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Pennsylvania Restaurant &  Lodging Association | Staffing, Certifications and more

Tom Neely

CEO, Thomas E Strauss, Inc.

Briefly describe your job and responsibilities.

Entrusted to lead this family owned group of iconic brands seated in the heart of Amish Country in the greater Lancaster, PA area. The company was born in 1929 when Anna Miller began to serve meals to weary truckers stopping at her husband’s service station on PA Rt 30. From there it has grown into what is known today as Millers Smorgasbord Restaurant, a fabulous feast of fresh made local delights. We also proudly operate Millers Bakery (shipping nationally through the gold belly platform), Locally Made Food Shop which features our bakery items as well as numerous private labeled and local food products, Millers Quilt Shop featuring beautiful handcrafted quilts from local crafters, Amish View Inn and Suites a wonderful high-end select service hotel with a fabulous full country breakfast, Smokehouse BBQ and Brews with some of the best smoked brisket in Lancaster County and additional retail shops supporting our restaurants.


What does a “typical” day at work look like for you?

It is important to me to touch each of the businesses in our portfolio daily so I try to do that at least once during the day at a time that might make sense for them and certainly if they are in need of any assistance in the operation.


What was your first job?

As busser at the Copper Kettle Restaurant, which was part of the old Hershey Lodge (before their renaissance).


When did you know this industry was right for you?

From an early age, I lived in a household where we did a significant amount of entertaining, primarily surrounding my father’s colleagues. It was not unusual, at least once a year to have over 200 people in our home. As a 1 of 5 children…we were the staff. 🙂


Briefly describe your career path and how you got to where you are today.

After obtaining my degree from Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management, I set sail into the Hotel industry as a Housekeeping Manager with Interstate Hotels. After moving and changing roles throughout every department of a hotel and a few years at the Corporate Office, I started working with family-owned companies in various roles leading me on a path to my current role.


What is your favorite part of your job?

I love the creativity of people. As a self-proclaimed “spaghetti thrower,” I think the greatest failure is not to evolve and try new things and the best ideas almost always come from the team.


What is the most challenging part of your job?

In this day and age – staffing. This parlays into the advice I would give young people.


What advice would you give to students interested in your profession?

To be engaged and try EVERYTHING. The most wonderful thing about the hospitality industry is there is a place for nearly every skill set and interest. And those that engage, now more than ever, have a fantastic opportunity to gain great success.


What achievement are you most proud of?

Developing people. I take great personal satisfaction in seeing people that I have worked with flourish and succeed in their own careers.


What do you like to do outside of work?

I am a woodworking hobbyist….there is nothing better at the end of a stressful time than to run a board through a saw and create something unique.


What is your favorite food to make or eat?

While I know I should probably not eat as much as I do, there is absolutely nothing better to me than a juicy steak perfectly cooked on the grill.

What’s at the top of your bucket list?

Probably tied but to travel to Ireland and Austria, both countries fascinate me a great deal.