Developing our talent is a cornerstone of Darden’s business model. More than half of our restaurant managers come from our hourly ranks, and we promote nearly 1,000 team members a year into management. Today we hear from James Hazlett, one of our emerging leaders.
Q. How long have you been with LongHorn Steakhouse, and what was your first job with the brand?
A. I was hired as a server assistant 10 years ago at the LongHorn Steakhouse restaurant in Bartonsville, PA. Within six months I was a server, and then I moved into bartending and learned all the front of the house positions. I received my manager training at Wilkes Barre, PA, and am now a service manager in Whitehall, PA.
Q. Why have you chosen a career with LongHorn Steakhouse?
A. During much of my decade at LongHorn Steakhouse, I studied exercise science and strength conditioning in college and coached football and track and field at the high school level. Coaching gave me a platform to inspire people and change their lives. I intended to get into college coaching, but it’s a tough field to break into. Meanwhile, my LongHorn managers saw promise in me, and I decided to work toward management. That way, I could still experience the satisfactions of coaching people. It took me awhile to decide which career I wanted and how I could affect the most people. I chose LongHorn Steakhouse, and I’m happy about it.
Q. What makes a leader effective?
A. Good leaders are able to reach people and make a difference in their career growth and lives. Anyone can tell a team member what to do, but if you can’t tell them why, they won’t relate to you. I experienced this first with athletes, who still call and ask me for advice, and now I’m guiding team members.
Q. Is there one LongHorn Steakhouse dish you can’t resist?
A. The Outlaw Ribeye.
Q. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A. My wife, Lauren Hazlett, is a bar and server assistant manager at LongHorn Steakhouse's Lower Nazareth location in Easton, PA, and my mother, Mary Hazlett, is a server assistant in Bartonsville. We push each other in our LongHorn careers, and it’s helpful. I’m also a member of the Army Reserve.