WACO, TX — Now and then we hear about a roach in a restaurant but you never hear about a roach running a restaurant.
"I was bartending in Denver. I'm also a real estate agent in Denver. So why would I leave Denver Real Estate to come to Waco? Because it's what I love to do," said Tyler whose family shares a name with the ubiquitous insect.
In a workforce that right now stands on the fringe of hurricane-strength change, Tyler traded up, using his years of experience and hard work to land on the shortlist for what you might call a "restaurant strike team", that opens a place, trains new staff and then hands it off.
"I was a server trainer, I am in a new role as the front-of-house lead trainer that's opening. And they called me up and said 'hey we're opening the restaurants are you in?' and I said, for sure." he said.
And that's how "Roach" came to run the restaurant.
Now, this is gonna sound funny, but managers say they don't have enough "Roaches" like Tyler.
"Since reopening the pandemic, the biggest challenge is still obviously the workforce, continuing to attract great people who want to work for your company and represent your brand," explained Rodney Conant, Sr. VP of Operations for SPB Hospitality.
SPB owns popular brands like Gordon Biersch, Logan's Roadhouse and Old Chicago.
A post-pandemic report from the National Restaurant Association uncovered three interesting facts about restaurant employment. More than half of fine dining, family and casual dining restaurants reported staffing levels still about 20% below normal.
We have 2 million fewer 16 to 34-year-old's, the prime age for restaurant workers in the labor force.
Finally the restaurant association reports, after getting hit harder than any other business sector, restaurants still have the steepest climb to return to pre-pandemic employment levels.
The CEO of SPB Hospitality hasn't yet had to resort to signing bonuses or other extra come-ons to bring workers back and recruit new ones. Jim Mazany pitches training and experience to young workers.
"You can be like myself who never really intended to be in the restaurant industry and I started it as a summer job that hasn't ended, 20 years later," he said.
He also has one other enticement in his arsenal, that he's used quite effectively.
Mazany says if he can go from dishwasher to boss, there's no reason a Roach can't run things, even in the restaurant business.
"I think the restaurant industry, gives the employees the ability to learn leadership skills to learn a bunch of skills in-person skills that they can carry with them," he said.
During the height of the pandemic, we saw lots of restaurant workers take factory jobs with better hours and benefits.
So restaurants have fought back with their own package of corporate values, employee recognition, improved compensation, bonus programs, and educational opportunities, aimed not only at former workers, but also those new to the restaurant business.
"One way there's so much opportunity, I think that people have a chance to get a job or a career, right, the difference between a job and a career, that they may not have been looking for. So in one way I think that's amazing, and maybe offered training that they couldn't afford on their own right," explained Danielle Corradino, Head of Human Resources for The Corradino Group, and a contributor to publications from Society of Human Resources Management.
At SPB's Old Chicago brand, the "promote from within plan, seems to have brought results.
"We have programs where the best of the best, and we put them on the road to open up our restaurants. It is a huge honor for a team member or manager to be selected to be part of that special Top Gun class really," said Mazany.
And for that opportunity, some of Old Chicago's former workers came back from their new careers to resume their old ones but at a higher level.
"We're looking for restaurant managers I would say right now, probably about 60% of our managers are coming from promoted within," explained Conant.
Providing a career boost for some, and setting the stage for Roach's rise in the restaurant business.
"What do I hope this leads to? I hope to go on more openings, continuing in that lead position developing myself, learning more. Yes, so I want to be a district manager maybe someday," said Roach.
But why should he stop there, following Mazany's example... if he works hard enough he could the roach that runs a national restaurant chain.