How Kathy Ross Became a Food and Beverage Manager, Director, & Food Truck Owner

Ignite Expert

Ignite Expert

With 39 years in the food and beverage industry, Kathy Ross knows what it takes to overcome challenges and achieve excellent outcomes. Through hard work, life experiences, and dedication, Kathy navigated various roles from the ground up. As she explored the F & B sector, including gaming, fast casual, and educational markets, she developed solutions that greatly impacted operations and staff.

However, her path started long before adulthood. As a child, Kathy brushed up on math skills as the cashier for a small seafood restaurant owned by her parents. Later, her father became chef and director at a downtown Los Vegas business while her mother worked as a head cashier on the strip. Kathy distinctly remembers the amount of stress her parents were under. It’s a feeling that all of those in the restaurant and hospitality industry are all too familiar with. At 28 years old, Kathy hit the ground running as a shift manager. She took on managing a 400-seat buffet, followed by supervising cashiers for all food and beverage outlets. Her advancement led her to become the food and beverage manager. Kathy then pivoted to a position as food director of a coffee shop, buffet, steak house, and employee dining room. Yet, she didn’t stop there. Kathy moved to Washington and pursued a food truck business.

Often, unexpected opportunities deliver the best life and professional experiences. And that’s how Kathy describes her jump into owning an espresso truck with her husband. A fantastic deal on a vehicle came about, and they drove an hour and a half to see it. The truck needed work, but Kathy had a business permit from the bank and was ready to go. She received approval for a personal loan, paid $13,000 for the truck, and tackled improvements.

Kathy relied on her math skills to calculate permit and event fees, which often included a percentage of sales. She figured out the profitable routes and eventually landed a great spot at a college and another at the Air Force base. Kathy says, “There’s a lot of set up and break down. We were in Washington state, where on every corner you have coffee. So, we had all the flavors, fraps, smoothies, Italian sodas, hot dog machines, breakfast sandwiches, and muffins. What a blast. A lot of work, and I miss it a lot!”

As life took her in new directions, Kathy moved into the college market, working in catering, followed by a position as the food services director. During this time, she also dipped her toes into fast casual dining. As the three-hour daily commute wore on her, Kathy switched to an assistant general manager position at a family restaurant close to home.

Her adaptability and in-depth knowledge of the restaurant industry provided vital skills critical to helping entrepreneurs solve problems. Kathy explains her background as delivering “a lot of experience, a lot of stories, a lot of fun, and a lot of lessons learned.”

When asked about top challenges, Kathy points out difficulties finding good help, discipline, and innovating through hard moments.

Food and beverage challenges

Hiring the best people is a longstanding challenge for the restaurant industry. Kathy explains that many people interview well, but that doesn’t always mean they’re the best person for the job. She says, “You can ask all the right questions or give whatever personality test you want and still end up with a liability nightmare.” After hiring and training, employees still occasionally make mistakes. Others want better opportunities to grow professionally. Meeting those challenges allows business owners to find, develop, and retain a great crew.
Food and beverage solutions
Kathy addressed these challenges with a fair and consistent approach. When it came to hiring, she started with a reference check. Then, she encouraged her team to interact with her interviewee before the meeting. Lastly, Kathy relied on intuition and a good conversation to direct her next steps.

But, once hired, her efforts didn’t stop. She invested in her staff, who worked harder because Kathy believed in them. With coaching and mentoring from business owners and managers, restaurant crews form a solid backbone of your company. Moreover, Kathy was able to promote crew members with great success. This, combined with an employee referral program, provided a steady stream of excellent team members for each food and beverage workplace. Kathy also focused on discipline to build exceptional teams. She recommends:

  • Discipline at the end of the shift.
  • Know the whole story before you write it up.
  • Keep discipline fair and consistent.
  • Don’t let your bad day affect your management or discipline methods.

Food truck challenges

With a moving food truck, entrepreneurs face many hurdles with the basics. Things like parking your vehicle, accessing electricity, or running out of supplies can make or break your profit margin. Kathy recalls events where the planners only allowed generators with low decibel ratings. And others where an unexpected rush of customers ran them out of supplies faster than they could replenish them. When you take your business on the road, it’s essential to have a plan B for almost every possible problem.

Food truck solutions

Start by asking the right questions before arriving at the location. You’ll want to make sure the event offers a power source, what they’ll charge for using their power, find out if your generator plug matches their outlet, and that your generator decibel rate meets the sound requirements. Other essential questions include water availability, the number of food trucks at the event, and expected headcount. Kathy reminds entrepreneurs that vendors want you to make money. They want their guests to stay and enjoy the event while spending money. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions or tell the vendor what you need.

And when all else fails, rely on a plan B (or C). In Kathy’s case, she pulled in her children to run food and supplies back and forth. Get a support group behind you, and ask for help before you get stuck in the weeds.

Do you need help hiring the right people or starting a food truck business?

Tackling tough jobs is what Kathy does best. She’s not afraid to step in and offer solutions that business owners can quickly implement. Things like promoting from within and using an employee referral program are ways to make life easier and staff happier. Explore how to improve your food and beverage company by scheduling a call with Kathy today.

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