Cracker Barrel of Gardendale general manager Nathan Cryer recently received the “Uncle Hershel Award,” making him general manager of the year for the company. The restaurant chain operates more than 600 stores nationwide.

By Adam Smith

The North Jefferson News

A local restaurant manager recently won a national award.

Nathan Cryer, general manager of the Cracker Barrel in Gardendale, recently won the Uncle Hershel award, making him general manager of the year for the company.

“I was very shocked to win,” Cryer said of his award.

Cryer has been employed by the Cracker Barrel chain for more than nine years and started as a server in Gardendale. After working locally for three-and-a-half years, he transferred to the Madison location before entering the management internship program and relocating to Cullman. He’s been back at the Gardendale location for about two years.

“It was always my goal to come back to Gardendale as a general manager,” he said. “I really enjoy the community. ... We have a ton of regulars that come in and see us on a daily or weekly basis.”

It’s those regulars who helped win Cryer the award, which is based on criteria such as sales results and employee turnover.

Cryer said the Gardendale store’s figures run between $80,000-$85,000 a week, compared with Cullman which sees more than $100,000 weekly.

He said Gardendale’s mix of regulars and interstate travelers make it a good location in terms of sales.

However, he said he’s much more of a people person than a business man.

“When I took over the store, I was focused on getting the morale up and getting people motivated,” he said. “I have to give them [the staff] the credit. If the employees are happy, the guests are happy.”

That staff includes about 132 employees, including four associate managers, a retail manager and shift leaders.

Server Donna Mickel said Cryer is deserving of the award, not just because he’s an effective manager, but because of his attitude toward his employees.

“We just love him,” she said. “He doesn’t ask you to do anything he wouldn’t do. He’s just so nice he makes you want to go out of your way to do anything he asks of you.”

Mickel said after the employees found out about Cryer’s win, a large banner hung at the front of the store congratulating him on his achievement.

“He started out as a server and worked his way up, so he knows where we’ve been,” she said. “He’s very honest, hard-working and always smiling.”

Cryer even met his wife, Kim, through Cracker Barrel. They have four children: Megan, Kendall, Kendrick and Keaton.

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