diner feel good. With that said, does this come naturally to you?
My grandmother always taught me to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. She was so sweet and caring. And she cooked so often, so there is a correlation there. I also like finding joy in small pleasures. There are so many opportunities for that during a dining experience.
Are some days harder than others when it comes to being upbeat on the job?
It can be more challenging toward the end of the week as the shifts take their toll, both mentally and physically. We are closed on Sundays, so always knowing I have that day helps tremendously.
What’s your favorite thing to eat at The Pantry? And don’t say everything. We want one dish, Bonnie Jo.
Without hesitation, that would be the Buffalo Shrimp. It is the dish that got me to like blue cheese dressing. I call it the “gateway blue cheese.”
In the past, I’ve been critical of the sound issues at The Pantry, but there’s been a vast improvement after recent renovations. We always look at this from the customer angle, but how has this improved your job?
Being able to connect with our older clientele is a game-changer. I don’t see the sound issue in reviews or hear it from customers as a deterrent any longer.
The pandemic has obviously taken its toll on the restaurant industry. But rather than focus on the negative, what is one positive aspect or change that has come about?
Almost everyone tips on to-go orders now. It is about time.
What do you love most about being a server?
The rush, the dance, the challenge, the fellowship, the diversity, the comradery of the staff, and the limitless possibilities of the next shift.
Enough about work, let’s talk about some other aspects of your life. What do you like doing in your free time?
I love being outside. I adore camping. Being on a river is spiritual for me. I am fortunate to have a great group of friends that love overnight float trips. I also enjoy hanging out with my two daughters. They are great company.
What’s one thing about yourself that most people do not know?
I want an entirely outdoor kitchen someday.
What is your favorite concert of all time?
I saw Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, and Lee Ann Womack at Clear Channel Metroplex with my daughter when she was 5. She’s 18 now. They only sold like 2,000 tickets. Not necessarily my favorite artists, but the show was so intimate with amazing storytellers and musicians. It was fantastic.
Are you a reader? And if so, what book do you recommend?
I would say find your Neil Gaiman. He ignites the imagination. I am currently reading No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain. A customer brought it to me at work, but I haven’t felt ready to pick it up until recently. Very accurate depiction of the restaurant industry. It almost feels as if he and I have worked together. I also am listening to the audiobook To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins. He is a fantastic storyteller. I listen to books while I am cooking, cleaning, or driving. So yes, I am a reader!
What’s one word you’d use to describe yourself?