Sallie Setta on Stage

Grapevine Photo

FSR sat down with Salli Setta, the president and chief concept officer of Red Lobster (above), Shelly Wolford, Golden Corral’s senior VP of communications and strategy, and Sarah King, the senior vice president and chief human resources manager at Darden, at the Women's Foodservice Forum Annual Leadership Development Conference in March.

Podcast Episode 03: Advice From the Restaurant Industry's Leading Ladies

In Episode 3 of the Worth Your Salt Podcast, we interviewed three senior-level women leading America's restaurants.

Worth Your Salt is produced for listening and edited for audio consumption. If you are able, we strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes ambiance and emotion that's not in the transcript below. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and our editors and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

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[00:00:08] Laura D'Alessandro: Welcome to Worth Your Salt, the podcast from FSR magazine about the people driving America's restaurant industry. I'm Laura D’Alessandro, your host and the editor of FSR. Last month, I had the privilege of attending be Women's Food Service Forum Annual Leadership Development Conference in Dallas. The theme was limitless. I met so many women with limitless potential who were there to support and work with other women, helping them succeed. I also got to sit down with Salli Setta, the president and chief concept officer of Red Lobster, Shelly Wolford, Golden Corral’s senior VP of communications and strategy, and Sarah King, the senior vice president and chief human resources manager at Darden. In this episode, we'll hear from these three women about how they got into food service, what their challenges have been like, how they've leaned on others in their journeys, and what advice they have for people coming up in industry today. You'll also hear us refer back to the conference a lot, especially in the context of mentorship—women helping other women to succeed. In our first interview, we have Salli Setta, who talks about her amazing journey from starting off her career as a busser in a restaurant. It was her very first job, and now she is leading Red Lobster. So let's hear from Sally about that incredible journey and what we can learn from her.


[00:02:01] Laura D’Alessandro: Alright. We're here at the Women's Foodservice Forum Annual Leadership Conference, and I wanted to talk to you about your background in the food service industry. So how did you end up where you are today? And was there a moment when you made that decision? Like I'm going into food service?

