Up Close: Profile of the General Manager of the Downtown Restaurant Group
It’s been 17 years since Brian Dailey, General Manager of the Downtown Restaurant Group joined the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) family. Since his inception, he’s been making a progressive impact with his employees, restaurants he’s managed and guests who have dined at our restaurants. Brian has the drive and determination that exemplifies the characteristics of successful team leader, and the reason Houlihan’s and Devon Seafood + Steak are recognized as having some of the highest volume in the entire country. Between talking to guests and cheering on his team we were able to grab a few minutes of his time to talk about his career, what he considers to be his biggest accomplishment and lots more.
Are you interested in a career in the restaurant industry? Want to work with a team where you’re able to train with some of the best in the industry? Brian has openings on his team, and looking for enthusiastic, eager-to-learn individuals who enjoy working in a fast-pace environment. Find out more information about current openings and how you can join Brian’s team here.
Q) Tell us about your career. Where did you go to school? What was your career path prior to joining Hershey?
A) It’s been a long road to get where I am today. I have to say I am so blessed with the relationships I have built over the years and learned a great deal from so many people who took the time to mentor and coach me. I attended Harrisburg Area Community College for their Hotel Restaurant Management Degree back in the early 90’s. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out and I ended up leaving college to focus on my food and beverage career. Since the early 90’s I have opened 23 restaurant concepts and rebrands with several different restaurant groups and resorts. For five years I worked for a major franchise restaurant, where I opened the location in York, PA in 1995 and then became the General Manager at the Harrisburg location. Then, in 2001 I applied for a position with HE&R. As for school, I still had a desire to get my degree. I decided to go back and get my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Managerial Focus a few years ago. I am proud to say that after three years I received my Bachelor’s Degree from Elizabethtown College with a 3.96 GPA at the young age of 46.
Q) Walk us through your career so far at Hershey.
A) I started at Hershey Lodge in April 2001 as the Food and Beverage Manager responsible for The Forebay, Lobby Bar, Ripples pool snack bar and The Bears’ Den. I worked with so many great leaders at the Lodge and learned a great deal about the company’s culture, vision, values, and Milton Hershey’s legacy, which made me a better person and leader. In 2006, I took on a new role as the opening General Manager of Houlihan’s. We established an opening team and trained in Philadelphia for nine weeks for the Houlihan’s concept. We then opened the most successful Houlihan’s in their entire group of more than 76 restaurants and have never stopped growing. In 2008, we opened Café Zooka at The Hershey Story museum. This was a fun concept that lasted a few years. During the same time the Cocoa Beanery joined our family and we have continued to do so many amazing things there as well. Years later the Cocoa Beanery has become a successful café and beer garden-inspired venue that the locals love and enjoy. In 2009, we also opened Devon Seafood + Steak, the only franchise of that brand. This concept took Hershey by storm and has grown into one of their top three busiest restaurants.
Q) Why did you choose to work for Hershey?
A) Back in 2001 I was working for a franchise group that had a failing culture. It was all about the numbers at all cost. This was not aligned with my values and culture so I started looking for a place that I could thrive in. A friend told me about HE&R and I applied that same day. The culture, vision and the core purpose of HE&R helped me thrive as a leader, and allowed me to help so many others grow as well. Can you imagine working any place else? I can’t. I am not just working in food and beverage, I work for a family. I have built so many relationships and accomplished so many amazing things alongside so many wonderful people. I also teach the part-time work certification class at Milton Hershey School, and support their culinary programs through the pro-start competition and their advisory boards. What other company can offer that? No one! And when things look like they cannot get any better, we have opportunities to volunteer throughout the company, including at Hersheypark! Having the time of my life is an understatement.
Q) What's your biggest accomplishment since joining the Hershey team?
A) I think my biggest accomplishment is opening two new, successful restaurants in Hershey. Houlihan’s opened in 2006 and has been the most successful operation in their entire portfolio with the highest sales year-over-year. We have won many leadership awards, including General Manager of the year twice, and steward of the brand. We also opened Devon Seafood + Steak in 2009, with the honor of being their only franchise in the seafood concept. Though these are great honors, I have to say the biggest accomplishment for me is watching my team grow and become successful leaders in their own right. Those who stay in HE&R continue to make a huge difference in our operations. And those who leave us have become Chefs, General Managers and great leaders in their own right. To know that I can play a role in someone else’s life is what makes this all worth it in the end. I never forget that to be a great leader, one has to produce other great leaders. I am proud of my team.
