Breanne Hinnant, general manager, Olive Garden in Frederick, Md.
Breanne Hinnant’s rise to restaurant leadership included a few rungs on the education ladder.
The new general manager of the Olive Garden in Frederick, Md., Hinnant grew up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She started in the restaurant industry as a host and server in a local breakfast restaurant. She also worked at a few local restaurants throughout her summers to save money for college.
A student-athlete, she played volleyball and softball at Peace College in Raleigh, N.C., then was recruited to Converse College, a Division II school in South Carolina, where she played volleyball and lacrosse.
Her college path eventually led to the University of East Carolina, where she pursued a degree in elementary education. But she kept working in the restaurant industry and in 2011 started as a server at an Olive Garden in Greenville, N.C. “I was serving then because it was my passion,” she said, but the goal was to graduate with an education degree and find a job as a teacher in North Carolina.
During the course of three years, she worked at all positions in the service and culinary areas. A few months before her graduation, Olive Garden offered her an opportunity to become a manager, and she took it.
Her first year, she worked as a service manager, catering and sales manager, and culinary manager at a low-volume restaurant in Wilson, N.C. She moved to the role of culinary manager at a Wilmington, N.C., restaurant.
After finishing the required testing and meeting company goals, she was offered the general manager’s post at the Frederick, Md., location. “I moved here with my soon-to-be wife, Kate, who is a service manager at the Olive Garden in Westminster,” she said.
Hinnant said she finds the restaurant industry rewarding because opportunities for advancement come from working hard and taking care of others.
On a break, is it coffee, tea, soda, water…?
If my break is in the morning, it is always coffee. However, as I am a Southern girl, my first order of business in this restaurant was to offer our guests sweet tea so that secretly I could have sweet tea on my breaks.
An average day for you includes …?
An average day for me includes exploring the areas in and around Frederick. I love the culture the town has to offer and have had a wonderful time getting to know the locals and all that has made Frederick so unique. My fiancée and I have loved exploring downtown for different cuisines as well as shopping in the towns close by. The fact that it doesn’t take two hours to get to a big city is something that I have never been able to experience before this, so it has been hard to keep us both home when we are not at work.
How has your experience and training as a teacher helped you as a restaurant manager?
I would have to say that the biggest advantage I have been given with being a teacher prior to this career would be that I have been taught the art of nurturing, caring and approaching one answer with many different avenues. In the world of teaching, you learn how to accommodate many different learning styles and to persevere when challenges arise. As a restaurant manager I face challenges on a day-to-day basis, but my background in nurturing and understanding has helped me grow into a manager who brings a bright ray of sunshine to our everyday tasks.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges in your new role and location?
The biggest challenge in my new role would just be the learning curve of being the one in charge of an entire restaurant instead of just a portion of it. I have always been one to have a get-it-done attitude, and I now have to teach my managers to be the same way as I take more of a back-burner role in making sure that I offer a guest-oriented culture in my restaurant. I now have to offer support and guidance while my managers and team strive to get results and be the best in the industry while taking great and amazing care of every guest that walks through our doors.
Outside of work, what are your ambitions and aspirations?
Both outside and inside of work, I strive to give back to my community and help others in any and every way possible to be the best version of themselves they can be. I take pride in being a positive role model in my community and look forward to making a name for myself in Frederick. Because I still have a passion for helping young people in any community, I have already started building connections with the Frederick County Public School System and initiatives that will support both staff and students.
How about a cup of coffee?
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