Salli Setta: Okay, well, it's interesting, and I'm going to tell you just a little bit. I just going to step back really far to get really, really close in. My very first job in the restaurant business was actually as a busser at a restaurant and over the summer, and I was ... I was in college and I had the summer at home and I decided to go to work. I didn't have a car, so I had a limit where I could go. So I took the bus to a restaurant and was able to get a job. But I wasn't qualified to be a server, so they hired me as a busser. I worked there over the summer, and at that time I really thought, just like a lot of other people do that the restaurant business is something you do between something, something you do on your way to something, something that is not necessarily a career. It's a job, and I didn't think twice about it. I made my money and I enjoyed my summer and I moved on and I went to college and I graduated. And then after I graduated college, I got a job working as a technical writer in the aerospace industry. Okay, so hated it. I hated my job, not because the company was bad. It was just because I found the job to be pretty routine, and I didn't really see any advancement opportunities for people who weren't engineers. I saw myself as being limited in my career trajectory. I didn't see a lot of women in leadership positions, but at that time, in the late 1980s, there wasn't a lot of women in leadership positions, so it wasn't that uncommon. I looked around and said, I need to figure out how do I have a job that makes me feel great and fulfilled every day because it's a part of who I am as a person, because I'm doing something that I really like to do. And so I I asked around and I started networking with people and I talked to a lot of people and a woman that I spoke with said, Hey, you know, I work for... She worked for a PR firm and she said, A company that's one of my clients is looking for a job, they’re called the Olive Garden. You might have heard of them. They are a relatively small restaurant company, about 180 restaurants. They're owned by General Mills Restaurants, and they're looking for an entry level marketing person. And it sounds like from your experiences and interests, actually, you might ... you might fit this role. So I I went and applied and I interviewed and I got the job and of note, I didn't even negotiate my salary. I just took the salary that they gave me because it was more than what I was making. But I interviewed, got the job, and I began to work closely with our restaurants on local marketing, and I found that I really loved it. I loved the environment. I loved the fact that the restaurant's fast paced and it tapped into some things in me that I had done when I was in college. I was ... I'd like to do events in college. I liked to ... I was ... I ran a dance marathon. I was president of my sorority. I worked in a radio station, so all the kinds of things that I like to do in leadership roles, I was able to do and see as opportunities within the restaurant business. So I moved across and around in different various marketing rolls at Olive Garden in different positions, moved jobs every couple of years, taking on new responsibilities, working in advertising, working in local marketing, working in ... in various positions. That led me to culminate in the job of vice president of marketing there. And then I got a call from the people at Olive Garden, and I was on maternity leave, actually, and I got a call to see if I wanted to take on a new assignment, and that was to be the senior vice president of culinary and beverage for Olive Garden. Now that might sound pretty not surprising, and maybe a natural next move. But no one else had ever been coming from a marketing role, at least in that company, into … up into heading up culinary and beverage. So and I didn't know that ... Well, I can't even turn the jets on at the ... I can't turn the gas jets on in the kitchen. And I'm not a chef and I don't know a lot about products, and, I said. But I … so the skill set was so surprising to me. But then I said, But I do know a couple things that they need. They needed a leader. They needed somebody who could create menu strategy. They needed somebody who could help bridge across between two or three different departments, and they needed somebody who could drive ... drive change. And so I raised my hand, took the job, and that was the best thing that I did for my career. It … because it enabled me to stay in a company that I love but do something completely new and learn and grow. And I am happiest when I'm learning and growing. And I became the SVP of culinary and beverage and we they had been at the time through four leaders in four years, and I took on the opportunity to say, You know what, this is not gonna happen again. What ... I figured out what was happening in the organization and what role I could play, and I took it from being a kind of a tumultuous situation where people were unhappy to winning three Menu Masters Awards while we were there to having award winning wine list, to working on and the new house wine for Olive Garden, introducing that, to having an excited team who did great work. And I was very proud of that. But it also taught me a lot about the business outside of my comfort zone, outside of marketing. And it taught me a lot about leadership because I couldn't do the jobs that the people who work for me do. So it stopped me from micro managing them. I couldn't ... I could tell them what needed to be done, but there was no way I was going to be able to do that job, and it addressed some developmental opportunity for me. So I was in that job for about four years, and during that time I had my daughter, and I was able to get an opportunity, I was asked in 2005 to go to Red Lobster. So the same company at the time, we were both owned by Darden Restaurants, and I got to move over to Red Lobster, and in that role I was promoted to EVP of marketing, and I had all of the culinary and beverage that I had Olive Garden. But I also had all the marketing that I also had had it Olive Garden. So I was able to do everything that I reported to me was something that I had work done in the past. So I expanded my team, expanded my impact. And then in 2013 in July, I got named to be president of Red Lobster. And to give you a sense of what happened at that time was that I … the company, I became president in July and then in December, I was informed by the CEO of Darden that we were going to spin from Darden and that I was going to go with Red Lobster and I was going to be part of spin, so that was kind of a shocker. You know, you're you're with the same company for 25 years or so, and all of a sudden you're told you're going to spin a company and guess what, you know you're going with them and not my whole world just rocks like, Oh my gosh, am I going to lose my job. What I do, I'm the sole breadwinner, what's happening. And I went back home and I said, I felt like in over a weekend I went through the five stages of grief or four stages of grief, whatever may stages of grief there are. And my husband has this saying that where your head goes, your body follows. So something from football. And I said, You know, I need to adapt that for this, because if I'm happy about this change, if I think about it, all the positive things that could happen, the organization will think that it's a positive change, the organization will rally together. If I think about it as a negative, then everybody's going to think about it as a negative. And what's the worst thing that could possibly happen to me? The worst thing that could possibly happen to me was that I'd lose my job and if I lost my job, I've got really great skills and I could get another one. And the worst thing that could possibly happen is like I leave and I've got knowledge I didn't have before. So I was excited about taking it on. I got to reunite with Kim Lopdrup whom I had worked with. He became CEO. I became the president and together, along with multiple other people in our organization, I got the most learning, I think in my professional career. In the course of about six months, as we spun into a public, we went from a publicly traded company to a privately traded company. I got to meet with private equity firms. I got to talk to people that I would never have thought to talk to. I even went to, I even went to Wall Street to get a credit rating, and I found myself on Wall Street like, What the heck, you know, What am I doing here? Does my mother know that I'm really standing in Standard and Poor's? Like this guy like does credit ratings and does he know that I don't really love math? And it was …  it was this experience this sort of out of body experience, so I learned a lot there. But I also learned the value of leading during a time of significant change and helping to drive people to say, Why do I want to stay with Red Lobster? What is the value to me? And created and worked and implemented a strategy to make sure that we communicated with people, that we lead them through the change. And we had a very successful spin in 2014. And subsequently, now my responsibilities have also grown in the last several months, last year actually, take on some new responsibilities in addition to my existing, including some HR responsibilities that I hadn't had before. So I'm constantly learning and growing. Yeah, it's been a fun ride.

