We’re happiest when we’re sharing our food, our culture, our vibes, with others. And we couldn’t do that without every one of our CAVA team members. It’s a fanaticism that can’t be faked – it’s a passion we just have to share.
So we’re hearing straight from our team about how they savor life – not just while they’re on the clock, but (perhaps even more importantly) while they’re off it.
Today we’re hearing from Juan, the General Manager at our Tysons Corner location. Juan is one of our most tenured CAVA team members, and he has trained a whole squad of top-notch managers, referencing his experience and sharing his constant smile every step of the way. Hear from Juan about his keys to success, how he’s making his mother proud, and the Honduras-vs-Puerto-Rico cooking showdowns he has with his wife:
How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been working for CAVA since 2013, almost four years. It’s been a while!
I started at the Mosaic store. I started at the grill position, then moved into prep, then customer service. Then I became a supervisor, an assistant manager, and finally a general manager! At that point I was helping to open new stores. I helped open our Fairfax, Ashburn, and Alexandria locations, just to name a few.
What are the most important things you think about when opening a new CAVA location?
For me, the most important thing with opening new locations is to find great new team members.
When I see happy faces, it makes me happy too. And I think it really makes a difference in how customers feel as well. I look for people who are honest and energetic. That’s my big challenge — people with lots of energy can give great customer service.
My favorite food is Honduran quesadillas. I came from Honduras and I started working in restaurants when I got to the United States. My wife is from Puerto Rico, though, so I love to eat arroz con verduras, rice with beans. I like to combine her food and my food.
I was working with another restaurant before CAVA and had been there for almost nine years. I learned about CAVA and saw the potential we had. I loved it right away, the food and the people I was working with. My wife works for CAVA too, so it’s a family effort!What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The hardest part of my job is making everyone happy — my team members, the management team, and my customers. That’s the big challenge.
I’ve worked in a lot of stores and sometimes we’ll have customers from the other locations where I’ve worked who will come to Tysons and they still remember me. And I’ll still remember them, too, and they really love when I recognize them. They’re the regulars.
What advice do you give new team members when they start with CAVA?
When I talk to others about how to grow with CAVA, I talk about my own story. I started at the very bottom and made it from supervisor to assistant manager to manager. I think they’re inspired by how I was able to move within the company — seeing those opportunities gets them excited, which I love.
There are others in the CAVA team who have grown with the company like me. It makes a good environment for people who are willing to work hard and learn.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I’m definitely a morning person. I like to wake up at 5am every morning, because my son wakes up then, saying, “Hey Papi, can I get a glass of milk, is it time to wake up?” So my son is my alarm clock. I also have my daughter who just turned one year old. She sleeps all night though — she sleeps longer than my son.
My son loves CAVA. Every morning when I’m getting ready to leave for work, he’ll open my jacket, and say, “Bye, Daddy — oh, Papi, are you going to work?” He’ll see my shirt and know where I’m going.
What do you make when you’re cooking for loved ones? What recipe do you know by heart?
I love to cook. I cook for my family basically every night. When it’s a celebration, I like to make carne asada with beers — that’s really good. I’ll add in seasonings like oregano, salt, pepper, and other spices. And then I love to grill that all up — it’s good for summer.Where did your love for food come from?
I always remember my mom taught me how to make eggs and tortillas. In Honduras we would cook three times a day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We would make homemade tortillas all the time.
What does family mean to you?
My mom taught me to be a great person and to always be happy. She taught me not to worry about what’s going on or be stressed each day. She also taught me to work very hard and to help others. She passed away 12 years ago.
If I could talk to her now… You know, my plan was to come to the United States only for two years, and then after that to go back to start a business. But everyone in my family passed away so I decided to stay here. In the past, I had a very small house in Honduras, and here I have a beautiful large house. I didn’t ever expect to be in the position I’m in now.
So I know my mom would be really proud of me for making a great life for my family.
What do you like to do outside of work? What are you passionate about?
I like to spend my time off with my kids in the park, or driving with them and running errands. I always make sure to buy a little gift for my son — he’s always happy when I get something for him. He’s a special boy and has epilepsy, and when you buy something for him, it makes him very happy.
I teach him to be polite and to respect other people. I’m a very polite person, and we have a lot of customers here who don’t know I’m the GM or anything. And they’ll ask for the GM and I’ll tell them that it’s me — sometimes they don’t expect someone quiet or happy to be the GM, but that’s what I like to bring to the job. I like to respect others and I want him to learn the same thing.
What’s your favorite thing about your son?
My favorite thing about my son is seeing him go to preschool. He’s going two times a week and it makes me happy to see him say, “Bye Papi, see you later.” I like seeing him grow up. He doesn’t want to hang out with me anymore as much though. He’s making new friends.What’s your go-to CAVA order?
My dinners are usually CAVA, and then I’ll take it home and have one beer each day. Just the one! I like to get my usual bowl and add arugula, pickled onions, olives, cauliflower quinoa tabbouleh, and feta cheese, and half chicken + half spicy lamb meatballs. I really like the Green Harissa dressing now too — I get it on the side.
What’s your proudest CAVA moment?
I think the time that I was most proud was when Brett, the CEO, came to Tysons and told me that I was doing a great job. He came a few times and would go through the line and say hi, and it makes me really happy to know that he appreciates my hard work.