We’re happiest when we’re sharing our food, our culture, and 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 touching base with Paris, our intrepid Tech Operations Lead. Paris celebrates a year at CAVA this summer – and what a year it’s been. A go-getter in every sense of the word (ask her how she taught herself to play the piano in 30 days), she’s played a vital role in getting our restaurants plugged in and connected, from CA to VA.
Let’s start at the beginning. How’d you get to DC?
I’m from Northern California, the Bay Area specifically, and originally came to DC for college. I wanted to check out a school they call the Black Harvard: Howard University. I came to DC in 2004 and I’ve never left. I love it – I love it so much, so I decided to stay here and start my journey and my career.
And then from there, how’d you get to CAVA?
I worked at the Apple Store in Bethesda Row from 2010 until last year. The first CAVA was next door to it, so I’ve been a fan for a while. I would tell my friends, “You have to try this place called CAVA.”
So fast forward, and last year I’m thinking, “Hmm, I want to work at a company that’s starting out,” and I thought about CAVA because it was growing so much and I’ve always been a fan – and then someone from CAVA reached out to me! It was crazy because it was the perfect timing.
Has your go-to CAVA order been the same since Bethesda Row?
No, it’s evolved. Because I went to the first CAVA, they didn’t have greens [at the time], and they didn’t have a lot of the dressings they have now, but as they grew, I started adding new things – and fell in love with my current bowl:
Arugula, Brown Rice, half Spicy Lamb Meatballs and half Chicken, Crazy Feta, Tzatziki, Harissa, and Lemon Herb Tahini, and Pickled Onions to top it off.
How do you describe your job for those not in the tech world?
I work on everything that has to do with the Internet. So I work on all the technology that’s in the restaurants – from how they complete inventory orders to how they ring people up on the cash registers, to how customers can call the restaurants, and digital ordering. So everything that has to do with connecting to the outside world, I work on that.Yeah, I’m a connector.
You’ve played a key role in CAVA’s expansion from the DMV area to LA and NYC. Tell us what that’s looked like for you.
When I roll out projects on the East Coast, I start to think about how we’re going to do it on the West Coast. And when I’m on the West Coast, I start at 6am because the East Coast work day starts at 9am. It’s a long day for me when I’m on the West Coast, but I love it. The weather helps make getting to each destination a little easier.
And it’s cool connecting with our West Coast teams – just getting to say, “Hey, I’m here for you. Call me if you need anything.”
What’s your proudest moment at CAVA so far?
Getting Internet to our Culver City location was a big puzzle. They told me it was impossible. So I called every day, and I hustled. So finally – after months and months [leading up to the opening] – we figured it out, and it was really a triumphant moment because what they told me was impossible ended up being possible.
What are your thoughts on the role tech plays at CAVA?
Technology is the future of restaurants – you see that with digital ordering. People just love to order on their mobile phones. When you’re in the restaurant, how many people like to hear music as opposed to silent air? There’s always a way to make things better. I’m challenged every day and I love challenges. It just makes you want to work even harder.
It also makes you want to work harder as you get to know people in different restaurant teams. This is everybody’s livelihood, and everybody depends on one another. So it’s always beautiful when you can find a way to make things better for everyone.
What’s it like being part of a tech team in a restaurant environment, specifically?
It’s interesting because nobody really thinks about tech teams when you think about how a restaurant is running, but it’s fun to get to see how our customers are interacting with our technology. It’s been fulfilling because, as humans, we all have to eat. And we have to find better ways to get food – technology plays a big role in that!
I want to see CAVA be the standard for how food organizations operate. Because CAVA is bringing people in and keeping people happy with tech.
So, based on your job, it’s safe to say you’re pretty plugged in. What are your favorite ways to unplug?
I love music. I’ve always loved music – I used to make it when I was a kid. I’d get home and get on my computer and make drum patterns. I just didn’t know any notes or keys, so I always wanted to learn. So, fast forward 25 years, and I’m like, “I really want to make music again, so I should learn to play piano.”
About 90 days from my birthday, I found a 30-day program to teach you how to play the piano and I made it my New Year’s resolution to make that happen.
So I set a date and a time and told people to come out and watch me play, to force myself to learn. I made a playbill to get everyone to come out to my recital, and I started documenting my journey and how hard it was.
Coworkers came out, friends from all parts of my life – from kindergarten to college, came out to come see me. And they Facetimed my mom in California while I played Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.”
How has working at CAVA affected the way you think about food?
When I came to CAVA and trained on the line in one of our restaurant locations, I watched everyone do their job, and do it well. One of our team members was working on prep, and she was just moving like a machine. So then they had me do that and I was like, “Oh man, I can’t do it like that.”
Watching everybody making things go and knowing the process so well – it was incredible. Since that day, anybody who’s doing anything to prepare my food, I say thank you because I know how much goes into it and giving great customer service. Being on your feet all day and having a smile on your face – that’s a trait worth mastering.
What’s your favorite CAVA ingredient?
Crazy Feta. Because you can make buffalo dip with Crazy Feta, you can eat a chip with Crazy Feta, you can spread it on some toast – it stands alone and can also be a special part of a dish. The first time I tried Crazy Feta, I was like, “What IS this?! HOW do they make this?!”
And I’ve loved it ever since.