Laura D’Alessandro: What a ride. I mean, so many leaps and bounds. And we've heard so much during this conference about, you know, sponsoring women, mentoring women, really lifting each other up. Were there any moments in there, you know, pivotal decision moments for you, where you really leaned on resources from a community of women or how have you sort of, you know, worked those relationships?

Salli Setta: You know, throughout I've had ... I've had people in and out of my career that have helped me, that have supported me. If I think about a couple of pivotal moments, and I will talk a little bit about first being a woman and making some tough choices. So when I said that when I was on maternity leave was when I got a call about working as the SVP of culinary and beverage for Olive Garden, well, that wasn't the first job that I got asked to do. So I was on my maternity leave, and I had just had a baby and my very first child, my only child. But my very first. So I was on maternity leave and I get a call, and I was asked to be, to lead a region. So we'd like you to become a vice president of operations for an area of the country, which meant working a lot of nights, weekends, holidays, which meant a ton of travel, and I just couldn't I couldn't stomach that. I was  … it was concerning to me. I talked to my husband. I talked to some other people about the role itself and recognized that this just wasn't going to be the job for me, and I was going to say no and risk that it could take me of my trajectory, that it could really hurt my career because some people said, Hey, you know what? If you want to become a president company, you've gotta have operations experience. This would be a derailer and others who said, Well, you know what do you really want to be traveling all the time with your child? And I I just went with my gut on this one, and I said no and for the reasons you know, it just wasn't … it wasn't the right time. And the thing that I learned I learned at that time was there was this other job opened and I really wanted that job, the culinary job but I couldn't tell why no one was asking me, and I told my boss I talked to my boss and, my boss called me actually, and said, Hey, you know what? You don't want the first job, but how about the second one? And I said, Well, I'm surprised you haven't asked me about that before. I would really like that job and he said Well we didn't know that you'd want it, and I learned a lesson there that I didn't say what I wanted. They weren't clear about what I wanted. And so he made an assumption that I wouldn't want that job, and I made assumption that they just weren't taking me for it. And I learned that. And you think I would've learned that lesson wants and be done right? But when, and this is when I’ll get to the mentor piece, there was when I when I got the opportunity to go to Red Lobster, Kim Lopdrop had asked that I come over. He was getting promoted to president. Asked me to be the EVP of marketing and that was great. Now my boss at the time at Olive Garden said That's great, but we don't have a replacement for her and we really need her so you can wait, if you could wait a couple of months. So I'm not gonna wait a couple months and it's kind of dragging on, and I wasn't asking like when can I go. When am I going over there like? I want to start my new job and poor Kim had to work without anybody, and one of the gentlemen who's a mentor of mine pulled me aside and said, When are you going to tell them you're just going over there? And I said what you say But when are you just going to tell them? I said, Well, I'm waiting, you know, they're going to tell me they're going to tell me when I go, and and, uh, he said, No, no, no, no, you're not. You're going to go in there and you're going to tell them that you're going and I don't care if they don't have anybody, because if you don't tell them, they're never gonna fill your job and and they're holding you back from getting a raise and getting getting promoted and getting this additional responsibility. So I walked into my boss's office the next day and said, You know what? I just you know, I'm tired of waiting. I know you might have a little trouble finding somebody, but the end of the day I need to I need to go onto this new job and I and then all of a sudden I moved right. But I've I've reached out to women. When I was pregnant, I ... it was a time where you feel at that time I was pregnant early 2000s you felt very vulnerable. Like I always said, it's very noticeable. And you just like everybody's thinking, Is she coming back? Well, you know, I had a woman who worked in our organization who was several years older than me, who had children who were in their teens, and and I talked to her about that and she said, Look, you know what? You just you just have to get that out of people's minds and you don't let, don't feel, don't put that on you. People aren't necessarily saying that about you. You're thinking that they're saying that about you, like you just need to continue to press forward. And then that same woman when I when I got … when I got my daughter was just ... about five. She was the Bumble Bee in the school play, and it was a kindergarten, and I said I need to go see this. But guess what? It fell at the same time at the end if to make it there, I would have had to leave a business plan session early. I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I'm gonna have to like I'm in charge of the business planning have presented. I'm presenting it to senior leadership. And I don't want to ask my boss because I’ll look like a weak mom who needs to go see her kid. And I talked to this woman who was my mentor, and I said, Okay, what do I do? I don't know. I don't know and she says Why are you even feeling guilty? You just go. And you tell your boss that you're going to leave it at 6:00 because you have to get to the school. And if the meeting goes over, he'll have to carry the rest of it like. Okay, never thought about that. So I went back and I talked to my boss and he went, Oh, my gosh. Yeah, You have to go. You shouldn't like, like if my kid was like, something like that. You have to go. So in the middle of the meeting, he leans over to me and says You got to go now, right? Leave. And at the time that I need to leave at six and and he said everyone, Sally did a great job on the business plan, but she's going to have to go because her daughter's a bumblebee in the school play. And, you know, I saw a CEO and multiple C-suite officers going, Oh, that's so cool. Your daughter's a bumblebee in the play. You go, you should be there. And so I didn't recognize how much support I actually had. So, I think the third area I guess it's really in my current role. As I looked to try to do new things like be on the board of directors, I've reached out to a number of women who are much more senior than me or have been much more experience than I have to say, How did you do this? What do I do? What ... How do I get prepared? What do I need to know? And both men and women who have helped me and helping me on my journey. So I continue to reach out to people in all phases of your life. But you need you need those people and you need, and you need your spouse to say, Hey, you know what? Give yourself some more credit. So I think he's been a great coach, too.

