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Posted: January 30, 2014

Chef Laura: “Omaha!” and flying fish

Throw in a little fun at work

Laura Cook Newman

Have you heard?  The Denver Broncos are going to the Super Bowl.

Admittedly - and perhaps a little late - I’ve recently climbed aboard the Broncos’ bandwagon.  Not enjoying native status, I’ve never owned clothing with the head of a white horse silkscreened across the chest, nor understood why that car dealer is always being interviewed about the team’s stats.

Despite my slow uptake, after 12 years of paying Colorado state taxes, I can say that I’ve become “United in Orange”.  Why the change?  Well, winning games certainly helps one support a team.  But really, I just like listening to Peyton Manning yell “Omaha!” repeatedly over the course of four quarters.

Why is he doing this?  The obvious explanations are:

  1. A deep love of Nebraska
  2. A reminder to balance his check book
  3. Subliminal advertising to order a $52 steak at Elway’s 

Regardless of what this QB screams to his offense and its intended meaning, it’s become a fascinating ritual.  I’m a little disappointed when Manning doesn’t refer to Gerald Ford’s birthplace.  Crying “Omaha!” directs his teammates, confuses his opponents, and delights Broncos fans.

It reminds me a bit of rival city Seattle’s Pike Place Market.  This is the Mecca for fresh food, flowers, and spices.  Just like SAF@MH, the sights, sounds, and smells of this massive marketplace are an assault to visitors’ senses.  After a while, all the glorious vendors start to look alike. 

You can buy fresh Wild King Salmon at four different seafood vendors; however the one that draws the biggest crowd is Pike Place Fish Market.  How do they direct their team, confuse their competition, and delight their customers?  They substitute the chant “Heyyyyyy Ya!” for “Omaha!”, as a hunk of halibut goes sailing overhead.

Yes, these fish mongers throw the seafood.  Instead of calmly taking orders, wrapping filets, and handing it to the customer, they turn that process into a performance.  Like Ramirez snapping the pigskin to Manning who fires it to Decker, this orange coverall-clad team pitch fish around their shop before delivering it to their delighted customers.  Holy Mackerel…Touchdown!

Peyton and Pike Place Fish Market are making work fun:

  • fun to watch them
  • fun to root for them
  • fun to part with your money. 

Like Disney’s Seven Dwarfs, when employees whistle while they work, that catchy tune spreads, puts a pep in their step, and before they know it, it’s quittin’ time!  Another hard day’s work with a smile on their face is in the books.

When your employees are having fun, your customers want to join in.  Think of those jokester flight attendants on Southwest, or bottle flippin’ flair bartenders.  They draw attention - for the right reasons – and the merriment spreads. 

Unless you’re employed by Sea World, it’s probably not appropriate to throw fish at your workplace.  But how can you inject some fun and excitement to produce a high-performing team?  How can you create a place where employees and customers look forward to doing business? 

Only three more days until kickoff.  I’ll be donning my newly acquired #18 jersey, while I fire up the grill for some “Omaha!” ribeyes or freshly “caught” King Salmon.  Time to have some fun and Time to Ride!

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at

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Readers Respond

Perhaps the FOX microphones weren't turned up, but I don't think I heard "Omaha!" all night. Peyton, see what happens when you stop having fun at work? Congrats Seattle. By Chef Laura on 2014 02 03
I used to work at a predecessor to the UPS Store. We were two blocks from the Post office and across the street from an Office Max. We charged more for our products than they did. We knew the only way to make it was to offer something that they couldn't, good service and fun. It was a hard job, but as I think about my career it was one of the most fun times I ever had. We also made a lot of money. By The Box Dr. on 2014 02 01
I was at a corporate shindig during the week. At the end of the event, our CEO reminded us to have fun at work. It was nice to hear. It's nice to read too. By Gumby on 2014 02 01
I'll be trying to run away from work on Super Bowl Sunday! By Ta Tee on 2014 01 30
Fun article, Laura! Love the idea of spreading merriment! By Terri Maize on 2014 01 30
We're rolling into the Superbowl! Another good reminder about enjoying your work and rooting for success that will carry returns both on and off the field. I tried to wear something a little different at work to make things more interesting. At least it was appreciated once a week! By Barrel Man on 2014 01 30
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