Alumni Spotlight

Hospitality alumnus goes from busboy to CEO

Alumnus Regynald G. Washington ’74 was invited back to FIU to speak at this summer’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management commencement ceremony on Sunday, July 29, 2018. In this interview, which originally appeared in FIU News, Washington opens up about the steps he took in life that propelled his career as a restaurateur:

–By Alexandra Pecharich

Very Important Panther: Regynald G. Washington ’74

  • Chief Executive Officer, Hojeij Branded Foods
  • Bachelor of Science in international hotel and restaurant administration, 1974
  • Member, Dean’s Advisory Council, Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
  • Torch Award recipient, 2005

You’ve climbed from the lowest rung of the hospitality world — starting as a teenage busboy in the Florida Keys — to the very top — head of a company that operates the airport outlets of popular restaurant brands nationwide. How has that experience made you a better leader?

Those who have surveyed and experienced the food and beverage landscape from the bottom to the top are capable
of understanding the importance of how all of the restaurant components harmonize together to ensure a successful business. Experiencing all levels enhances your credibility as a leader. You have walked in the shoes of those whom you are leading.

Hospitality is a tough industry. What is the key to success?

I am very passionate and committed to my work and thoroughly enjoy it. I see every challenge as an opportunity to do what one would believe is the impossible. The key to success is strategic preparation, intelligent execution, striving for excellence, surrounding yourself with great people, creating an environment of continuous learning for your staff and putting your guest and employee needs first. Also, treating your employees and guests with dignity and respect will create an atmosphere capable of positive traction.

How did your FIU education help you get where you are today?

FIU’s new reputation opened many doors of opportunity for me. The faculty members during my years at FIU were very engaging, smart, motivating and enthusiastic about the hospitality industry, and they had strong academic credentials integrated with significant industry experience. It was exciting to learn every day.

What advice do you have for young people just starting careers?

Do not focus on how much money you are going to earn in your beginning years. Focus on learning and delivering excellence every day. The money will eventually come. Also, be a person who can be held accountable for your promises. Your reputation will follow you for the rest of your life.

Where do you go for a great night out?

I frequent establishments that are fun, with great food, atmosphere and over-the-top service. Being a restaurateur, I enjoy many types of cuisine. My outings may encapsulate an evening with friends, a business dinner, family members or an evening out alone to experience new trends.

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