Laura D’Alessandro: Oh, yeah, that's so wonderful that you have that. So for our readers who I'm sure would love to ask you for mentorship advice in many stages of their careers. What could you tell them? You know what would be your No. 1 piece of advice for women starting out in the restaurant industry?

Salli Setta: You know, I always give this advice to everyone, regardless, if it's a restaurant industry or not. You need to find a job that makes you smile. You're going to be there a lot. And I think there were clues all along in my life of what I needed to do, things I liked to do when I was eight years old. I had a little play typewriter, and I used to pretend that I owned a newspaper and I had deadlines and I wrote articles and I wanted to be in business that ... I didn't realize that when I was in college, I was always organizing things. I was always trying to market or communicate. When I worked at a radio station, I rose to be the leader of the radio station. I mean, when I was in college and I liked leading people, I liked leading people, and I liked seeing things come to life. I liked seeing things come to life that we had worked on as a team, and those were clues that I just didn't pick up on. And so when I went in that very first job, a professional job and I was sitting at my desk and I was by myself and I'm editing papers and I'm thinking, this isn't for me and it didn't make me smile. And so I think, thinking about the role that you can play. And there's a lot of roles in the restaurant industry. There is. There is everything from working in the restaurant as an operator to leading a large team of restaurants, to jobs in marketing, jobs and finance jobs for all kinds of professional jobs. I talked to a woman today who is in Data Analytics. The the breadth is there just the industry is such a great and broad one. It's really finding your the job that makes you smile. That that makes that because it's a part of who you are.

Laura D’Alessandro: Yeah, and it's It's like that concept you'll do best when you're doing something you like and everyone around you will appreciate it.


[00:19:25] Laura D’Alessandro: Next we'll hear from Shelley Wolford, Golden Corral’s senior vice president of communications and strategy, who is going to tell us about why focussing on the next step in your path in your career may not be as important as focusing on the work that you have to do day today and just doing your best. So let's hear what Shelly has to teach us.

Shelley Wolford: I actually knew at a fairly early age, so I went to college to study hotel and restaurant management. So I somehow knew all along that this was the industry for me. I wasn't quite sure what path I was going to take. And I actually started on the hotel side of the business and later transitioned over to the restaurant side.

