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EATBEAT: Waitress reflects on 36 years at Perkins

Dianne McWilliams does not go running on the Greenway when she finishes work. Nor does she work out in a gymnasium. She goes home and sits down in her chair and turns on the television. Two of her three children still live at home. She's been a w...

After 36 years, Dianne McWilliams still thinks the Perkins on Columbia Road in Grand Forks is a fun place to work. (Submitted photo)
After 36 years, Dianne McWilliams still thinks the Perkins on Columbia Road in Grand Forks is a fun place to work. (Submitted photo)

Dianne McWilliams does not go running on the Greenway when she finishes work. Nor does she work out in a gymnasium.

She goes home and sits down in her chair and turns on the television. Two of her three children still live at home.

She's been a waitress at Perkins on Columbia Road for 36 years. And after an eight hour shift, she is ready for a rest. But she's up at 4:30 a.m. five days a week and starts working at 5:30 a.m., on her seven hour shifts. She wears a nametag that says "Serving guests since 1980."

McWilliams is slender and vibrant. She says each day on the job is different. At first, she had to know everything on the computer. Now, all she has to do is punch in her order.

She came to Perkins from working at Seeger's. Before that, when she was 16 and a student at Central High School, she helped with the opening of Happy Joe's on S. Washington Street.

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"Quite a few regulars show up every day at Perkins," McWilliams said.

Like other servers working around this area, McWilliams finds variation in the size of tips. Sometimes there will be a dollar left on the table. Most of the time the tip is around 15 percent - sometimes less and sometimes more.

Most of the time, McWilliams enjoys the interchange of conversation with the patrons. But along with others in the serving business, she is put off when customers sometimes wave her off because they are talking on their cellphones. There are times when children are allowed by their caretakers to mess around in the sugar containers. And that tasks the patience of servers.

All in all, McWilliams finds Perkins a fun place to work. Oh yes, she says, her legs and her back get tired. But she smiles and says, "Not always."

Tim Brandt, owner of the Perkins restaurant on Columbia Road, says McWilliams is a true professional. "She arrives a third of an hour early for her shifts.

"Customers request to be seated in her section," he said. "She sets an example for other servers. And she makes people feel at home here."

McWilliams laughs and calls herself a klutz as she acknowledges she sometimes spills on people. She likes the people with whom she works at Perkins and says, "We're kind of like family."

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