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Natalie Sullivan

Robert Heim

Managing Partner | Chili’s/Brinker International

Briefly describe your job and responsibilities.

As the Managing Partner, I’m responsible for all operations at my location.  I oversee a team of 3 assistant managers and an hourly team of just over 50 team members.  While each day there are times I’ll need to focus on the operation and work in a specific role, my general duties are to ensure we’re following all of our operating standards – from our manager’s timeline to ensuring food prep is completed properly and that our Front of House team is keeping the restaurant clean and inviting.  Working for a corporate restaurant, we have a ton of support and we really just need to follow our game plan for each day and we’ll succeed!

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

All of our managers work a varied schedule.  There are days we’ll open the restaurant, work mid-day, or be in to close.  Each would vary to some degree, but there are many similarities.

 When we first arrive we check staffing to make sure we’re ready for the shift.  From there, we complete our line-check and prep-check where we verify that all food product is ready for the day and the cook’s line is set, stocked, and food safe.  Throughout these times, we’re obviously interacting with the staff and making sure they too are ready.  We try to have a pre-shift meeting with each team member to ensure they have clear direction on what to expect for the day in their role.

Once we verify we’re set-up…our role is to host the party!  From welcoming more Team Members as they arrive, to welcoming our guests.  Our job is to make sure everyone has the support needed to properly execute in their role to ensure guest satisfaction.  Much of our time should be in the Front of House once we’re open, talking with our guests and ensuring food and service is on point.

What was your first job?

I first started at the Holiday Inn in Grantville when I was 16.  I saw a newspaper ad for banquet servers with a very good pay-rate, which included tips.  I went to apply and found I wasn’t eligible as you had to be 18 due to alcohol service.  That’s when they offered me the role of bus boy!  I was so excited to start, but my Mom wasn’t a big fan of me driving about 25 miles for a much lower paying position.  I was able to convince her it was right with the help of some of the servers there and the rest is history!  I moved up there into Room Service, then Food Server and eventually after college was the Food and Beverage Director.  That was the position I left to come to Chili’s.

When did you know this industry was right for you?

I’ll reference my Mom here again, as she can verify that this is what I was always meant to do.  For my college graduation, she gave me a framed copy of my first menu.  I wrote this when I was probably 7 or 8…maybe younger based on the misspellings.  Being the youngest, I was happy to wait on my older brother growing up.  I think he still has an open tab he owes me for.

Service to others is why we are here.  Our business is about much more than food and beverage.  It’s about experiences and stories.  That’s the difference between service and hospitality.

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

As I mentioned above, I “grew-up” at the Holiday Inn.  I worked there through high school and college in various hourly roles.  Once I graduated from college (Johnson State, Johnson, VT – 4 year BA in Hospitality) I became a “utility manager” at the hotel.  My first role was basically to fill in for others as needed.  I quickly moved into the Restaurant Manager role there, progressing to the Food and Beverage Director position as the company grew.  It seemed they grew a bit too big too quick and I wasn’t sure of my future there.  That’s when I started to look elsewhere and found Chili’s.

It’s now 14 years ago that I started at our Mechanicsburg location as an Assistant Manager.  While there I got into some training and traveled a bit in our Region for different trainings in restaurant.  That allowed me more exposure and I was soon promoted to the General Manager position in Harrisburg.  I was there for a few years before moving to the Carlisle location where I became a Managing Partner.  Several years there, led me back to the Harrisburg location where I am now.

What is your favorite part of your job?

It’s the people…both team members and guests.  In our business we come to work to have fun and help others do the same.  By having a great team, we make great connections with our guests.  I can tell you Team Members and guests from every location I’ve been at that I keep in touch with often.  

What is the most challenging part of your job?

It’s the people…both team members and guests!  The downside is that we often have one of everyone.  I have a big heart and try to accommodate the needs of everyone, but that often has come back to bite me.  We hire the team members whom we believe will do the best for us, but often they have their own struggles that hold them back.  That can cause a variety of issues and ultimately lead to separation…that’s not the fun part.  I’ve also had to call the police on several guests for various reasons over my years – both at the hotel and in the restaurant.  We never know who is coming through our doors and that’s an ever-growing challenge.

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

You need to know that hospitality is a lifestyle.  There will be many things on weekends happening that you might miss out on, but that’s just more the reason to find fun things to do on a Tuesday afternoon when you’re probably off of work!  Our world is shifting from 9 to 5, but that’s still a big piece of it.  You need to be dedicated, but also balanced.  You can’t sacrifice your time and enjoyment to provide that to others or you lose in the end.  Find time for what matters and provide that to others in your organization as you advance.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I can tell you about awards my team and I have won or performance rankings, but that’s not what drives me.  While I said that having to terminate someone isn’t a fun part, it has also been rewarding.  I had a team member who I had to part ways with.  It wasn’t a bad situation, but also not great for obvious reasons.  About 2 years later, he reached out to me to thank me for firing him.  He said that he had learned he wasn’t doing what was needed.  Attendance was one of his main issues for us and he wanted to let me know he was just recognized for attendance and given an award in his new job.  Even after leaving me, he was still learning and growing from what we talked about.  It’s those connections that keep coming back and keep giving that I’m most proud I can provide.

What do you like to do outside of work?

My family and I really enjoy traveling.  We have a camper and try to get out as much as possible.  Depending where we go, that leads to beach time, cruising a lake on a boat, hiking or just sitting around and enjoying down time with a good book.  While I come from hotels, I love being able to take our dogs with us, prepare our own meals and just relax in our own space when we’re not at home.  One big benefit of our business is that campgrounds are pretty empty Monday to Friday!

What is your favorite food to make or eat?

I’m always most content when I grill some good steaks with mashed potatoes.

What’s at the top of your bucket list?

Visiting all 50 states.  As part of our love to travel, my husband and I had traveled extensively by car.  At some point, we made note of the states we’d been to and realized it was a lot!  This project becomes more challenging as you work to complete it as we now have 6 states left – Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Utah.  They’re not exactly day trips…but we’ll get there!