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National Restaurant Association - Taking the fork in the road pays off

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Taking the fork in the road pays off

Roz Mallet, a Dallas-based franchisee and former National Restaurant Association chair, talks about her career in the restaurant industry.

How did you get involved in the restaurant industry?
I started working in restaurants when I was in college. During one summer I accidentally was assigned to a restaurant after applying for a job my mother said I had to have. It was after my freshman year in college, at an amusement park in Houston. The restaurant happened to be one in a chain of about 100 stores in Texas. They made me a management offer as soon as I finished college so I had two choices: I could be a schoolteacher or a restaurant manager.

How did you know this was the career path you were meant to take?
Ironically, the restaurant manager job paid about $2,000 more [a year] so I took it. But prior to that point in my decision-making process, I’d done my student teaching at a high school. I was 22 years old and shy and realized disciplining seniors would be a problem. Becoming a restaurant manager made sense. I was going to pay people to listen to me.

How has the business changed, particularly for young employees, over the years?
There are a lot more options and, to some degree, sexier brands [to choose from]. There are students looking at us saying, ‘This could be a lot of fun.’ I speak a lot at Cornell and Johnson & Wales universities and I’m always trying to make sure they understand you don’t start as an owner or a franchisee. You start at the entry level. And if you work hard, find the right mentors and the right network, you can have a phenomenal career. I think that’s the piece that’s changed the most. The opportunities are more visible.

How do you spot great employees and future leaders?
You do have some instinct that you build over time but, frankly, you have to really look at how your employees are working, whether they’re willing to learn, if they’re willing to take a few extra steps or only do what’s required of them. We like to promote from within; if they’ve demonstrated a curiosity to learn what makes the business tick and are willing to learn from you, I say hire them in a minute.

Find out more about women in the restaurant industry at America Works Here

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