Name: Dorothy Johnson
Location: Whitehaven Plaza Shopping Center in Memphis, Tennessee
Position: General manager
Years with Piccadilly: 37
Super power: Makes a “mean” lasagna
Sometimes, guests walk into Dorothy Johnson’s Piccadilly in Memphis, Tennessee, and want something that’s not on the serving line.
“I tell them, ‘Give me a few minutes. We’ll cook it for you,’” says Johnson, general manager of the Whitehaven Plaza Shopping Center location. “We’re in the business of selling food ‒ great food. That’s Piccadilly.”
Johnson would know. Her mother was a long-time Piccadilly chef, while her own cooking education began early. Johnson was only 9 years old when her grandmother began teaching her.
At 16, Johnson went to work for Piccadilly as a dishwasher and rolling silverware. She left for a few years after graduation to get married and start a family, then returned.
“I enjoy what I do, and I’m good at it,” says Johnson. “I’m loyal, and I’ve been treated well. I’m working around a great bunch of people. But you have to enjoy what you do and be passionate about what you do.”
She kept that passion going over the next 25 years, spending time in nearly every job that Piccadilly has to offer. After working her way up to prep cook, she moved on to assistant chef, then chef, even spending time in between as a butcher.
“I never doubted I could do the job. I worked with a lot of managers who took me under their wings and showed me just about everything with operations. I’ve always been a quick learner.”
Then in the early 2000s, Johnson faced a decision. As far as she’d gone in her career, she wanted to go farther. That meant joining the company’s management training program.
She worked even harder, moving among several Memphis-area locations, soaking up all the knowledge she could at each stop. Moving, says Johnson, is part of how you grow.
“I’m a go-getter. I always want to learn something new each day. I always strive to get better and take the next step.”
Those steps have led her right to where it all began. Johnson is back in the same restaurant where her Piccadilly story started 37 years ago, but now as general manager. She’s still a mom from a cooking family. And both jobs are equally important.
So, when the general manager is at home, what’s her best dish?
“I make a mean lasagna,” Johnson says without hesitation. “Everyone in the family who tries to make it says their lasagna doesn’t taste like mine. They want to know what’s missing. And I say, ‘I can’t tell you.’ Because they would start cooking it and make a fortune.”