On a warm Saturday morning in late June, an older woman wearing a green suit and a blue tie walked into the dining room of the Charlotte’s steakhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Her name was Donna Williams, and she was a longtime employee.
She was an experienced cook who had made a name for herself by creating an award-winning burger that was both familiar and fresh.
She also was a devoted mother.
“I love the idea of giving back to the community,” Williams said.
She wanted to see what it was like to cook a steak, which she did often.
It was a lot of work.
She had worked as a cook for the same chain restaurant for several decades, and in her later years she had made more than 20 hamburgers a week, all at the same place.
But the Charls steakhouse was different.
She and her husband, Robert, were both part-time employees and they worked in the restaurant’s kitchen for just two hours a day.
They did the work, the food, and the wine and cocktails.
“If I don’t do the work then I’m not doing it,” she said.
And when her husband got sick, she was there to take care of him.
Donna Williams said she enjoyed her work.
But she had also learned that her husband had suffered from arthritis, which had left him with a very painful back and neck.
When Robert’s back got worse, she said, it was easy to lose him.
“The thought of losing my husband just brought back all those bad memories,” she recalled.
So in late April, Donna Williams took her husband back to her restaurant.
She made him a hamburger and some salad for dinner, and then took him to the hospital for a scan.
“He looked pretty good,” she remembered.
But he didn’t look well.
The doctor told her that Robert had a severe infection.
It looked like he had been infected with salmonella.
And she wondered: What was in his body?
Could it be the same bacteria that had killed Robert?
When Robert came back, Donna and Robert were both in shock.
The hospital was a disaster.
They were both diagnosed with MRSA, which is resistant to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin.
Robert was sent to a hospital for intensive care, and he died three days later.
Donna had spent more than a year working at the Charles steakhouse, and after her husband’s death, she thought about what it meant to be an employee there.
“Every day, I was feeling like I had to be at work, or at least at home,” she told me.
And even though she knew she was going to have to work, she wanted to give back.
She thought about how she had grown up with her father, who worked in a factory and who never complained about his work.
Her mother was a homemaker and his father worked in construction.
“My mom had a great sense of how important it was to do the right thing,” Donna Williams recalled.
“She worked hard, and I knew she loved her job.
And so I wanted to be a part of that too.”
The day Donna Williams came to Charlots, she felt a strong sense of pride.
She came to work every day, and had made it her mission to give the restaurant a better service and to make it better.
In May, the restaurant opened its first bar and welcomed Donna Williams as a bartender.
She told me that her first meal there was the Charlis steakhouse special, a burger made with a smoked turkey breast, a smoked gouda bread roll, and a sweet potato salad.
Donna said the Charleys were great, but she loved the restaurant more than the burger.
But even with the new restaurant, Donna had to make sure the restaurant was run smoothly.
At the start, Donna hired a new cook, but it was a problem that came back again and again.
“You can’t just throw all these people in the kitchen and expect them to be perfect,” she explained.
“It was very hard for me to have my first restaurant, Charlottes, run smoothly.”
So in June, Donna came up with an idea.
She asked the chef to prepare a new menu.
She added more ingredients to the burger, and put them on the side to make them more appetizing.
But her restaurant didn’t always feel good, and Donna and her team didn’t want to do that again.
So, in early July, Donna sent a memo to the management team.
She complained that the food was getting better, but that it wasn’t getting the service it deserved.
It wasn’t just that the cooks were eating well, but also that the wait staff was getting more attention.
“There is no way to know if a restaurant is running smoothly,” Donna wrote.
“Your staff should be treated as employees rather than as a service group.
You should be doing the job that you’re paid to