For her nomination to the NRN Power List, White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram recognized the company’s hundreds of general managers for how they adapted to constant change while keeping employees and customers safe during the pandemic. Here’s what else Ingram had to say:
My Power Player nomination celebrates White Castle’s 360 restaurant General Managers (GMs). Our GMs have been the key position to all our success over the last 100 years. They help us survive and thrive in the best of times, and in the toughest of times.
In 2020, they were the leaders on the front lines — keeping their team members and customers safe and happy. Working for days on end to make sure they were continuing to build a winning culture, all the while dealing with never ending change and uncertainty.
In April, our GMs led an effort to give all first responders a free combo meal anytime they visited. The response was overwhelming, and our GMs gave away over $1 million in free food.
Our GMs represent the communities we serve, with 81% female and 44% ethnically diverse. The average tenure of a GM at White Castle is 21 years. All are an essential part of our White Castle family, and truly devoted to living our vision to “feed the souls of Craver Generations everywhere” and our mission, “to create memorable moments every day.”
Nation’s Restaurant News talked with a handful of White Castle’s 360 restaurant managers about their experiences in 2020 and what they look forward to in 2021. Here’s what they had to say:
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during this chaotic year?
“That change is good.” — Winona Lewis, Louisville, Ky.
“Never taking anything for granted. We can all be tested at anytime in this world. People are resilient and can rise above, but we need to help and support one another in times of crisis. — Kim Nijhof, Detroit
The biggest lesson in 2020 was to appreciate my team. It’s been a rocky year and they had my back all the way. Through it, we had people sick, people quit, people just didn’t show up, but my team stuck it out with love and prayers. We kept hope and stayed determined that White Castle would keep the best interest of us all and do the best they can to do a turn around to keep everyone employed. — Jennifer Owens, Detroit
What were your proudest accomplishments in 2020?
As I look back at the challenges of 2020 it has made me not only proud to be a leader in this wonderful company but to have and get to work with other amazing leaders. I've learned so much and have had so much support. And those people also taught me to be a great leader and gave me the tools to help not only my White Castle family to succeed in the best ways possible but also to help my community as well! – Mylissa Dornseif, St. Louis
“While we were essential workers ourselves, we took time to help and support and appreciate other front-line workers.” — Zenaida Diaz, New York
As you look to the future of foodservice, what excites you?
“I love that restaurants work so hard to adapt to the ever-changing needs and wants of society. This year White Castle turns 100. Can’t imagine how exciting the next 100 years will be for the restaurant industry. — Sharon Bryson, Detroit
In 2021, I'm really looking forward to more community outreach. The pandemic that rocked 2020 changed so much for people all over, which put a lot of families, businesses and so many others in hard times. Mentally, physically and financially. I hope to help others recover as much as possible in these aspects through my restaurant. I'm also looking forward to all the amazing things that are to come. With so much negative, we had a lot of positive as well and I can't wait to see what else this new year is going to bring for my team. — Mylissa Dornseif, St. Louis