Meet Some Inspiring Restaurateurs

Mar 23

Restaurant owners, operators and employees are some of the most motivated, creative and savvy businesspeople in Texas, creating jobs in every community. Small restaurant businesses are the backbone of countless local communities, with a crucial impact on our state's economy. Texas' 41,000 restaurant locations support 1.2 million jobs, 10% of employment in the state. Did you know that more than half of U.S. restaurants are owned or co-owned by women? Women-owned businesses are growing at a faster rate than the overall restaurant industry.  With more women in management and ownership positions than virtually any other industry, restaurants offer a career path with no glass ceiling. In honor of Women's History Month, we are celebrating women in the restaurant industry by sharing some Texas Restaurant Association members' stories Lakesha Reed, CEO, Beaucoup Bar & Grill/Lagniappe Group, Houston What I love about food is how it makes you feel.  And that's what I want to get across to people. My grandma's food gives me the best feeling in the world. When I left New Orleans to go to the University of Houston, the closest thing I could get to home was food, and I couldn't find the food I loved. I knew I wasn't the only New Orleanian feeling like that! After college I worked in New Orleans for a while and then Katrina hit. I lost everything and didn't work for a while. I kinda just contemplated life.  I've always wanted to start a restaurant and had experience working in restaurants during college. So I moved to Houston and took this perfect opportunity to take what I love (my grandma's recipes) and provide that home-cooked traditional New Orleans food to customers. I thought I knew what I was getting into - until I had to control a whole restaurant myself! But it has been an amazing experience and I don't know that any other industry would have provided this kind of opportunity. We just opened our second location! Eleanor Moore, Controller, Savory Catering/Calabrese & Winkler Holdings, LLC, Dallas I've been in the restaurant business my entire adult life from waitress, to hostess to short order cook. In 1980, I took my first office job for a restaurant that lasted 33 years. Taking on any new responsibilities offered, I learned. Only this industry offers this kind of hands on training on the corporate level. This year I left my comfortable position to take on a completely new role as Controller for State and Allen Restaurant & Bar. I've come full circle back to the restaurant where I office upstairs from the dining room. I'm forever grateful to the restaurant business for teaching me everything I know and continue to learn. Betty Zentner, Owner, Zentner's Daughter Steakhouse, San Angelo I grew up in the restaurant business and just like my parents I was motivated by a dream. Achieving the dream was a long road of not giving up, sticking to the opportunity, and accepting change that went with the restaurant business. The idea is to grow up by always looking for opportunity. Have no regrets, talent and ability will follow. Heather McKeon,  VP of Marketing, Gringo's Mexican Kitchen & Jimmy Changas, Houston I was one of the lucky girls! After graduating with a Bachelors of Business Administration in both marketing & management, I looked in all directions hoping for that €˜perfect' entry-level marketing position. You know, the one€¦ no-real experience needed, career advancement opportunities, fast-paced environment, never-a-dull moment kind of place? Ha! What I quickly realized was I had already found a home within the restaurant industry. I was fortunate that great mentors and a bit of perfect timing €” my education in combination with my restaurant experience €” provided the means to find my path in restaurant marketing. All the things I went out searching for were at my fingertips within the restaurant industry! Brett Keenan, Sales & Marketing Manager, Blackfinn American Pub, Austin From waiting tables through my undergrad, working for the Texas Restaurant Association during grad school, and now doing sales and marketing for Blackfinn, I cannot say enough about how wonderful this industry has been to me. I used to think every well-paying marketing job required an office and pantyhose. I feel so blessed to have fallen into a role so perfect for me. A role that allows me to work in an incredibly fun environment, plan, attend and sponsor amazing events, and help hundreds of charities within my awesome city. Heather Bell, Restaurant Sales Manager, Austin Capital Grille, Austin After having been in the restaurant industry for 15 years, being of service has become a way of life for me. I take a large amount of pride in the memories I have had the opportunity to create for the many guests served, and team members I have been blessed to work beside during my career. Gloria Starling, Managing Partner, The Capital Grille, Fort Worth I fell in love with the restaurant industry at a very young age and knew an education beyond high school was not in my future. Pursuing my love for the restaurant business was the way I spent my college years. For the past 23 years, I have been working to master every single title in the industry. I believe life has given me a diploma of its own, allowing me to do what I absolutely love doing every day. My management philosophy is to provide a team oriented, nourishing environment that allows people to grow and become the best they can be through positive leadership, encouragement and guidance. The ultimate goal is to always provide an exceptionally distinctive guest experience. I'm the first Latino woman to serve as Managing Partner of Capital Grille Restaurants and I was honored to be named Hispanic Business Woman of the Year by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. Currently I am the vice-president of the Tarrant County Restaurant Association and a member of both the Texas Restaurant Association and TRA Education Foundation board of directors. Community involvement is also important to me and I serve on the boards of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., Tarrant County Food Bank and Ronald McDonald House. Learn more about opportunities in the restaurant industry, and read more stories from inspiring industry leaders like these at America Works Here.