Shrimp Basket worker has first-ever car after employer giveaway

Shrimp Basket Web

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Jacyn Abbott

A local woman won’t be looking for rides to work anymore after she found out Friday she’s the winner of her employer’s hiring contest. Now, Shalonda Willis can drive herself wherever she wants in her brand new Chevrolet Trailblazer thanks to The Shrimp Basket.

Willis began working at the Tuscaloosa restaurant in 2014, and her goal was to become a manager. She said she loves the work culture at the restaurant, even through struggles caused by COVID-19.

“They actually care and really appreciate me, and now I can actually drive places and take my son places,” Willis said. “I can take him to soccer games and actually do things with him.”

But the car represents much more than the luck of the draw, she said, because it’s her first car.

Her father was supposed to teach her how to drive and help her take her driver’s test, but he died before it happened. Willis got her driver’s license a few years ago but still relied on friends and family for transportation.

So she knows he’s looking down on her from heaven with a big smile on his face.

The contest that made Willis a first-time car owner came about because the restaurant chain found itself in dire need of employees and with few options. Back in April, the 20-location chain needed more than 200 workers to get the company through the summer months.

Their idea? Offer a hiring incentive program that included bonuses for staying on, incremental raises and the possibility of a free car. Every employee got entered into the new-car raffle once for every 30 days they worked. That incentive program resulted in 500 new hires.

In addition to the car, other winners got prizes including University of Alabama football tickets and restaurant gift cards.

Shrimp Basket President and CEO Mark Kirke said he wanted to attract people to the job, but also ensured the focus stayed on the restaurant’s family atmosphere. That meant taking care of all his employees, not just the new ones.

“We look for people with a servant’s heart, which means we want them to want to serve and want them to want to take care of people,” he said. “The similar characteristics you see in teachers and nurses and doctors, people who really care about people but also have a hospitality gene and want to serve and invite people in.”

The Shrimp Basket is taking care of all expenses included with the car besides insurance. Willis even got her choice of color. She picked blue.

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