Reflections on 25 years in hospitality: a career path defined by opportunity, resiliency and support

When you start out in your career and those early years are spent finding the right fit, it can be hard to imagine what it would be like to spend decades working for a company that you love. So as I reflect on my 25th year at Schuler’s Restaurant, I offer hope to those looking for their future career path in an industry defined by its resiliency and commitment to one another.

From humble beginnings as an executive assistant to assuming the role of full owner in 2019, my career has been shaped by the mentorship, dedication, and the unwavering passion that sets this industry apart. And now I’m grateful to have the opportunity to offer just that to those early in their careers or looking for a workplace to also call home.

My journey at Schuler’s has been one of growth and mentorship, guided by the visionary leadership of Hans Schuler and the unwavering support of our dedicated team. I’ve had the privilege of learning every aspect of this business from the ground up, which is a testament to the power of mentorship and the value of a supportive work environment where questions are encouraged, and knowledge is shared.

Whether we’re providing resources for financial stability for our families or fostering creativity in our culinary team, I take immense pride in nurturing the talents and potential of our employees because of the value it holds for their lives. They are not just colleagues; they are my family, and together, we strive to create unforgettable experiences for our guests every day – sharing in life’s most joyous moments to those that are filled with sorrow. Through it all, celebrations to memorials, what we do has a profound impact on someone’s life, including our own.

Putting my experiences to work further, I now have the honor to serve as a board member for the Hospitality Training Institute of Michigan. This role allows me to contribute to the advancement of our industry and advocate for the professional development of our workforce. HTIM’s Hospitality Business Management program, in particular, holds immense promise for empowering future leaders in hospitality.

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the growth and confidence of one of our own young managers, my niece, who is currently enrolled in the program. The mentorship opportunities provided by HTIM complement our internal training efforts, reinforcing skills and fostering a mindset of continuous learning and development.

The past few years have brought unprecedented challenges to all industries in the wake of a global pandemic. The hospitality sector has faced staffing shortages and operational hurdles, forcing businesses to adapt and innovate to survive. At Schuler’s, we’ve been no exception, navigating uncertain times while remaining steadfast in our commitment to providing exceptional experiences for our guests. It’s through programs such as HTIM’s, being offered for free, that we’ve been able to reinforce the mentorship and on-the-job training now strained as a result of the pandemic. These opportunities are vital to nurturing the next generation of hospitality leaders.

As I celebrate our rich history at Schuler’s, we are also looking to the future with hopeful plans for expansion and revitalization. With the recent renovation of our historic building and the addition of hotel accommodations and future event spaces, we are returning to our roots while embracing new opportunities in this industry. It’s an exciting time for the hospitality field and our community, and I am thrilled to be at the helm of this transformative journey. Looking ahead to the next 25 years and beyond, I am filled with optimism and determination. Together, with our dedicated team, our commitment to excellence, and the support of programs like HTIM’s, I am confident that Schuler’s will continue to thrive as a beacon of opportunity in our community. As we navigate the road ahead, let us remember the strength and resilience that define us, and let us continue to embrace growth, innovation, and opportunity in the face of adversity. Here’s to the journey, the challenges, and the triumphs yet to come. Cheers to the future of hospitality – I hope you’ll join us.

Sue Damron is the president and CEO of Schuler’s Restaurant in Marshall, Michigan, and member of the Hospitality Training Institute of Michigan board of directors. She has spent 25 years working in the hospitality industry at Schuler’s and was named full owner in 2019.

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