Who does that job?

Cleaners supersize restaurants’ appeal
Tuesday, October 21, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:57 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

Gnawing hunger drives millions to fast-food restaurants every day. When they pull up to the drive-through window, their attention narrowly focused on the menu and what to order, few people pay much mind to the shrubs leading up to the menu or the finely sifted gravel surrounding it or the neatly trimmed grass that defines the borders of the parking lot, which is also handsomely landscaped.

Nick Pinkston was no exception — until he began his job as a laborer for Oasis Landscapes and Irrigation. He said he now realizes the time and effort it takes to beautify a fast-food restaurant’s outside appearance.

Pinkston spent the better part of a day recently standing in the parking lot and drive-through lane at Hardee’s, 200 S. Providence Road, power washing the cement with a loud, gas-powered machine.

“I haven’t had any complaints — I figured (the customers) would because this thing’s pretty loud out here,” the MU mechanical engineering student said.

It takes Pinkston about 1 and 1/2 hours to rid the concrete of scuff marks, oil and other grime, occasionally stopping to wait for cars to pass through the drive. About twice a month, Pinkston and a handful of co-workers groom the trees, bushes and grass at fast-food restaurants around Columbia.

The clean-up process involves much more than sweeping up leaves and branches, bagging them and hauling them to a burn site. The workers actually get down on their hands and knees to pick stray debris that collects around and under the small rocks lining the drive-through lanes.

Al Hamilton, operations manager for Oasis, said one of the more rewarding parts of restaurant landscaping is choosing and planting the various shrubs and grasses that will surround a new establishment. Hours of planning go into the types of flora used and where they will be planted.

“You space them out and plan them so they don’t kill each other out,” said Hamilton. “It’s not difficult work, just a little stressful.”

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