It’s time to get to know the heart and soul behind every restaurant experience: the server. Lance Strawser has been a server on and off at Loca Luna since 2011 when he started bussing tables as a teenager. During the winters, Strawser works at Loca Luna and works as a server at national park restaurants in Montana during the summers. 

 

Strawser said that Loca Luna is an enjoyable workplace because of the “mom-and-pop” atmosphere.

 

“This neighborhood off Rebsamen Park Road has a group of small mom-and-pop restaurants where all of the owners are from Little Rock, and I feel like that’s not that common anymore,” Strawser said. “The owner, Mark Abernathy, has been really understanding and flexible with me coming and going. The atmosphere at Loca Luna is like a family.”

 

When Strawser grabs a bite to eat at Loca Luna, you’re likely to catch him eating tortilla soup or meatloaf. 

 

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“Between the two, tortilla soup probably wins. It’s huge, it’s a spicy tomato bisque with a perfect amount of cheese and chicken and lots of fixings on the side, so you kinda build it yourself. I like dishes that you put together yourself like that because then it’s exactly the way you like it — and if you don’t like it, you can only blame yourself,” Strawser said with a laugh. “It’s the only item on the menu like that. A lot of my customers like it, too.” 

 

If a customer isn’t sure what to get, Strawser is likely to recommend his favorites depending on the time of day.

 

“If it’s dinner time, pot roast, all day — it’s so good. If it’s lunchtime, you want something a little lighter, and that’s when I’m more likely to recommend the tortilla soup,” Strawser said. 

 

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Strawser acknowledged that working in the food industry can be hard on the feet, legs and back. And for Strawser, the solution is his old reliable: Reeboks. 

 

“I think I’m fortunate in that it’s not as bad for me as it is for everyone else. I’m on my feet often, and I’ve worn some of the worst shoes to work. But everyone I work with says that’s the most common thing: feet and leg aches,” Strawser said. “For me, at least, it’s about the brand, not the shoe. Anything Reebok is almost a given. Especially if they’re non-slippery. You can’t beat that. A lot of my nurse and server friends agree. My parents wore them, I grew up wearing them and I’ll keep wearing them.”

 

With over 12 years of experience in the food industry, Strawser has seen a lot. He recalled fondly the memories of customers with whom he got along well. 

 

“A few times I truly experienced it — that random kindness that servers get from strangers. I was bartending, and every single day, the same group of seven people would come in for weeks on end. I felt like they were almost my family. You’d come in and expect them. I’d tell them about something going on in my life, and the next day, they had a gift for me. They listened to me. I felt like I had a real relationship with the guests,” Strawser said. 

 

“I had another customer named David. He came in pretty often and we’d talk. I’d moved back up north and David came in and got worried when I wasn’t there. He gave my brother his information because he thought he was really sick, and thought he was going to pass away. He not only wanted me at his funeral, but he wanted me to be a pallbearer. Fortunately, he got better and I haven’t needed to do him that favor. I think what moves me the most, though, is that I’m not the most social person. The fact that I’ve developed a relationship with a stranger and they’re not a stranger anymore says a lot. It was a bond that was started through business and turned into being there at his funeral, whenever that day comes.” 

 

But on the other hand, you’re bound to encounter some not-so-nice folks in the food industry. Strawser, though, isn’t phased. 

 

“To be honest, it’s just business as usual. I might get the person who could ruin someone’s day, and I understand that the problem’s not with me. I’m not confrontational, I’m just there to help. Not everyone’s going to be happy,” Strawser said. “If something’s wrong, we try to fix it. I’ve seen some of my coworkers get berated and insulted, but in the years that I’ve been a server, I never was. I’ve had people mad at me, but they’ve never really crossed the line. By the time I get home, I can’t remember. Most of the folks at Loca Luna are kind and happy.” 

 

All of this tied into what Strawser wished customers knew about Loca Luna before walking in the door.

 

“I just hope they know I care. When they come in, I want them to know I’m not just throwing food in their face hoping for money. I don’t want you to be upset. You came in here for a good time. There may be things going on outside of control, but within my realm of control, I want to help you and make sure you enjoy,” Strawser said. “A lot of people think our jobs are temporary, but this truly is a career. I wish people respected my job as much as I do — I love food.”

 

Strawser shared some of the life lessons that over a decade in the food industry has taught him.

 

“A lot of the things I’ve learned in life have come from hard work in restaurants. I’ve been doing it since I was 14. Keep your head down and ask questions, but don’t be an a**hole. Work your a** off. If you’re not in charge, don’t pretend you are; listen to your leaders,” Strawser said. “I was a rebellious kid, and I always wanted to do what I wanted. For a little while as a teenager, I worked as a dishwasher at the Clinton Library. The chefs took it crazy seriously. It was like boot camp — ‘Yes chef, no chef,’ no matter what your role was in the back of the house.

 

“It taught me a lot about discipline. I’ve never been a social person, but serving tables has helped me open up a lot and not be shy. You don’t need everyone’s approval, and you learn to have thick skin. But at the end of the day, when you clock out, you’ve got a new day in front of you when you clock in tomorrow.”

 

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