Cola Pettiford is the owner of We Got Soul, a soul food restaurant located in Stone Mountain, Georgia that offers southern cooking at its best. “If you’re looking for a place that has delicious down-home cooking, excellent customer service with a smile, all at a great price, you’ve found it,” says Pettiford, who opened the restaurant because there was no other place nearby that sold down home cooking she liked to eat.
Here, Pettiford shares what it’s like to be a leader in the restaurant industry and how her biggest mistake in the kitchen turned out to be such a hit.
What is your background in the restaurant industry?
I have no prior experience in the restaurant industry. I’m just a country girl from Tifton, Georgia with big dreams.
Why did you start this restaurant?
There were no restaurants servicing the Stone Mountain, Georgia area with real home-cooked, freshly-made soul food, like the kind of food I grew up on and enjoyed that my Grandma Belle cooked for my family, the kind that not only fills the belly, but also fills the soul.
What is the restaurant’s mission/philosophy?
Our mission is to provide exceptional service to everyone, every time. My goal is to provide a family-friendly soul food restaurant where guests can enjoy great service and a meal with a home-like feel.
Please describe your leadership style.
I lead by example and explain to my employees what to do, how to do it, and also why we do things the way that we do them at We Got Soul. I have high standards set for myself, my business, as well as my employees.
What do you think sets you apart from your competitors?
We Got Soul has the total package: not only do we have great tasting food, but our service is friendly, and the overall ambiance is on point. We make you feel like you’re in the South. I feel at home. Our food is prepared with love and served with a smile. We serve quality and not quantity. We serve fresh foods to our customers, just like back in the day. Most people ask for a cot to take a nap after eating and mention how they feel at home (the home they grew up in).
What do you find most challenging about your role?
Because we are a family at We Got Soul, it is sometimes hard to separate the family from the boss in me, but it has to be done.
What makes a restaurant work?
We Got Soul works because of its delicious down home recipes (the customers love our product), strategic location (there is no other restaurant in our area that offers the same experience), great customer service (serviced by our amazing employees), leadership (great leadership leads to a great business and other great leaders), and sheer will and drive, because building a business from the ground up is not easy.
How challenging is it to be successful within the food and beverage industry in Georgia?
It is challenging but not very challenging because at We Got Soul we serve quality, fresh, homemade food from scratch with appropriate servings, versus quantity (packed out plates of canned or warmed up boxed foods). The difference between a $5 meal and a $10 meal is the labor and love that goes into our products cooked from scratch. Our customers choose quality over quantity, love our food, they don’t mind paying or telling their friends and family about us.
In a business with such high employee turnover, how have you been so successful with retaining good workers?
My employees are loyal because I’m good to them so in return they’re good to me. My lead waitress Monique (aka Ms. “Welcome To We Got Soul”) has been with me for three years. They hate to disappoint me.
What are some of your greatest accomplishments?
Making it to my fourth year open because I’ve seen so many restaurants open and close within these four years open.
What will customers rave about to their friends and family?
Customers always compliment our cleanliness – I’m mediocre OCD – amazing customer service, and of course our southern deliciousness.
What is the signature dish?
Joe’s 4 Cheese Mac N Cheese. You can’t be a true fan of We Got Soul and not know who Joe is.
What is your favorite meal?
Our flavorful fried turkey wing ranch flavored that I created by mistake turned out to be the best mistake ever, collard greens, and white rice with a special sauce on top.
Tell us about your daily specials:
Monday – Closed
$2 Tuesday – Fried Chicken Dark
Wine Down Wednesday 10% off Wine
Thirsty Thursday FREE Drink w/meal purchase (dine in only)
$5 Fish FRIday – Fish & Grits or Fish Sandwich & Fries
We Got Soul is located at 5210 Stone Mountain Highway in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Their website is wegotsoulfood.com.