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A Game-Changing Lunch at Wendy’s

This week's blog comes from Ryan Mulligan, the Nason Group's Chief Empathizer.

My family eats at Wendy’s a lot. It’s one of the few places where our son, Hobbs, can actually sit through an entire meal, giving us a sense of normalcy.

Hobbs has autism and wears headphones most places we go. Sitting calmly, even in a quiet environment, is a challenge for his body. Though we know it’s important for us to be out in the world as a family, my wife or I often end up in the car helping him through a sensory overload while the others finish eating.

Thankfully, the Wendy’s in our neighborhood gives us the best shot at a normal eating experience. It has the calmest music, quietest patrons, and softest carpet (important for muffling the noise). Not to mention, Hobbs’s favorite food, without question, is chili and Caesar salad.

A few weeks ago, when I was desperate to get out of the house, Hobbs and I headed to Wendy’s. When Hobbs made his usual loud vocal tics and shouts at the counter, Devina, the cashier, just smiled and took our order. It’s pretty obvious he has special needs, especially when I have him order food using his communication tablet that says aloud whatever pictures he chooses.

Want. Drink. Soda. Want. Eat. Caesar Salad.IMG_1365

After getting our food, we sat in the least stimulating area of the dining area that I could find and worked through my usual checklist. No loud music or TV? Check. No breakable decorations? Check. No people to disturb? Check.

As I was finishing my burger, Devina came over to our booth and leaned down close to my ear. “I need to fill the ice machine,” she said softly. “Would it be ok if I do it now or would you prefer that I wait until y’all are finished?”

I felt my chest collapse, instantly realizing how tense I get when we eat with Hobbs in public. My answer back was half in tears. “Of course, thank you for asking. That means so much. Yes, go ahead. Thank you so much.”

Devina’s eyes were half-fixed on Hobbs as she poured three buckets of ice into the dispenser, ready to stop at any second.

As we drove away, I called the store manager to tell her about this remarkable moment that her staff created for us. Then I called the corporate hotline to brag about Devina and to tell them about our family’s love of Wendy’s. My eyes were red from tears as I tried to explain how a simple question affected me so deeply. It was overwhelming to feel so much care and respect from a total stranger.

At the Nason Group,  our design principles are Know Me, Surprise Me, and Make it Easy for Me. All three of these came into play during my lunch at Wendy’s and reignited my passion to engage these principles in my work as a health care disruptor.

By paying attention to the humans around us, we have the potential to create game-changing experiences that change lives. Ready to join us?

As a game-changing disruptor, I hereby pledge to:

Pledge


• Channel my passion into action
• Harness the power of empathy
• Go “all in” and put the consumer first
• Build a league of heroes who will change the system
• Work fast and cheap, fail regularly, and never accept the status quo
• Never be OK with mild salsa