Every morning at exactly 4 a.m., Louise Bearden, affectionately called ‘Mama Lou’ by most visitors who come to dine at the Shoney’s in Boutte, comes to work with a smile on her face, ready to wait tables.
Bearden says she never knows who is going to come through the doors, but she’s eager to serve everyone who does.
“Everybody who meets me feels like they know me,” she said. “I’ve talked to so many people over the years, but I can’t say that I remember all of their names.”
But the customers remember hers and can’t seem to get enough of her friendly serving style and engaging conversation.
“Thank God I’m healthy. Nothing hurts me and I can keep working, meeting and serving people,” she said. “I have nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren that keep me busy besides working full-time at the restaurant.”
She doesn’t complain about the lack of customers, or when the restaurant is packed with people and there’s standing room only.
“I’ve been waiting tables since I was 13 years old,” she said. “I’m 66 years old now. I’ve been offered jobs at various places, and even management positions, but I’ve turned them down because I love meeting and interacting with people and waiting tables has given me the opportunity to do that.”
Bearden has spent almost 10 of her more than 50 years in the service industry at Shoney’s.
“For the past nine years, I’ve been at Shoney’s, and will celebrate my 10-year anniversary with them on Sept. 20,” she said. “I have great bosses and management. We’re all very close, so that helps.”
Bearden says she’s even gotten some $100 tips over the years – at least four of them at Shoney’s.
“The customers can recognize when they’re being treated well,” she said. “Some will even come in and request me.”
Bearden has also given a lot of advice to customers and encouraged others along the way.
“I’ve heard some sad stories and some happy ones,” she said. “I’m always willing to listen and I tell people to pray and give it to God.”