Laura D’Alessandro: Okay. Wow. I mean, how did you know what attracted you to it?

Shelley Wolford: It was just the interaction with people. So the service aspect of the industry is what really grabbed me, you know, initially. And then the more that I was in it, just the more comfortable I felt. What I didn't understand then is the intensity of the industry and the fast pace. Oh, yeah, and it's, you know, it's … it’s like a shot of adrenaline every single day, and we're very transaction oriented. And I love that about the industry.

Laura D’Alessandro: Yeah, yeah, totally. And how did you end up with Golden Corral?

Shelley Wolford: I joined Golden Corral seven years ago, and I had been working for a regional BBQ chain at the time a smaller company. Prior to that, I worked for Pizza Hut and much larger company, and I was ready to get back into more of a corporate environment. Yet I wanted something that still felt entrepreneurial, and I really found that at Golden Corral. We’re a privately held still company of nearly 500 restaurants. And so, even though you know nearly $2 billion in annual sales, it still feels like a ... like a small family-owned restaurant company, and our founder is still involved. Our founder's daughter is chair of our board, and there is a huge family element to our company into our culture.

Laura D’Alessandro: Wow. So I think that must be so different than a lot of the big restaurant chains.

Shelley Wolford: It is very different. The fact that we're privately held, you know, enables us to have long-term commitments. We have long-term leadership. We only have our … we're only on our third CEO in 46 years, which is nearly unheard of, you know, in just about any industry. So we have a lot of continuity in our organization and a lot of tenure throughout our organization at all levels, and I think that's very unique.

Laura D’Alessandro: Yeah, and that really just sort of says family business.

Shelley Wolford: You know, that's what gives it that family feel.

Laura D’Alessandro: What sort of challenges have you faced as a woman, or … or maybe on the other side of that, you know, working in an environment where it's sort of like, like family. What sort of resources or support have you received?

Shelley Wolford: You know, I don't know that I would say I faced challenges as a woman. I don't know. I've never really looked at it quite that way. I've always just put myself 100 percent into whatever I was doing. And so for me, the challenge was always the position or the task, but not necessarily my gender. I never thought of it that way, to be honest with you. I realize, though, that that there were limitations, you know, and I have been just blessed to have some women who have mentored me throughout my career, and it's been incredibly helpful, and I will be honest. I've been involved with the Women's Foodservice Forum for over 20 years at all different aspects, you know, all different points in my career, different, pivotal times and in different ways. And just to be able to look up even early on, look up on that stage and see these incredible women leaders and men. It gave me something to shoot for, and it let me know that it's possible.

Laura D’Alessandro: Yeah, yeah, And we're hearing so much about mentorship at this conference. Can you think of maybe a specific example where a mentor has really gotten you through a big challenge in your career?

Shelley Wolford: Yeah, I you know, recently I was promoted to a senior leadership position, and it was a position that didn't exist in the company. And another female leader at the company really took an interest in me and has been a bit of a sponsor for me, informally, not a formal mentor, but informally and really just has had so much belief in me that she helped me believe more in myself. And that is a gift that, you know, I hoped to give to others male and females in our company because it's it's inspiring. It's motivating. I don't want to let her down. I don't want to let anyone down, but it it really is a gift to give to others, and I'm going to look for opportunities to pay that back.

Laura D’Alessandro: Yeah, Yeah. Such important support to have someone that believes in you. So what would your one piece of advice be to women? Or maybe just anyone starting out in this industry and wanting to get to senior level, C-suite level? You know, what would you tell them to do?

Shelley Wolford: I would tell them to not focus as much on their path, charting their path, and really focus on excelling in their role and look for ways to expand their role. I've always found at every level from the very beginning, even when I was just working part-time when I was in college, there are always these extra opportunities if you just grab some. And it was a way to expand for me was a way to expand in my current role. And then it's always led me to the next step. I thought I had a path and, you know, I took a totally different one. And it was when I stopped trying to follow a set path is when the next steps just just really unfolded for me. It was almost freeing if that if that makes any sense, yeah, and so I would I would advise anyone in our industry just to remember it truly is limitless. I know that is the, you know, the theme of this conference that we’re at, but the opportunities are limitless and in every aspect you know, every field. It's all captured in this industry, and I wouldn't I wouldn't feel tied to any one path.