"The culture, vision and the core purpose of HE&R helped me thrive as a leader, and allowed me to help so many others grow as well."
Q) What's your favorite food at Devon and Houlihan's?
A) That is a tough question. I love all of our menu items. They change often and my team creates some really unique dishes. But if I had to pick one I would say the Houlihan’s Meatloaf No. 9 is my favorite. How can you go wrong with meatloaf? At Devon I would have to choose the Seafood Mixed Grill that consists of all my favorites including salmon, shrimp, scallops and crab cakes. And when those won’t satisfy my cravings, nothing can beat the crème brûlée and an espresso.
Q) What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?
A) This is a hard question since there are so many rewarding aspects of my job. I guess the biggest reward is knowing that I can help make a difference in other people’s lives. We all work hard to develop great leaders and create remarkable people. Working side by side with our staff and managers allows me to grow as a leader and to get to know everyone around me. It is those people that make this all possible, and it is them that drives my desire to never lose sight of excellence. I also enjoy working with Milton Hershey School and being part of Milton Hershey’s legacy. Through project fellowship, teaching classes, and helping build their culinary curriculum I can be a part of something bigger than me. So in short…the most rewarding part of my job is being part of a legacy that will always stand the test of time.
Q) What advice would you give someone interested in a career in the restaurant industry?
A) Let me start off by saying that this is an amazing industry to work in. My advice for those wanting to join this industry would look like this….never forget that your team and your guests are the reason you are in business. Great teams do not just happen by accident. You have to “do the work” to make them great. We all want to be remarkable people. But there is one aspect of being remarkable that we often overlook: the people we surround ourselves with. The truth is, we cannot do remarkable alone, and in order to keep those around who make us the best we can be, we have to be willing TO DO THE WORK. In other words, you as the leader must do the work to build these relationships and trust. Be a coach, a mentor, friend and a leader. Have clear goals, a strong vision, a defined path and a solid plan. You yourself cannot lead others until you know where you are going. You do this and you will not only be successful, your team will also grow and be better leaders.
Q) What's the best perk of your job?
A) The best perk of my job is working with so many great people. I am blessed to be a part of something special with the Downtown Restaurant Group, HE&R, and Milton Hershey School. I have the privilege to work alongside so many great leaders, mentors and friends. I feel that being part of HE&R gives me the opportunity to learn and grow from so many other successful leaders and mentors from many different disciplines and backgrounds. Who else can brag that they work for the Hershey Sweetest Place On Earth? The collective knowledge of everyone here, the vision, values and culture is a perk in itself, and I am proud to be a part of this legacy.
Q) What does a typical day consist of?
A) First of all I want to stress that there is no such thing as a typical day in the restaurant business. The days are long and challenging, fun and exciting, creative and new and never ever dull. I get to work side by side with so many great minds, leaders and staff members. I am hands on; you may have seen me running past your table from time to time. I often run food to the guests, expedite kitchen orders and bus tables. And then I can flip a switch and help develop leaders, plan and create long and short term strategies and work with our partners at Milton Hershey School, the M.S. Hershey Foundation, Corporate Houlihan’s, the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, and other organizations that help me give back to the industry. Every day is different, every day has its own trials and tribulations, and its own rewards. And the payoff is that I can meet so many people, touch so many lives, and help people grow and become our future leaders, all while learning from them.
Q) Tell us something folks might not know about you.
A) We all have a story to tell, challenges to overcome, and opportunities that come when you least expect it. People might not know that unlike most people, my life started in my 40’s when I met my soulmate. I have been married for two years now. I also went back to school and earned by Bachelor’s Degree in just three years. On top of that my wife and I (not having any kids) are looking to adopt an older Pennsylvania child. I guess I am proof that it’s never too late to hit the reset button and start over. And I have to say…life is good.