It started with a school project that had Eric Johnson’s mother asking him what he wanted to be when he grew up because he needed to dress up for his school’s “Career Day”.
“We were working on a very complex Halloween costume for him,” Eric’s mother Denise Johnson told OI. “So we were hoping it was something close to what we were making or something easy like a professional gamer where he could just wear his regular clothes. We were really surprised when he told us what he wanted to do.”
Eric, who is on the autism spectrum, said that he wanted to be a manager at Wendy’s.
“He said it was because of their french fries,” Johnson said. “He said they had the best french fries and began to do a sales pitch for french fries.”
Johnson then went to a local Wendy’s with Eric and family friend Tim Smith, who asked the manager if they could have Eric greet customers one day. The Hamra Enterprises management loved the idea and sent it up the corporate ladder where the ownership loved the idea.
Once it looked like Eric was going to get his chance to be a manager, Denise Johnson thought it could be a good opportunity to also be an educational opportunity for the community.
“I told their PR person if we were going to do this then let’s make it an advocacy piece,” Johnson said. “It’s something that’s been on my mind for a long time. I’m on the diversity and inclusion team at work and I thought that we talk a lot about race and gender issues but we don’t always talk about including everybody with disabilities.”
Eric ended up being able to spend half an hour working as the Wendy’s manager at their Campbell location, even serving a few customers through the drive-thru window.
Johnson told OI that Eric is taking his new found attention in stride, even refusing to watch himself on television after KOLR-10 covered his time at the restaurant.
“I told him to come down and watch himself on TV,” Johnson said, “and he told me that he ‘didn’t need to come see it because I did it.'”