Q. How long have you been with Darden, and what was your first job with the company?
A. Sixteen years! I started with Darden in 2002, as an Olive Garden server, and spent some time at Red Lobster, too, as a trainer and bartender, back when Darden owned the brand. I moved to LongHorn Steakhouse five years ago, joining the team at the Evansville, IN, location in my hometown to be near my grandmother, who was dying. I took a server job then because I wanted a flexible schedule so I could help look after her.
Later I transferred to a LongHorn restaurant in Florence, KY, and then to the Smyrna TN, location near Nashville so my partner, Hannah Niemietz, and I could be near family. How cool is it to be able to do that?
In Smyrna, my managers opened my eyes to some career opportunities, and I decided I was ready to learn more and move into management. My managers at the Spring Hill, TN, location where I trained helped me believe I could be anything I set out to be. Now I’m a bar and server assistant manager in Nashville at the Murfreesboro Pike location. We have settled into a good life here.
Q. Did you always want to devote your career to foodservice?
A. No, I earned an associate degree in applied science in 2010 and became an X-ray technician (while still working in restaurants). I have always been fascinated by anatomy and the regenerative abilities of bones, but as it turned out, the career was not for me and I left it after working in a hospital for a year. I like making people happy, and people in pain needing X-rays are never happy and I couldn’t make them so. It wore me down. But in restaurants, I can please people, and that makes me happy, too.
Q. What was the most helpful thing you learned during your week of manager training at Darden’s Restaurant Support Center in Orlando, FL?
A. The Situational Leadership class, which included role playing to learn how to react in challenging situations, stands out. I also learned about my leadership qualities and how to coach others using my strengths. The class tied everything we learned together so that it all made sense. I enjoyed getting to know the other team members who were preparing to be managers, and I found the environment and content positive, energetic and valuable.