Insights From Our Editors

Building a Visionary Practice with Wally’s Burger Express as Inspiration

Smiling senior woman being helped by female pharmacist at pharmacy. Satisfied female customer at drugstore with chemist putting hand on her shoulder.

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Offering an unparalleled patient experience.

By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO

March 6, 2024

As I was driving home from the hospital after visiting my newborn grandson (I had to get that in…he is our first, Hudson Joseph Hammon), I was hungry and realized that Wally’s Burger Express was close by.

My husband and I used to take an American Sign Language class close to Wally’s, and we would go there every week, but it isn’t close to our house or work, so I had not been there in many years.

What struck me was not just that the food was pretty dang good like I remembered – it was the exceptional friendliness provided by the restaurant’s team.

I remembered how impressed I was with the consistently friendly experiences I had there in the past. It’s kinda amazing that a fast food hamburger place can have such consistently fun, friendly employees for all of these years!

So, I looked into what they do.

Wally’s is a family-owned restaurant that extends its familial warmth not only to customers, but to its employees, creating a work environment that mirrors the camaraderie of a close-knit family. Inspired by this model, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Wally’s approach and the ways optometrists can enhance their practices by fostering a culture of warmth and consistency.

The Work-Family Concept

Wally’s thrives on the belief that their “team” is not just a collection of employees, but an integral part of a work-family. This philosophy resonates deeply with the idea that optometric practices can emulate a sense of belonging and trust among their staff. Optometrists can cultivate an environment where team members feel valued, appreciated and connected to a common purpose – providing exceptional eyecare.

Loyalty as the Cornerstone

In the optometric world, as in the restaurant industry, loyalty is a two-way street. Wally’s attests to this by boasting impressively low turnover rates. Wally’s website tells the story of the longevity of team members like Alberta and Moe, with 30+ and 25+ years of service, respectively, underscoring the importance of loyalty. Optometrists can similarly invest in their team’s growth, creating an atmosphere that promotes job satisfaction and dedication.

Building Trust Through Consistency

Consistency is the secret sauce that makes Wally’s stand out. Customers know they can expect not only delicious burgers, but also a consistently friendly and fun experience. Optometrists can apply this principle to their practices by ensuring a standardized level of care and service. From appointment scheduling to eye examinations, creating a consistently positive experience builds trust and loyalty among patients. I strongly believe we need to DEFINE what we want that experience to be and REITERATE it to our staff consistently.

Beyond Monetary Rewards

While financial compensation is a factor, Wally’s emphasizes that being a good place to work goes beyond dollars and cents. Similarly, optometrists can enrich their practices by offering a supportive work environment, professional development opportunities and a sense of purpose. A higher starting pay, like Wally’s $12 per hour, can attract top talent, but it’s the overall work culture that keeps them committed.

Hospitality from the Heart

At Wally’s, the hospitality extends from the heart, courtesy of long-term team members who become familiar faces to returning customers. In the realm of optometry, building relationships with patients can mirror this approach. Building a team of dedicated professionals who forge connections with patients contributes to a positive, friendly and memorable eyecare experience.

In conclusion, the Wally’s model serves as an inspiring example for optometrists seeking to elevate their practices. By embracing the work-family concept, prioritizing loyalty, ensuring consistency, going beyond monetary rewards and infusing hospitality from the heart, optometrists can create an environment that not only attracts, but retains both exceptional team members and satisfied patients.

Just as Wally’s Burger keeps customers coming back for more, optometrists can create a practice that patients return to with a sense of trust, comfort and loyalty.

Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO, is president of Lakeline Vision Source in Cedar Park, Texas, and the Professional Editor of Review of Optometric Business (ROB). To contact her:

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