It is hard to beat a barbecue shack when it comes to grub in Arkansas, and those who find themselves drawn to the food and atmosphere at Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que in Russellville are in good company.

 

Jennie Lumpkin, bar manager at Fat Daddy’s, got her start in 2008 as a server at Western Sizzlin’, where she was quickly promoted to front-of-the-house manager. She said her experiences as a customer at Fat Daddy’s led her to start working there nine years ago.

 

“I was a customer first and really enjoyed the vibe and energy of the restaurant,” she said. “I filled out an application, and Fat Daddy’s has been home ever since.”

 

Bartending is more personable than waiting tables, she added.

 

“Your section is right in front of every guest that sits at your bar,” she said. “You are always being watched. Your job is not only to serve guests but also keep them entertained.”

 

jennie-lumpkin

 

As bar manager, she makes every alcoholic drink in the restaurant, and she is also in charge of making sure the restaurant is stocked up on alcohol every week. She closes the restaurant every night, and she also ensures the night-shift employees have completed their closing tasks before ending their shifts.

 

Turkey nachos loaded with all the fixings are her favorite meal at Fat Daddy’s, she said, but to guests who cannot make up their minds, she recommends the meat combos, which include up to four different meats, two sides and garlic toast.

 

“That way, the guests have a chance to sample a little bit of all the great smoked meats we have,” she said.

 

Since a mood can determine a server’s whole day, it is important to come to work feeling happy and helpful, and comfortable shoes are a must, she said. Treating unhappy customers with extra kindness makes all the difference, she said, but it is impossible to make everyone happy. Still, that is not a reason to stop trying, she added. 

 

jennie-lumpkin

 

Another lesson she has learned is when to stop serving a customer who has reached the limit on drinks.

 

“Cutting off regulars is never fun and can sometimes be difficult,” she said. “Their safety should always be a top priority, even when they say just one more. I’ve trained myself over the years to realize when someone needs to switch to water or have a safe ride home.”

 

It is no surprise that she has amassed scores of regulars since starting at Fat Daddy’s nearly a decade ago.

 

“I have a regular that always comes in on Fridays and has a filet for dinner, per my recommendation,” she said. “He loves them so much that every Friday he comes in, he always insists on buying one for me so I can have a good meal after work.”

 

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5 oz. Filet at Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que

 

In fact, Lumpkin has had such an impact on her customers that they have surprised her by reaching out from far away.

 

“A few years ago, one of my regulars called me from an airport bar,” she said. “He switched to FaceTime, and there were six other regulars sitting with him, waving at me, that all knew who I was from sitting at my bar. It was a beautiful, humbling experience.”

 

Just as important as the customers, however, are her coworkers, who she said have become like family to her.

 

jennie-lumpkin

 

“One of the main reasons I have worked here as long as I have is we have the best owners and managers, and that’s one of the most important things to me in this industry,” she said. “Anything we may need or issues we may be having, their doors are always the first ones open.”

 

She added that she hopes to one day own her own bar and restaurant.

 

“That has been my dream for years,” she said. “I love this industry.”

 

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