Debbie Smith

Co-owner and manager of Jake’s WayBack Burgers

Debbie Smith is the perfect example of how a good boss is a good boss, no matter what the business. The co-owner and full-time manager of Jake’s Wayback Burgers in Hartsdale got her training, interestingly, as a team leader at Xerox, where she worked for 25 years, most recently as a service manager. “Food is totally different,” Smith chuckles, “but managing is the same. The training they gave me was good, and it helped make that transition easy.”

One of the things that Smith appreciates about Xerox was the family atmosphere. According to co-worker Margie DiBari, Smith has succeeded in bringing that to Jake’s Wayback Burgers. “She has taken her employees under her wing and treats them as not just employees, but as an extension of her family,” says DiBari.

In this family, Smith appears to have the role of the fun, smart, no-nonsense aunt. Not only does she teach her staff the ropes of the burger business, she also celebrates birthdays by bringing in cupcakes and acknowledges hard work by treating employees to dinner or spa treatments. She also serves as a mentor for the staff members, many of whom are high school and college students working at their first job. “She has always stressed the importance of getting a good education,” says DiBari, who has worked in the restaurant business for 25 years and considers this one of her best jobs. 

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“I try to teach my employees skills they can bring other places,” says Smith. “You know you’re not going to have them forever, but you want to make sure you can teach them some skills for the next job, too.” 

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