Every one of us strives to answer this question: What do you want to do with your life? We soul-search and plan, but sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. Many Darden managers fell into their foodservice careers — and then fell in love with the work. Meet one of them, Jennifer Parker of Yard House.
Q. How long have you been with Yard House, and what was your first job with the brand?
A. I’ve been with Yard House nearly three years. I started as a server at The LINQ location in Las Vegas, NV, and became a trainer within a few months. Last summer I was promoted again and now I’m a front of the house manager at the Red Rock Resort location in Las Vegas. This isn’t my first time with Darden, though. I was a server, bartender and trainer at an Olive Garden restaurant in Columbus, OH, for three years. I liked the job but left Ohio for family reasons.
Q. Why have you chosen a career with Yard House?
A. I never intended to have a foodservice career. While I worked at Olive Garden, I was earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology at The Ohio State University. I had planned to open a practice and counsel children and teens experiencing difficulties at home or school. But I developed a passion for the restaurant industry. I love watching people’s faces light up as they try their first bite or seeing them smack their lips after being adventurous and trying a new beer. I did both of those things when friends took my husband and me to Yard House for dinner the first time. I thought, ‘Now this is a company I could work for,’ and when I found out Yard House was owned by Darden, I lit up inside because it seemed like it was meant to be. I applied for a job right away and am so grateful for this career. I love our brand, but I’m a brand, too, a brand of positivity, and I bring that to every encounter I have with team members and guests. I lead training in my job and ultimately would like to work in training at Darden’s Restaurant Support Center in Orlando.
Q. What advice do you have for other team members who want to advance in their careers?
A. Believe in yourself and hold true to who you are because no one can take that away from you. If you go to bed feeling good and wake up feeling good, that’s the ultimate. Also, remember that we are liaisons between our guests and the kitchen and the bar. Our job is to be knowledgeable about our food and beer and make it exciting for our guests.
Q. What craft beer are you enjoying right now?
A. One of my go-to beers for a guest wanting to try something new is our house Belgian Amber Tripel. Malty and balanced with medium spiciness, it’s the Goldilocks of beers — not too light, not too hoppy, just right. My personal favorite right now is Banger Morning Joe, a light beer fermented with hazelnut and French roast coffee.