Scattered, Smothered and... Recruited
By Michelle Hiskey
Tom Mallory (B.S. ’86)
To the unmistakable combination of black and bright yellow of Waffle House, add bright blue booths and a checkerboard of blue wall tiles. Welcome to the GSU Waffle House, the best advertisement that Tom Mallory (B.S. '86) has going — besides himself.
Mallory is a senior recruiter for Waffle House at Georgia State, and if a prospective employee needs extra persuasion to join the family-like company, Mallory sits them down at the GSU Waffle House and orders the chicken melt.
The chicken, not the waffles, persuaded Mallory, who had worked his way up the restaurant food chain — Applebee's, Brookwood Grill, Stoney River — before joining Norcross-based Waffle House in 2000.
"That was a deal clincher," he recalled. "I didn't know their food was that good. It's awesome!"
Mallory, married to Twaneesa Mallory (B.B.A. '03), first came to GSU as an information systems major. The closest Waffle House at that time was a car ride away on Northside Drive. When he switched to the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality, Mallory felt like he had placed the perfect order.
Majoring in hotel, restaurant and travel administration formalized and leveraged a résumé that Mallory had been building since age 15, when he learned to cook at an upscale restaurant in his hometown of Savannah, Ga.
"I had gone through four years of information systems before realizing that I needed much more of an environment filled with 'people persons' like me," said Mallory, who worked at Manuel's Tavern as an undergraduate.
"One of the restaurant operations faculty at GSU taught me that this line of work requires resiliency because there will be times the business does not go well, and the percentage of restaurants that fail is high. This is a path that requires a lot of passion to find the next level of success."
As Mallory rose in the restaurant food chain, more GSU students were moving to campus, along with their 24/7 appetites. On Oct. 21, 2010, Waffle House #1890 opened its doors on the ground floor of the Parker H. Petit Science Center, becoming one of the chain's busiest metro restaurants.
At GSU, Mallory filled several booths one evening when he hosted Dinner with 12 Panthers, a GSU Alumni Association program that links a dozen students with a successful graduate (see page 33). He's brought waffles to the Student Alumni Association. As a big supporter of Panther football, he notes with pride that Piedmont Avenue is their walking route to the practice field, and they often fuel up at the Waffle House.
He talks to his recruits like a coach or professor, drawing from his deep menu of restaurant experience during Georgia State until now. The voice of a father of four — two of his are in college — comes out as well.
"You are not going to be perfect from day one," said Mallory. "With patience and development, you'll grow and flourish. That's what we're all about."