Lessons Learned as a Cafeteria Manager

Wherever we are should be better because we are there.

One of my hotel jobs was as the Employee Dining Room (EDR) Manager. Basically, I was in charge of the cafeteria. Initially, I didn’t want that job because a big chunk of my career up to that point was spent in fine dining. I was classically trained in the honor and artistry of service by professionals from France, England, Italy and Spain. I foolishly thought that I was “beyond” working in the cafeteria. Little did I know that God had a plan in place (as He always does).

Eventually, I wised up, accepted the role and embraced it fully. My team and I repainted, redecorated and reorganized. We even crafted a new mission statement. We huddled every morning to celebrate successes and discuss opportunities for improvement.

Our EDR family opened doors, bussed tables, and helped carry food for “our guests”. We even surveyed the hotel staff to see what preferences they had for meals. In short, we helped turn the EDR into a place that staff wanted to come. That role, more than any other, instilled in me a passion for serving the true VIPs of any organization: The staff.

That was the last role I had before I, somehow, became the Director of Training…which eventually led to my current role as a keynote speaker & author. None of that would have happened if I wasn’t the cafeteria manager first.

Ultimately, I learned three lessons from that experience:

  1. Always optimize your present circumstance. Nothing that you’ve been through will be wasted. Every circumstance, (perceived) setback and success are all conspiring for your good.
  2. Help others see your vision for potential. Effective leaders are able to cast a clear vision and inspire others to move towards that vision (even if no one else can see it).
  3. Share your testimony. There is power in explaining where you were and contrasting it to where you are. Don’t hide it. Your past may be the catalyst to help inspire someone else to elevate from one circumstance to the next.

As I’ve stated many times before, we are called to be a light and not a shadow. Wherever we are should be better because we are there. Whether it’s a cafeteria, luxury hotel, hospital, post office or a grocery store, let your light shine for all to see.

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