McAlister's franchisee: 'Don't climb the ladder; build your own'
Editor's note: In honor of International Women's Day and Women's History Month, FastCasual interviewed several female leaders in the restaurant industry to learn about their success and how they feel about leading in a male-dominated industry. To read the entire series, click here.
Heather Ricks, a McAlister's Deli franchisee in Virginia, uses her leadership position as a platform to empower other women. Ricks, who is the only female on the McAlister’s Franchise Advisory Council, has a six-person management team. Five are females, and one of her restaurants boast an all-female kitchen.
"You have to be willing to stand side by side with men and demonstrate your abilities and vision through dedication and creativity," she said. "The restaurant and catering industry really opened up to female chefs, managers and entrepreneurs about 15 years ago. It was one of the first industries to do so, and I am proud that it is a leader in the business market."
Got her start in the biz
Ricks has been a McAlister's Deli franchisee since 2010, and owns two McAlister's units with the third opening this summer.
On why women make great leaders
"Everyone knows that women and men are different and therefore bring different points of view and experiences to the table. By having a diverse group of women in leadership roles (big and small) it adds new elements to discussions and broadens the vision that we all strive to achieve in the restaurant and catering industries."
Advice to women looking to lead
"I don't really see it as climbing the ladder, I see it as building your own. Only you know how big to make it and what kind of materials are going to support the steps you need to take. Stay true to yourself and your career path.
Find your voice and use it to ensure that your brand is open and fair to all, that it's a brand you are proud to be a part of and lead. Being a strong and positive role model for our team, guests and children is as easy as getting out of bed each morning and going into the restaurant or office. It has to be a part of who you are."
Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.www