Laura D’Alessandro: That's very good advice, even for me, taking notes, selfishly.

Finally, I sat down with Sarah King, senior vice president and chief human resources manager at Darden, who has had a truly amazing career. She's worked internationally in hospitality for years before she decided to quote, get a real job and do something with her life. But all of those years really prepared her for what she's doing today and has ended up giving her a career that she truly enjoys. So let's learn from Sarah how we can take maybe not the same path, but a path that follows our bliss.

Sarah King: Okay, so, mine's a little bit nontraditional. I'm from New Zealand, and when I graduated high school, I moved around my whole life is a military brat. So I was used to travelling. And when I graduated high school I went to college and it just wasn't my thing. And I had worked in restaurants since I was like fifteen years and nine months, I think was the legal age. So I had started my working life working in restaurants because my father was a military pilot and they don't earn very much money. So there was no allowance. There was no nothing. So it was just like If you want money, you got to work. So I started working like many people as a teenager in the food service industry. And then as I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, it was just always a constant source of frankly, income and fun. And I was like, I really like this hospitality industry. So long story short, I oh, gosh, I spent the first 10 years of my working life working in what I will term the food service industry. So I did everything from being a dishwasher in a 5,000 seat buffet restaurant in the ski fields in Japan. Nobody can wash a dish like me. You know, I bartended, I was a server. I was a ski resort mascot. I did fine dining serving. I have just about—cleaned out cabinets from, like, fish stores. I've pretty much done a lot of things.

Laura D’Alessandro: You’ve truly done it all.

Sarah King: Never in that realm was HR, which is what I do now. But I just didn't have a choice. And I you know, I loved to travel. So a lot of this I did all over the world. I kind of, you know, dropped out of college, which I don't encourage anybody to do in 2019. And I strapped a backpack on. And, you know, the hospitality industry in general basically funded the first 10 years of my working life so that I could see the world. So that's how I got into it. And then when I kind of hit my mid-20s, I thought I probably have to do something with my life. And I looked at everything that I had done to that point and thought, How can I turn it into a career? And at the time, I was in Australia, I am from New Zealand, just to be clear, but I was in Australia at the time and the Australian government was paying private companies to train high school graduates and long-term unemployed how to be a food and beverage workers. And so I thought, I'm gonna take all that experience I've got and do this and I fell in love with it. I loved showing people the opportunities that exist in the food service industry. It was really rewarding to see these people, a lot of whom didn't actually kind of ever think that they had a chance at a career. And to see them fall in love with this industry was really exciting for me. And then that just kind of morphed into the broader HR world and I spent 20 years in hotels and resorts, mostly international, and then moved to Orlando, which is where I'm based now in 2010 and then was lucky enough to be appointed as the chief HR officer Darden restaurants two years ago this month, and it feels really great to kind of have come back full circle. I mean, you could not have, I couldn't have made this up if I tried.

Laura D’Alessandro: I'm so curious from your position in HR and I mean from your personal experiences as well. But from what you're seeing in industry, what are the biggest challenges for women?

Sarah King: Well, you know, I think there's a few things. Number one, the work is, it's grueling, right? It's not easy work, so you have to have a level of grit and you have to have a look level of resilience. And you know, it's not necessarily the most, ah, for women that want to have families, you know, the hours and the work … the workload can be tough. And I certainly went through that, and I was fortunate. My my husband was a chef. I met him working in the industry. And so, you know, we tag teamed each other for years to make sure that we could raise children so male or female, it's not a 9 to 5 job. So I think that's a challenge. Um, but other than that, I mean, I I didn't really ever, I personally didn't experience anything where I felt like I didn't have just as big of an opportunity as my male counterparts, because you've got to be able to work hard, right? I mean, it is hard work, and there are some stereotypes, less today than they were when I was doing it, about you know, these other jobs for women and these are the jobs for men. But I don't see that. Certainly we don't see that now in restaurants at all. I think that you could do whatever you want to do if you're prepared to work out and put in the work and understand that the lifestyle of working in any hospitality environment is a little different than a typical 9 to 5. But I would counter argue that you'll never have us much fun and you'll never make as many great people as you do in this industry. Which is what's kept me in it for basically my entire working life. And I was adding up how long that is and I went to say it the other day and like that makes me sound too old. I'm not gonna say that, but it's, you know, 30 plus years I'll just say that.

