Consistency can go a long way in life. Don Brandt has come to know this very well.
“The food has stayed the same,” says Brandt, the manager of Bismarck’s Big Boy Restaurant. “We’re trying out new things here and there. But I’d have to say nothing has changed.”
At least not in his three-and-a-half decades at Big Boy Restaurant in Bismarck. It was 1984 when Brandt took his first order — by hand, I should add.
“Back then, we had to learn everything by memory,” he says. “We had no monitors, no computer screens to look at.”
But the breakneck pace of the drive-thru suited him. Brandt became a manager within a few years — and became a familiar face to the hungry masses of Bismarck. “I think I should know everybody in the city of Bismarck by now!” he says. “I mean, I can see them at the airport, people come up to me in Medora. ‘I’ve seen you somewhere before!’ I don’t know a lot of names. Faces though!”
But he did learn some names. Like Chad Wachter, who now owns the restaurant.
“Don is fantastic,” Wachter says. “He’s an incredible individual.”
“I fed him during high school, basically,” Brandt recalls. “Three, four times a week he’d come through the line.”
“Don is the Big Boy,” Wachter says. “When you think of the Big Boy, you think of Don. Everybody knows Don. Everybody recognizes Don when they come through.”
Last week, Brandt celebrated his 35-year work anniversary — and an adoring community on Facebook celebrated him in turn, using words like “unbelievable human being” and even “hero.”
Brandt says the fast pace of the job keeps him coming back. “An older gentleman once told me, he said ‘I sat in your line for an hour.’ I said ‘Really, that’s not good.’ He said ‘That’s okay, there were 59 cars ahead of me.'”
But most of all, he says, it’s the people — and the countless stories that tell themselves, seconds at a time, over the course of decades.
“I’ve seen teenage girls come through the line when I first started, who are now grandmothers,” he says. “It’s quite the thing.”
Don Brandt — Bismarck’s drive-thru dignitary — is Someone You Should Know.
Bismarck’s Big Boy Restaurant has been around for 65 years.
Brandt tells us it’s the second-best performing Big Boy location in the country.