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The Power List
Landon Kelley, chief operating officer of three-unit Los Angeles taco concept HomeState

Growing LA taco concept HomeState shares leadership non-negotiables

Director of operations Landon Kelley talks about earning the trust of employees. Meet the innovative, inclusive and industry changing leaders of the 2021 NRN Power List.

Landon Kelley, chief operating officer of three-unit Los Angeles taco concept HomeState, was chosen for the Power List by owner Briana Valdez because of how he “turned the past year’s most grueling hurdles into some incredibly valuable lessons for our entire team.” Here’s what else Valdez had to say:

Briana Valdez on Landon Kelley’s impact:

It would have been easy in a year like 2020 for Landon to pat himself on the back simply for keeping the ship afloat and our team members employed. Instead, he pushed relentlessly forward, drawing on his boundless energy to reveal our weaknesses and push us all to be better, stronger and more nimble in the face of some unprecedentedly challenging circumstances. Landon never stops listening, learning and leading with compassion. He compels the people around him to take pride in their work and empowers them to find thoughtful and inclusive solutions to challenges large and small. No matter how complex and difficult the situation, Landon remains centered and level-headed, and offers a bottomless well of trust and strength that rejuvenates us all. His leadership has turned many of the past year’s most grueling hurdles into some incredibly valuable lessons for our entire team.


Nation’s Restaurant News talked with Landon Kelley about why earning — and keeping — the trust of employees is essential for success in business. Here’s what he had to say:

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during this chaotic year?

The biggest lesson I have learned this year is that trust — and particularly the trust your team has in you as a leader — can never be taken for granted. I like to think of trust as a limited resource, an asset that can be deposited (or withdrawn) from the emotional bank account each of us carries with us into our daily interactions. We build it through every interaction we have, every decision we make as leaders and every point of communication we share with our teams. This has been especially obvious over the past ten months, when decisions have had a direct impact on the physical and emotional wellbeing of our employees, and when clear communication has been more vital than ever before.

My goal as a leader has always been to make every interaction with a team member a net deposit in my trust account. I’ve relied on my positive balance a lot this year as I’ve had to ask our teams to adapt over and over to ever-changing realities on the ground, and that experience has made me realize how central trust is to everything we try to do as leaders. I’ve adopted an awareness of my trust-balance as an active focus in making nearly every decision, and I encourage other managers in our organization to do the same.

What are you most proud of in terms of company leadership and community impact as you look back at the challenges of 2020?

‘The Pivot’ became a way of life for us — a mantra, a practice, a daily affirmation. Time and again, we pivoted to respond to the needs of our community and our team members. The moment we heard our community was having trouble obtaining groceries and essentials, we opened a General Store that provided those items alongside tacos. When our team members expressed their trepidation about taking public transportation to work, we started an in-house rideshare system. We reduced our menu to allow for social distancing behind the cookline. And on and on and on. I’m incredibly proud of how HomeState has handled these innumerable pivots, both because they say so much about the resilience and skill of our team and also because they remind us how central service to our community is to what we do.


What does leadership and impact mean to you?

I have a Post-It note on my desk that says “my job is not about me.” It reminds me, as a leader of a growing organization, that my success can only be measured by how effectively I create opportunities for others to succeed. It reminds me that our organization itself is rooted in hospitality, in serving others, in creating a home-away-from-home for our guests and our employees alike. It reminds me that sticking to our values and focusing on the things that we know matter most gives us the broadest and deepest impact within our four walls and beyond them.

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