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National Restaurant Association - Serving the industry’s front line

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Serving the industry’s front line

Each May we celebrate Military Appreciation Month to recognize the contributions of our active and retired servicemen and women. Many have gone on to successful careers in the restaurant industry after their time in the armed forces ended. These six standouts share thoughts on the ties between restaurants and the military:

Shane Hitzeman, president/franchisee, Pride Restaurant Group, Phoenix



Military service:
Four years in the U.S. Army.
Restaurant career: First job was as a Burger King cashier in 1986.
Why he likes the restaurant industry: It’s a people business. Customers love sharing stories with us about their great dining experiences.
How the military prepared him for foodservice: It taught me to manage teams in complex operations.


Michael Lowe, general manager, Jack’s 242, Auburn, Ala.



Military service:
10 years in the Army National Guard.
Restaurant career: Started as a crew member, was assistant manager and now is general manager at the Auburn location.
Why he likes the restaurant industry: Being able to give customers service and quality they never expected.
How the military prepared him for foodservice: It taught me discipline, how to deal with stress, and how to work, communicate and connect with a multitude of personalities.


Walter P. Mack III, joint venture partner, Outback Steakhouse, Central Florida



Military service:
Nearly 10 years of service in the U.S. Marines and Tennessee Army National Guard.
Restaurant career: Started as an hourly “bloom” cook and became kitchen manager, front-of-house manager and then managing partner.
Why he likes the restaurant industry: The camaraderie with the people I work with is the best part.
How the military prepared him for foodservice. It taught me patience, discipline and leadership.


Col. Ken Sersun, owner/operator, Chick-fil-A, Albuquerque, N.M.



Military service: 2
6 years in the U.S. Air Force.
Restaurant career: Worked as a bus/bun boy at a fine-dining restaurant while in high school, but the Chick-fil-A franchise is the first restaurant I’ve owned.
Why he likes the restaurant industry: It presents ever-changing challenges and the ability to mentor tomorrow’s leaders.
How the military prepared him for foodservice. You must have patience, discipline and use critical thinking.


Jackie Willard, general manager, McDonald’s, Hueytown, Ala.



Military service: 2
5 years in the Army National Guard.
Restaurant career: Began career as a crew member and worked up to general manager.
Why he likes the restaurant industry: I meet new people every day and make an impact on their lives.
How the military prepared him for foodservice. To be a good leader you must first be a good follower.


Diane Wilson, general manager, Applebee’s Grill & Bar, Knoxville, Tenn.



Military service:
U.S. Army with tours of duty at Fort Bragg, N.C., in Iraq and Germany.
Restaurant career: Manager for brands including Macaroni Grill, Cracker Barrel and Applebee’s.
Why she likes the restaurant industry: There’s never a dull moment.
How the military prepared her for foodservice: Both require discipline and endurance. Chain of command and respect play important roles in leadership in both restaurants and the military. Teamwork and brotherhood are important too: Greater things are achieved when you work together.

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