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Burger King employee Anna Baker
Despite the success of Burger King  Corporation's almost four-year relationship with the Welfare to Work Partnership , it has never experienced success personified and amplified as it has in Anna Baker. The Manhattan-based Baker was at the fast-food giant's headquarters in Miami this week to participate in the Fourth Annual Global Ops Bowl, a game-show-style tournament that tests the operations knowledge of restaurant crew teams from Latin America and the U.S. While her team didn't take the title—it went to a team from the southeastern U.S.—she demonstrated her knowledge and enthusiasm throughout the high-stakes, pressure-packed five-hour contest. The U.S. team win ended the three-year championship reign of restaurant crew teams from Latin America.
|Learn More About the Welfare to Work Program at www.welfaretowork.org .|
Things weren't always as positive for Baker. Prior to starting with Burger King Corporation as a cashier in a Manhattan restaurant in December of 1999, Baker found herself homeless and abandoned. The 40-year-old mother of a 19-year-old daughter named Tiffany, Baker was on the street for eight months trying to pull her life back together.
"Anna's personal life was turned upside down through a bad relationship, and she found herself homeless and on public assistance,'' said Austin Obi, restaurant manager for Burger King Corporation, who oversaw Anna's development. "But, despite her troubles, you could see her enthusiasm and determination for success. She quickly made her presence felt.''
Baker had not worked in more than two years at the request of her boyfriend. As the relationship deteriorated, she was put out on the street to fend for herself in the cold.
"When I first went to public assistance, they were great, but the only job they offered to help me get was one sweeping the streets,'' said Baker. "My thoughts were to get off of the streets and out of the cold. I told myself that I was going to get a job.''
Earlier in life, Baker had worked at a Burger King restaurant and decided to re-start her life there. "I always liked the food, and when I met my hiring manager he seemed like a real nice person who cared about me,'' added Baker.
She began as a cashier and quickly caught the attention of her supervisors with her pride and interest in her work.
"It seemed like everybody in the Manhattan-area was saying great things about Anna—from customers to other managers and supervisors. Anna caught their attention with her zeal,'' said Austin.
Through training and encouragement from Burger King management, Anna began to excel and was promoted to Hourly Manager of her restaurant, located at 561 7th Avenue, in Manhattan, New York.
Burger King Corporation is providing more one-on-one training and supervision at the restaurant level to help welfare recipients transition to the workplace. The company has hired an independent consultant to help track the progress in hiring welfare recipients.
As of July 2000, Burger King Corporation has hired more than 17,000 welfare recipients in company-owned restaurants since October 1, 1996. Burger King employees hired from public assistance have a 45% higher retention rate than the turnover rate for all other employees in the industry. The industry employee turnover rate for quick-service restaurants is approximately 300%.
"When I was on public assistance, I saw so many others who didn't want to try to lift themselves up. They had no hope,'' said Baker. "I could have easily turned toward bad situations like drugs, but I knew that those things would make my situation worse. You have to start your life somewhere, and I picked Burger King.''
As for Baker's future, her thoughts are nothing but upward and onward. She has plans to go to college, and has her sites set on moving up the ladder to become a General Manager one day overseeing several restaurants.
"Don't underestimate the chance given to you to move up in life. Don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it,'' said Baker. "I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and I want others to know about it. Slowly but surely I will reach my goal to be a General Manager.''
Baker's passion for the company has rubbed off on her daughter. As of this past May, Tiffany began working at a Burger King restaurant as well.
"My daughter saw my enthusiasm and eagerness for the job and that there must be something to it,'' said Baker. "It's all about being a people person, and I just want to pave the way.''