Service with a smile
If you want a seat at one of Bobby Harracks’ tables, you better get to Clyde’s Restaurant early.
A steady crowd of customers makes a beeline for Harracks’ section of the mainstay hometown diner in Waynesville, filling in the booths and counter space for a chance to be entertained by the beloved server.
“Everybody knows me here,” he said. “I love to deal with customers. I like being here and I’m having fun.”
As sunshine trickled through the big bay windows of Clyde’s, Harracks is bouncing between cleaning tables, taking orders, ringing up customers, delivering meals and seemingly everything else in between. He’s resembles a plate spinner, one filled with laughter and a jovial spirit.
“You just take one customer at a time and that’s all you can do,” he said. “It becomes a habit after awhile.”
Heading for the door after a gut-busting breakfast, another satisfied regular customer waves goodbye to Harracks, who returns the gesture with a big grin.
“Just remember who makes it happen around here,” he jokes from behind the counter.
Working at the longtime and famed culinary location for the better part of the last decade, Harracks moved with his wife and in-laws to Waynesville from Florida in 1992. He likes the people and the true sense of community that this region offered.
Harracks has worked in the food industry since he was a teenager, eventually attending culinary school.
“This business is in my blood,” the 47-year-old said. “And I’ll keep doing it until my knees give out, which hopefully won’t happen after I get one of them replaced when I turn 50.”
At a nearby table, Tina Scott and John Clark are enjoying their meals. The couple comes to Clyde’s a few times a week, especially every Tuesday morning right when the restaurant opens.
“Bobby always has our coffee cups ready,” Scott said. “He teases me just like he’s known me all my life, and that’s wonderful. It’s nice to walk into somewhere and be known.”
And with Clark having Huntington’s disease, it means that much more to them that Harracks makes him feel comfortable each time they come for a bite to eat.
“It means everything to John,” Scott said. “He welcomes us and makes us feel like part of the group.”
Knowing exactly what someone wants and needs is just part of the job for Harracks. He’s a member of a community filled with people looking out for each other. It’s an enjoyment for him to run into a customer outside of work.
“People always say ‘hi’, whether they know my name or not,” he said. “My daughter always goes, ‘another customer daddy?’”
Working with Harracks for the last three years, cook Cricket Gibson points to his sense of humor and upbeat attitude as something that ties together the entire staff and clientele at Clyde’s.
“He’s just a fluffy bundle of joy,” she laughed. “His customers love him, we love him and he’s just a good person.”
So, could Gibson ever imagine the restaurant without Harracks?
“No,” she emphatically said. “You can feel bad and come in here and he can actually make you feel better by putting a smile on your face when you least expect it.”
It’s that two-way street of respect and compassion that Harracks cherishes the most. With his wife’s recent cancer diagnosis, he’s grateful for the support given to him by his customers, many of which have become friends over the years.
“All of that love goes around and comes back,” he said. “It’s just like what the sign outside says. We’re a friendly home crowd here.”
The hectic breakfast crowd is long gone. In an hour or so, the lunch rush will arrive. Harracks’ corner is spotless in anticipation. The booths are empty, for now, but he’s still running around, getting anything that needs to be done, done. He stops for a moment, with his trademark smile rolling across his face.
“I love my job,” he said. “You’ll never hear me complain that I don’t want to be working here.”
There may be other characters, in other diners, in other corners of the country, but there is only one Bobby Harracks, and Waynesville is glad to call him their own.