Laura D’Alessandro: Yeah. I mean, that really says something that you would stick with it that long, it’s got to be something that makes you smile and it's rewarding.

Sarah King: It is. And I think you know, people that enjoy this industry have a service heart. I think if you don't have that, then the work is probably too hard. But having that service heart where you want to help people, have great experiences and understand that you know, the experiences that we all can provide through our organizations is creating family memories and memories with friends and great times and good fun. I don't know why you wouldn't want to do that.

Laura D’Alessandro: Yeah. Yeah. So what is your number One piece of advice for women or just anyone starting out in this industry? And they want to succeed. They want to get to senior level C-suite level. What did you tell them to do?

Sarah King: So I think when I look back at my journey, which, you know, I never set out and said, I want to be in the C-suite of a fortune 500 company. That was not not a goal, but there's a couple of things that I reflect on in terms of what I have done that I think have helped me build a career. Number one, I always put my hand up, and actually, actually, we heard Indra Nooyi say this morning, put your hand up for the tough assignments. I started my corporate career in Australia. So from a time zone perspective, it was a nightmare. I can't tell you the number of times that I would be sitting up in my bed with my—I don't even think we had iPhones then. So I don't know what was plugged into my ears, but something was, you know, sitting on conference calls at 1:00 in the morning because of the time zone difference. But I had put my hand up for some global projects because I wanted to be involved. And I wanted to show what I could do and again, you have to own your own career development, and you have to understand what you're looking for and you have to do the hard work. It would've been much easier to just not join that call at 12:30 in the morning. But, you know, you put your hand up for the for the tough stuff and you start to get noticed. Um, you know, there's a great saying. It is, The harder I work, the luckier I get, and it really does ring true. Nothing happens by luck. There is the circumstances that happened to you along the way, but you still have to be smart enough to understand what's going on around you and take advantage of the circumstances. The other thing I would say is take risks. My career took off when I took a really big risk. I moved to South Africa with a 4-year-old in 2-year-old. And at the time South Africa was not the safest place on the planet, and I was terrified. But the company had asked me to move, and I kind of knew that it would be, you know, that entrance into having access to more senior leaders at the parent company, But but it was risky, and it was it was a really tough decision. And I look back on it now and it was, it probably is what catapulted me. So I think, you know, own your career, take some risks and put your hand up for the tough stuff.

Laura D’Alessandro: Yeah, such good advice.

Sarah King: I didn't know I was doing it at the time,  you know, but I think you know, I didn't have I did not have any forum like this where you've got, you know, amazing women sharing their journeys and their lessons. So it wasn't really anything that I did that was measured or calculated. It's partially my innate personality to want to be a bit of an adventurer and go and try new things. But when I look back on it, I would definitely tell my younger self take those risks because they've paid off.

Laura D’Alessandro: Yeah, yeah, it's almost like you were just following your bliss. Like they say, you were just, you know, doing what was fun. Taking risks.

Sarah King: You know, fun is very important to me and we talk about personal values. We've heard about it a lot at conference, and I kind of feel like if you're not enjoying what you're doing, then you probably need to find something else because, you know, we get one life. I tell my kids that all the time, find what you love and the rest will fall into place. And, you know, I don't put pressure on them to be doctors or lawyers or anything. I want them to do what they love, because I feel so blessed that I've spent my whole life in an industry that's given me great opportunity. But I've met, you know, my work family. I've had so much fun I've seen the world. I've worked my backside off, so I don't want it to sound like it was all just one big, you know, easy ride, because it wasn't. But there's pros and cons in any career, and I think that the, you know, the pros in this career are the people that you get to work with and the experiences that you get to have


[00:36:40] Laura D’Alessandro: That's it for this month's episode of Worth Your Salt With FSR magazine. I'm your host, Laura D’Alessandro thanking you for tuning in with us. We'll be back next month with another story from behind the scenes in one of America's top restaurants. In the meantime, you can get more from us at or find us on Instagram at FSR magazine. Cheers.