Restaurant workers, owners and operators are the glue that holds this network together, and we’re proud to have them in our family. From first jobs to fresh starts to life-long careers, restaurants provide opportunity to thousands of Ohioans each and every day. There are so many success stories from people who started in foodservice washing dishes or delivering pizzas. This is one of the last industries where people can start at the bottom, with little education and rise to the middle class.

​Here are some Ohio success stories. Scroll to the bottom of the page to share your story with us.

John Irmscher

The Ohio restaurant industry has benefitted from John Irmscher’s hard work for over 60 years. Orphaned at the age of 13 and needing to earn money for room and board, John started as a carhop in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and worked his way up through the industry, holding just about every position that was available to him. Read more

Daryl Beckles
The Bistro Group
Director of Human Resources

First industry job: Yee's Garden Chinese

Daryl Beckles started her career in restaurants when she was just 15 years old at Yee’s Garden Chinese Restaurant in Toledo, where she handled all of their to-go orders. She believes that's when she was “bitten by the restaurant bug.” Read more

Kristen Henshaw
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants and The Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern, Columbus, Ohio, Director of Human Resources

First industry job:
She started working in the restaurant/hospitality industry when she was 15. Worked her way through high school and college by working in restaurants.

​Kristen graduated with a degree in biology and got a “career job” at Battelle as a Research Scientist. While spending the next 8 years working in research, she maintained working in the restaurants after “work” because she loved it. She left research in search of a more people-oriented career and joined Cameron Mitchell Restaurants as a Catering Manager with Cameron Mitchell Premier Events. Read more.

Julie Novak
Operations Manager of East 55 Restaurants, LLC, owner of Sterles, Gold Horn Brewery, Cafe 55 and other locations in Cleveland

First industry job: At a hotel restaurant in Virginia Beach

Julie Novak is an incredibly smart woman with a high IQ who should have done exceptionally well in school. But she was never a fan and she always had a difficult time figuring out where she belonged or who she wanted to be. She attempted to run away from home when she was young and she never paid much attention in school. But her mom was a teacher and encouraged her to go to college. So at 18 years old she went to the Ohio State University to become an elementary school teacher. After a few years she realized she would “never be able to handle parents of students” and instead of finishing her student teaching and graduating, she moved to Virginia Beach and began working in a hotel restaurant. And that is when she knew she would work in the restaurant industry for the rest of her life. Read more about Julie here.

Robert (Bob) Wright
Executive Vice President, Chief Operations Officer and International
The Wendy’s Company

First Industry Job: Delivering Pizzas

Bob got his start in the restaurant industry almost 30 years ago delivering pizzas in Houston, Texas and worked his way up in the Domino’s organization to become a Senior Franchise Consultant in 1993. After his time with Domino’s, he joined Wendy’s, serving in a variety of roles for the Company from 1998 to 2008, including President of Café Express, a Wendy’s subsidiary at the time, and Vice President of Training and Operations. Following stints at Checker’s Drive – In Restaurants as Executive Vice President of Company and Franchise Operations and President, Chief Operating Officer and Interim CEO at Charley’s Grilled Subs, Bob found his way back to The Wendy’s Company in 2013 and now serves as Executive Vice President, Chief Operations Officer and International.

Wright enjoys working for a company that is focused on improving the lives of others, a passion passed down from Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas. Like Thomas, Bob has the same passion for service and currently sits on the board of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. He also serves as an Assistant Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America. When he’s not serving customers, franchisees, employees or others, Bob enjoys camping, hiking, household projects and spending time with his wife and children.

Danielle Carter
Waitress at Polaris Grill

First Industry Job: Waitress at Ponderosa

​Danielle Carter, a Mansfield, Ohio native, caught the restaurant industry bug while in high school working at Ponderosa Steakhouse. After finishing her senior year at Mansfield Senior High, she went on to college to receive a degree in business. After a short stint teaching at her home high school, she found that she was itching to get back into the fast-paced atmosphere of the restaurant business. She has been a part of many different restaurant teams including Red Lobster, Applebee’s, Chi-Chi’s, and Damon’s. For the past ten years she has worked as a part of the team at Polaris Grill, and she could not be happier with where she has ended up. Danielle sees herself working there for a long time to come, and is incredibly pleased with the family-like atmosphere they have created.

Nick Kostis
​Owner of Pickwick & Frolic and Hilarities Night Club

First Industry Job: Distributing natural fruit juices to vending machines

Nick Kostis is a Brooklyn boy who never doubted the character and people of his adopted hometown, Cleveland, Oh. The first chapter of Nick’s career was in the education world. Nick’s transition into the hospitality industry happened quite by accident when he stumbled onto what would become the Little Bar & Grill in 1984, an establishment that was small but mighty and contributed to the redevelopment of the the Historic Warehouse District. From there, Nick opened Hilarities Comedy Clubs beginning in 1985 and over that time, Hilarities has been a launching pad for notable acts including Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser, Tim Allen, Steve Harvey, Drew Carey and countless others of both local and national notoriety. His dedication to Cleveland is evident as he spearheaded the redevelopment of the popular E. 4th St. district, which is a destination like no other in the world. It's been featured during live broadcasts of the Republican National Convention and the 2016 NBA Finals. Nick is an ORA board member and past recipient of our Lifetime Achievement Award.

