Q. How long have you been with Olive Garden, and what was your first job with the brand?
A. Twelve years. I started with Olive Garden in Johnson City, TN, as a host in 2006, moved to Asheville, NC, in 2014 for personal reasons and started work as a host at the Tunnel Road location there. I trained to become a manager at Asheville, and I’m now a lobby, bar and off-premise manager in Morristown, TN.
Q. How has Olive Garden recognized your potential and helped you to be successful?
A. General Manager Amanda Albert-Bradley at the Asheville restaurant said she saw potential in me and thought I wasn’t challenging myself. So I began, reluctantly at first, to learn new jobs, starting with managing to-go orders. Everything changed for me when I began cross-training in new positions, thanks to Amanda and the promise she saw in me.
Q. What were the most helpful things you learned during your week of manager training at Darden’s Restaurant Support Center in Orlando, FL?
A. Many management styles exist, but our connection with our team members and guests is the driving force for positive results. I also learned that it’s important to take on different roles at various times — knowing the right time to push to the front vs. knowing when to allow others to drive the group is important for successful teamwork.
Q. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A. Foodservice was not my first career choice. I earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and worked as a hospice social worker, but I left the field after only a few months because I realized I could help people more as a hospice volunteer. My experiences with hospice patients have taught me about the circle of life and how important it is to celebrate every minute. I use this knowledge every day in interactions with my team and our guests.