Think of an expeditor, or expo, as a fixer, problem solver, a jack of all trades. It’s a role Babas on Cannon’s Torrey Sanders, 28, was prepared for after serving as a manager at Black Cat, a 28-year-old Washington, D.C., music venue.
“I’d been working in the music industry leading up to COVID,” Sanders said. “I was doing a lot of what I do at Babas, just in one of these institution dive bar spots. I was kind of like the answer to the band’s tour manager.”
Sanders coordinated with Black Cat’s rotating lineup of bands and spent time behind the venue’s bar, while also working as a marketing manager for a different venue group. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sanders realized she was ready for a change of scenery.
“I used that downtime to figure out what was next,” said Sanders, who moved to Charleston in 2020. “I wanted to get back into hospitality leading up to that. I had been going to Babas as a customer, and I saw that they were hiring back in May. I was like, ‘I want to work somewhere that has a culture.’ I just loved the stuff that they make.”
Babas hired Sanders just before Memorial Day 2021, and she says it took a month to find her footing at the European-style cafe, where owner Edward Crouse takes attention to detail to another level.
Sanders recalls pulling her first shot of espresso and perusing Google Docs, recipe books and sticky notes with intricate details on how Babas operates. In July, she officially became the expo, a role that’s in place at casual and fine dining restaurants to ensure guests are happy and food is delivered on time.
According to Crouse, Sanders “presides over the guest experience in the evenings for us as our expo as we do not have typical servers, hosts [and] floor managers positions.” She describes it less formally.
“Being an expo at Babas is like you are arriving at a party that you sort of planned, but you also had a bunch of other co-hosts and the party is in full swing,” said Sanders, whose shift starts at 2 p.m., seven hours after the all-day cafe/bar opens.
Dishwasher’s broken? “Find Torrey!” A table outside is getting rowdy? “Where’s Torrey?!” You get the point.
“Basically, you’re the host of the party/problem solver filling in the holes when they arise,” Sanders said.
It’s a high pressure, exciting, daily-changing role in which Sanders thrives, according to Crouse.
“She brings great vibes, curiosity and passion every day. She never loses sight of the guest experience,” he said. “She sees that execution and technique are critical to the quality and consistency we provide, but she understands those elements are a means to an end that the goal is to always show folks a good time.”
Sanders cautions those considering entering or re-entering the food and beverage industry to be careful about where they choose to work. At Babas, the customers, culture and compensation are top-notch, she said.
“I’m very pleased with the pay that I’m getting — it feels very competitive. I’m making more than a salaried marketing role back in D.C,” she said. “After working a nine-to-five, there’s just something that I always love about walking into a space and being like, ‘OK, what do I need to do?’ So I think for people who find themselves doing better at work that is more people-focused, I would highly recommend it.”