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Ashley Greene

general manager,
Bluewater Waterfront Grill

Greene’s career path

  • Hostess
  • Server
  • Bartender
  • Manager
  • General Manager

Ashley Greene’s Rise From Hostess to General Manager

She was willing to serve in any role that was needed, and she still is.

Ashley Greene’s rise to success came from hard work and the willingness to do anything that was needed—even if she wasn’t sure how to make it happen.

From her first restaurant job at age 16 as an Applebee’s hostess to her current role as the general manager at Bluewater Waterfront Grill in Wrightsville Beach, Greene has proved that she can fill in anywhere. She’s been a server and a bartender, and she has even helped prep and cook in the kitchen. Most of her career has been with Raleigh-based LM Restaurants, a family-owned and -operated company with restaurants in the Carolinas, Florida, and Tennessee.

She advanced with the company because they recognized and rewarded her work ethic, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed restaurant dining rooms across the country. Greene was one of two managers who wasn’t laid off—the other was a chef. Together, they prepped, cooked, managed takeout orders, and kept the restaurant cleaned and stocked during the pandemic. From there, she earned her first general manager role at Hops Supply Co. in Wilmington. Greene says she has numerous responsibilities as a general manager.

“I do everything from being a therapist, a mom, a plumber, an electrician, trying to figure out ways to make money and save money without cutting corners. I’m coaching staff, coaching managers, and overall making sure things are intact in this building,” she says.

It’s an arduous job, and she’s available on demand, she says. Even on her days off. “I’m on seven days a week, basically. When I’m off, I’m not off. My phone’s always ringing,” she says. “But it’s a sense of accomplishment, too, at the end of the day.”

There’s nothing else she’d rather do.

Here’s what else she has to say about her career.

Pro tips Q&A

Q: What keeps you in the restaurant industry?

A: The people, the relationships you have outside, even with the staff, or it could be just the customers in general. And it’s new every day. You’re not sitting down at a desk.

Q: What are the benefits of working in a corporate restaurant versus one that’s independently owned?

A: You’re going to have more people to help you throughout the way, a lot of people who can also coach you. Just having an HR department alone to help guide you, even with specific things like how to talk to employees correctly or how to coach them correctly. Having those mentors who have your back, that’s the biggest difference between being in a corporation as opposed to a mom and pop.

Q: How did you know it was the career for you?

A: Probably from the time they put me in my [first manager] role at the Oceanic. I like a challenge, for sure, I like the thrill every day, and I was really good at it, and I could tell I was really good at it.

I wanted to learn more, and it got to the point where I was trying to learn too much too fast, and it was like, pump the brakes a little bit, you’ve still got a lot to learn. But I was just ready. And they believed in me, that was the best; they kept driving me to do better and better.

Q: What’s it like being a female general manager?

A: It’s been difficult sometimes to prove myself to men, especially when, maybe they’ve been a general manager for several years. But throughout the years, it’s definitely gotten better, for sure.

I think starting off as a hostess, server, bartender helped me see the other side of how the employees actually see us. I didn’t want to be that manager or that leader who just sat back and didn’t help out.

Q: Has it gotten better because you’ve gained experience and confidence?

A: My confidence has definitely grown, for sure. But I’m very hands-on. Typically, a lot of males I’ve worked with that have been in that leadership role are not hands-on. I have no problem, if I’m wearing a dress, if I have to jump in a line and start cooking, that’s what I’ll do.

I haven’t seen a whole lot of role models who would be willing to do that, but I think starting off as a hostess, server, bartender, helped me see the other side of how the employees actually see us. I didn’t want to be that manager or that leader who just sat back and didn’t help out.

Q: What’s it like to be in a restaurant environment that’s very seasonal?

A: Well, this place is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get every day. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. But it’s also a sense of relief that once the season’s over, then you get the community back—the locals. And you miss them, because it’s been a couple of months because they stay home whenever everybody’s here at the beach. So, then you get to see how they’re doing. It’s excitement every day, and interesting.

Q: What do you look for in potential employees?

A: We would get a lot of college kids several years ago, but now we don’t get that. So, when they come in and they don’t have the [restaurant] experience, I still give them a shot. If they’re giving me eye contact, if they have a smile on their face, they have a good attitude, I’m going to give them a shot, no matter what.

You’ve got to make the environment fun, make it challenging. If it’s a pre-shift in the morning, turning on a crazy song and just telling everybody to get up and dance, or any sort of a contest throughout the shift, just to get them a free meal or a gift card.

Q: Why is fun at work important?

A: I feel like all we had was restaurants (for summer jobs) when I was growing up. You could get a job at the mall or something like that, but it was mainly restaurants. Now, there’s all sorts of things [kids] could do on their time to make money. I just feel like they’re not coming in like they used to. So, you’ve got to make the environment fun, make it challenging for them. If it’s a pre-shift in the morning, turning on a crazy song and just telling everybody to get up and dance, or any sort of a contest throughout the shift, just to get them a free meal or a gift card. Or just walking around, joking with them.

Q: Can you talk about burnout?

A: So, this is getting deep, but when I first started managing, it was like I wanted to do everything I could to prove myself. I would try to handle every problem, every situation, without asking for help. I wanted to be heard, and I wanted to show that I work hard. At one point, I was getting burnt out, especially after coming here [to Bluewater Waterfront Grill].

Q: What’s the best way to handle burnout?

A: You’ve just got to be open about it. Go to your boss and tell him the issues, and hopefully, if they were like my boss, they would have respect for you that you came to them with an issue.

And just let them know, “Hey, X, Y, Z is not getting done on the homefront, and I’m mentally not there anymore.’ Because it’s happened to me. It happens to everybody. And just trying to figure out some way to solve the problem. Do I need to come in a little earlier so that way I can be home to make my son’s baseball game or my daughter’s volleyball game? You’ve got to be open and honest with your boss, or your peers, your coworkers in general.

Q: Can you recognize burnout in your staff, and how do you address it?

A: Absolutely, I do every day, for sure. I can look at one person and tell in a second if something’s going on, and how their attitude is while they’re at work.

I just sit down and talk to them. They appreciate it at the end of the day. We try to figure out a way to better their work-life, home-life balance.

Q: What are your tips for becoming a general manager? 

A: Don’t ever just stick with one role. I completely believe—not only for general managers, but managers in general—that they should have kitchen experience. I’m not saying ahead of time, but at least as part of their management training program. So that they can step in that role if needed. Because at the end of the day, we’re all a team in this building. You need to be able to help out in all corners of this restaurant, or any restaurant.

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