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.
On the day he was hired two years ago, Edgar Benitez made it known that if CAVA ever headed south, he wanted in. He was hungry for growth opportunities and to return to his home state of Texas. He recalls, “I knew CAVA was going to make it south sooner or later, and I knew I was the person to take it there.”
So now here we are, chatting with Edgar on the cusp of a huge life change: After two years as the General Manager of our Dupont Circle location in DC, Edgar was just promoted to the role of Area Leader, and our coming-soon locations in Austin are calling his name.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas – Edgar’s role, potential, and CAVA love included. So we sat down with him before he hit the road. When he gets there, he’ll be the first to tell you he’s got a lot of work to do – and there’s no better person for the job.
Tell us about your path to CAVA. How’d you get here?
I actually started as a customer for two years at Tysons [in Virginia] – going to CAVA was a Sunday tradition with my wife and kids. The juices were what first attracted me. I saw them from afar and was immediately like, “Whoa, this is so cool, we need to go in.” I love Mediterranean food, though I hadn’t heard of CAVA back then, so we got in line. Let me tell you – that line was HUGE, but we stood in it. We got to the front and held up the whole line because we were first-timers, but the team was really quick to help us out and I loved that.
From there, how’d you end up deciding to join the team?
Two things made the decision easy for me: 1. The food, and 2. The environment. I fell in love with CAVA the first time I went – between the braised lamb and the juice, I was sold. After that, I knew I had to come back, and I kept coming back. It turned into a Sunday tradition.
In due time, I was offered a position at my job at the time and I turned it down because I wanted to work somewhere that I could be myself – based on what I had seen at Tysons, I knew CAVA was that place. Everybody was themselves while working – the team was always relaxed and having fun, and that’s what made me decide to apply.
Did it feel like a natural fit immediately?
Yeah, that first week was great. By the end of it, I wished I had found CAVA earlier because it just speaks to who I am outside of work. The values felt so natural [Editor’s note: The CAVA values are transparency, humility, thoughtfulness, positivity, and fanaticism]. Transparency is big to me, and positivity and fanaticism come naturally. That’s how I want to feel about where I work.
What memories stand out from your time at CAVA Dupont?
We threw a surprise baby shower for one of my employees. I asked her to come in early on a Saturday to talk admin tasks and sign some paperwork. She came in, we had the lights off, and we had balloons, cake, and presents all laid out for her.
After two years at CAVA Dupont, you’re taking a big leap. How will you use what you’ve learned as a GM in your new role as an Area Leader?
My leadership style is always about the people – and CAVA’s big about that too. We focus a lot of time and energy on that. As a GM at Dupont, I always took a personal interest in my team. I asked how I could help them do better outside of CAVA. When they knew I cared about them as a person, not just an employee, they were more invested and produced better work.
As a GM, you’re in charge of four walls. As an area leader, you’re in charge of several four-walls. So the difference is having a bigger plan. I’m looking forward to that.
What are you most looking forward to about the new role and new location?
This is a big opportunity to have an impact on our first restaurants in Austin, especially now that I’ve had two years experience as a GM. I know I’ll be able to see things from both a General Manager’s and Area Leader’s perspective. Plus, I’m excited that I’m familiar with the culture – I’m from Texas, so I have the chance to get back to my roots, but also bring what I learned from my time in DC.
Where in Texas are you originally from?
I was born and raised in Bryan, Texas, right outside College Station – about 1.5 hours from Austin. My dad had a mini-farm, so I’ve always been interested in local and organic food. He grew his own tomatoes and had pear and lemon trees, squash, watermelon, corn – the list goes on. We would literally just go outside and pick our vegetables.
What are you looking forward to about having a bigger team?
I love developing others. If I was able to do it in one store, I want to do it in all my stores. That’s what I’m looking forward to most – doing what I did in Dupont but on a larger scale. That’s my goal.
What advice do you have for team members who want to grow at CAVA?
You have to have passion for what you’re doing, and you need to care about people. If you love those two things, CAVA is the place for you. We like to source things locally, our food and juices are made fresh every day, and we love to interact with guests. Our job is to make sure our customers are happy. The biggest part for me is helping a first-time customer and then seeing their reaction once they try the food – their eyes always light up with that first bite.
What’s your approach to managing people?
With people, it’s about building a strong foundation. I always tell them we can’t do anything we do without them. They are a crucial part of what we’re building. I always say I’m not here just to be your boss – I want to help you out all around. And I always want to instill that the customer is our friend. It’s important to give the WHY behind everything we do.
And what would you say to those thinking of applying to work at CAVA in Austin?
I know Austin’s a big foodie town, so it’s a natural fit. CAVA is full of foodies. I’m a big foodie myself. We love cooking fresh food at CAVA, and we’re going to fit in in Austin because we have the same priorities.
So you’re a foodie – what are some of the best meals you’ve had?
Recently one of my favorite meals was at a place on Congress in Austin. It’s some of the best seafood I’ve ever had. It was so fresh; the service was on-point; and the decor was awesome.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a big protein guy, so I love grilling up some steak and shrimp on the barby. Cooking’s big for me, and playing with my 5- and 7-year-old. My son is huge into Legos and cooking, too. He asked for a chef’s hat and coat for Christmas.
Okay, we have to ask one last question: What’s your go-to bowl?
Half SplendidGreens, half Saffron Rice. Then Tzatziki, Spicy Lamb Meatballs, Tomato + Cucumber, Tomato + Onion, Banana Peppers, Crumbled Feta, and Green Harissa. It’s always been my go-to. We opened Dupont with Green Harissa – it was the first store to have it, and then people loved it so much it became a seasonal menu item and now it’s on the year-round menu. I’m proud of that.
We’re looking for passionate and positive go-getters like Edgar to join our growing CAVA team (in Austin and beyond!). Think you’re the one for the job? Join us.