Chef Anthony T. Head
Culinary and public health educator

​First Industry Job: A restaurant internship

​Anthony T. Head is an Ohio ProStart chef instructor at Ponitz Career Center. Born and raised in Dayton, he's a graduate of Colonel White High School for the Arts and Ball State University School of Business respectively, Chef Anthony's culinary journey began as a child with the adult responsibilities of buying groceries and preparing meals for his family. His first cooking job outside of culinary school was an internship opening up The Wine Loft franchise out at the Greene. He was the first cook hired and helped set up the kitchen. Anthony worked as a volunteer at an HIV/AIDS testing clinic in West Dayton, the Mt. Olive One Stop. Among his responsibilities, he worked with the kitchen staff where he strived to provide well balanced meals, not through instruction, but through grocery shopping.

Sheila Trautner
Owner & President, Taste Hospitality Group

​First Industry Job: Part-time restaurant work

​Sheila Trautner is owner & CEO of Mezzo Dublin, Hubbard Grille, Wine on High, Creekside Conference & Event Center and Taste Catering. Trautner got into the restaurant business because she liked the busy pace. She went to work for a Big Four public accounting firm after graduating from Emory University. “After about a year of doing that, I got really, really bored,” she said. “I worked at a restaurant part-time on the weekends just to make a little bit of extra money, and I truly fell in love with it.”

Val Voelker
Owner, general manager of Blue Canyon Kitchen and Tavern

​First Industry Job: Working at his family's restaurant in Wisconsin

​Val is a multi-year hospitality veteran with an abounding enthusiasm for customer service and guest satisfaction. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Stout, with a degree in hotel and restaurant management. After spending many years working for various hospitality corporations, including Stouffer Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Hilton Hotels Corp, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Voelker and brother, Robert, set out to create their own destination restaurant. Over 18 months, they visited more than 300 restaurants throughout the country. This research led to the creation of Blue Canyon Kitchen and Tavern in 2004. Voelker’s continued success in the industry is due in part to his commitment, and passion for the industry.

Scott Heimlich
Owner of Barcelona Restaurant

First Industry Job: Waiting Tables

After getting his start in the industry, Heimlich never left. He has worked in hotels, a bakery, numerous independent and chain restaurants, and spent three years as a manager with Haiku. In March of 2002, Scott took the opportunity to purchase Barcelona Restaurant, and has made it a premier Spanish fusion restaurant. Barcelona has been named a "Top 10 restaurant” by the Columbus Dispatch each year since 2009. Scott impacts the industry outside of his four walls through his work with Dine Originals of Columbus and as a member of the German Village Business Community.

Jeff Ruby
Owner of Jeff Ruby Restaurants

​First Industry Job: Working at family’s restaurants on the Jersey Shore

Jeff believes that the key to having a successful establishment is to not only have great clientele, but to deliver an a incomparable total dining experience, one that is now known as The Jeff Ruby Experience. While attending Cornell University, Ruby took various restaurant jobs to support himself, and after graduating took a job at Winegardner and Hammons' Holiday Inn and turned a 12th floor bar into the "Den of the Little Foxes" at Lucy's in the Sky disco. His success was quickly recognized and he was fast-tracked to the post of Regional Director of all seven Holiday Inns in Cincinnati. Ruby then opened his own steakhouse, The Precinct, in 1981. He has since followed with five more eateries, and recently announced plans to expand in Columbus. Zagat rates his steakhouses higher than any in New York City or Chicago, America's quintessential steak cities.

Restaurant operators and employees, who live and raise their families in these neighborhoods, give back to their communities through thousands of hours of volunteer service each year. Whether supporting a local youth athletic team, hosting food drives or donating to charity, more than 9 in 10 restaurants across the nation engage in some kind of charitable activity, together contributing $3 billion each year to charitable causes.

Venice on Vine in Cincinnati

A young executive from the Proctor & Gamble Company, Curtis Scribner, found it impossible to continue to ignore the requests for food and assistance by the number of homeless individuals he encountered on the streets of Cincinnati. He felt compelled to respond personally and approached a local restaurant, Venice on Vine. His intention was to purchase gift certificates for simple meals – perhaps a slice of pizza. His thought was that he would keep the certificates in his pocket and have them available when asked. Read more.

One Bistro in Xenia and Miamisburg

One Bistro offers more than food. This “pay what you can afford" non-profit concept offers customers a sense of community. There is spiritual support, an opportunity to volunteer if they can’t afford to pay for their meal … and most of all, hope. Read more.

Hot Chicken Takeover in Columbus

Hot Chicken Takeover is about more than just chicken. It’s about our people. Beyond an amazing community of customers, HCT provides supportive jobs to men and women who need a fair chance at work. Be it homelessness, previous incarceration, or another barrier to employment, HCT employees are wildly ambitious and have set their sights on what’s next. Once hired, we support their financial stability, personal growth, and professional development with an array of benefits. Watch  his TEDXColumbus talk.

EDWINS Leadership Institute

EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute is a proven successful mix of award-winning French cuisine, and top-tier table service combined with a unique and revolutionary social cause. EDWINS is the only white tablecloth restaurant in the country whose staff consists entirely of formerly incarcerated men and women in both the kitchen and the front of house. Envisioned and established by Brandon Chrostowski in 2007, the organization's mission is to give formerly incarcerated individuals a foundation in the hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary for successful re-entry. Visit their website  for more.