by Geoff Fox
In 1991, Dana Rankin started working as a server at Park N Dine restaurant and on March 1, 2021, she celebrated her 30th anniversary at a job she loves.
Rankin said she didn’t anticipate being at Park N Dine for 30 years.
She had worked at a smaller restaurant before coming to work at Park N Dine and at the time, “it was overwhelming” with lines out the door.
Her boss at the time, Peg McAllister, said Rankin wouldn’t make it a week.
“I didn’t either,” she said with a laugh.
Rankin said she’s stayed at Park N Dine for 30 years because she enjoys serving and waiting tables.
Some of the customers have become like family as have her fellow server over the years, even though most of them are no longer at Park N Dine.
“I ain’t one for change of a job,” she said.
Rankin reminisced about the past with a couple of regulars about how they were in the Gold Room at Park N Dine with a group.
She said she was given the whole room plus another 12 tables.
Tickets from those tables were in both kitchens and it got to the point the lady had to help her out.
“Back then, you didn’t rotate tables,” she said.
Rankin said McAllister learned that night they needed to rotate tables.
Among her memories over the 30 years, Rankin said she remembers working six and seven days a week and pulling double shifts on the weekends because it was so busy.
There was also the day her boss Roger Burnett told her and a couple other employees to go down beside a tree and have a ham sandwich for a break.
“I said, ‘Who in the world has time for that?” Rankin said.
They were so busy carrying cases of lettuce, tomatoes, and other items for making 50 salads before the restaurant opened because they’d be so busy at lunch and not have time to do anything during the lunch rush.
Between 1991 when she started and February 2020, things had changed. For one thing — the portion size of the meals served has evolved.
She chalked the portion size change due to the economy.
When Burnett owned the restaurant, Rankin said a hot turkey sandwich was $5, but now it runs $10.
“That happens everywhere,” she said. She also noted the cost of produce going up as well.
Also in the 30 years she’s been at Park N Dine, they are now using trays to carry items to the table, whereas in the past they never used them because there wasn’t room to put the tray.
The number of people coming to the restaurant has become smaller over the decades.
In the past, there were large groups and tables would be full of people.
Today, there aren’t as many people, but Rankin said the economy and COVID-19 are to blame for that.
A year ago, COVID-19 changed the landscape of the world with how restaurants operate.
From March 16, 2020, until July 2, 2020, Park N Dine was closed.
During that closure, Rankin said she was hoping they’d reopen soon because she wanted to make it to 30 years on the job.
“It was very upsetting,” Rankin said of finding out restaurants had to close under Maryland rules.
When the restaurant reopened, Rankin said people were coming back and it was busy with people coming in wearing their masks.
But with an uptick in cases in the recent months, the number of people went down again.
“But it’s wintertime,” Rankin said. “We’re always slow in the wintertime.”
Since reopening, Park N Dine has been utilizing their front dining area as well as a larger dining room.
As for the future, Rankin said she hopes people start coming back out and the restaurant gets busy again.
“Hopefully the COVID slows down where people want to come out and eat and enjoy themselves,” she said.
It’s been hard during the pandemic, Rankin said, but they try.
Over the past weekend, she said Sunday was busy all day, Saturday was steady, but Friday wasn’t very busy.
Rankin also said this summer will be a big milestone for Park N Dine as the restaurant will be celebrating 75 years in business on August 2.