Sixteen years ago, I started as a hostess at my local Olive Garden while in high school, and I continued to work there as I entered college. As a Political Science major, I wanted to get into the world of politics.
I appreciated all the leadership and communication skills I learned even as a hostess, which I figured would one day help my political career. I was particularly inspired by the leadership skills of my Director of Operations, Marshall Darwish. By the end of my sophomore year of college, I realized that I didn’t want to leave the company. I had wanted to go into politics because I wanted to make a difference in my community, and I realized that I could do that through a career with Olive Garden.
So I decided to switch majors to Business Management and started down the track to becoming a restaurant manager. Every step of the way, Marshall continued to mentor and encourage me. As a mentor, he was understanding but always pushed me to be better and to excel. About five years ago, I became a General Manager. I have worked at six different Olive Garden locations and always had the privilege of having Marshall as my Director, even in my current restaurant. I’m so grateful for his leadership and support.
In addition to giving back to the community, I fell in love with working with and developing my own restaurant team members. Nothing makes me happier than to help them pursue their career dreams and to see them grow into management roles within our company.
My current restaurant team in Oswego, Illinois, loves giving back to our community as much as I do. They are always eager to get involved, and I love providing them with a job that gives them opportunities to give back and engage in philanthropy. We’re proud to support our local youth football organization, the Plainfield Junior Cats. We have staffed their concession stands to raise money for the organization. We also partner with the Northern Illinois Food Bank with grants, donations and volunteerism. We often host dinners and tours for our local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops. I am also on the Board of the Aurora Communities in Schools Program, which provides resources to local children. My restaurant team has jumped right in to support its various programs, such as school supply drives, winter coat drives and fundraising efforts.
I still think about perhaps going into local politics one day, but right now I’m excited to be helping out both my community and my team members as an Olive Garden General Manager.
By: Jessica Anderson, General Manager, Olive Garden