08 May Rocking the food chain ladder: 27 female restaurant execs tell all
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In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, and Women’s History Month, Fast Casual interviewed 27 females executives leading the limited-service industry. Part 1. This installment includes an interview with Amanda Powell, director of Operations & Training, Coolgreens.
What was your first job in the restaurant industry?
I grew up in Washington, Kansas, a very small town, and we had a little diner called Mom & Pops, and I worked there when I was 15 years old. I fell in love with the fast pace and interaction with people. I then decided to get a degree in Hotel & Restaurant management at Kansas State University and continued to work in restaurants throughout my career.
It’s no secret the restaurant industry has been slow to promote females to c-level executive roles, but that seems to be changing. Why do you more women are finally getting these positions?
Women in leadership roles challenge the norm of us being “nurturing and gentle.” We can be these things, but we do not have to be them all the time. As society changes and gender roles adapt, so does the workforce. Society as a whole is finally, slowly but surely, accepting that women can take leadership roles and still be great women. Assertive women have not been well liked. We are sometimes seen as harsh, aggressive or confrontational. With more women in the workforce, it is hard to keep that mentality. On our end, I think women are beginning to take more risks than before. At Coolgreens, I am able to be more driven than ever and I am not scared to push boundaries, be innovative or challenge ideas. While before I think women would hold back on asking for raises and promotions, now we seem to be more comfortable with saying, “I deserve more.”
If you weren’t in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
I honestly do not know, I love being a part of the Coolgreens family and meeting new people every day. It is so rewarding to go through the day to day challenges that the restaurant space brings. If money was not an object I would have an event center for weddings or other parties out in the country in a big beautiful barn with cozy lodging and amazing food for my guests.
What have you learned about yourself during your tenure as a restaurant exec?
I have learned that I am adaptable to change and that feedback is truly the breakfast of champions. I have learned to always be open to growing and that you can not blame others for your mistakes or failures. It’s important to take ownership and learn from mistakes to become a better leader and person. I never felt I was a risk taker but I have learned that there is “no growth in comfort” and sometimes the bigger the risk the bigger the reward.
What is one thing you wish you would have known when you first started your career?
That feedback is good. Feedback, whether good or bad, helps you become a stronger leader and a better person. Feedback is so important for developing your leaders and your team. I have learned that if you can not receive feedback without getting defensive you will struggle to grow as a person. Now I simply state “thank you for the feedback” and fix what I need to fix. Giving feedback to the company as a whole and speaking your mind is something I wish I did more of in the beginning of my career.