Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | August 2016 | By Robert Thomas

Tender Greens' President Weighs in on Foodservice Career

David Dressler, cofounder, chairman, and president of Tender Greens, shares how his career has benefitted from an open mind.
David Dressler, Cofounder/President, Tender Greens Tender Greens

I spent most of my childhood in the Adirondacks at my aunt and uncle’s hotel, where I did a myriad of duties, such as busing tables, carrying luggage, and renting boats. I got the bug—just like many others in my family—to further my exposure within the industry, and sought out an education in hospitality in Switzerland. Shortly after, I started working for Hyatt Hotels, as well as Four Seasons Hotels, where I remained the director of food and beverage for quite some time. It wasn’t until I took a job with Shutters on the Beach Hotel in Santa Monica, California, that I met my two co-partners and cofounders of Tender Greens. After opening in 2006, we now have 21 units and just celebrated our 10th anniversary.

Growing up in a family committed to the service industry started my love for this industry at an early age. I was taught to have great pride in creating beautiful events and happy moments through food and service. Food was always at the center of what my family and I did for others on a daily basis, and that continues into today. I don’t think I ever thought I would do anything else growing up; I knew I would always be in this business, and getting my education only deepened my resolve. What I discovered later in my career was an entrepreneurial spirit that I’ve been fortunate enough to carry out with Tender Greens.

Since our inception, two driving forces continue to inspire the three of us: create special food at value and constantly curate a company we want to work for. There is a massive amount of people around the country who don’t have access to the kind of food we prepare, and that continues to drive me. We’re excited about bringing what we do to more people and continue the movement.

One of the most important things I get to do as a cofounder is to ensure that we are always learning and opening our minds up to new and innovate ways to do that. There’s so much to learn, both inside and outside quick service, to better our business. Specifically, I’m excited to learn how technology can be used as a means to not replace hospitality, but enhance it.


What was your first job?

Dishwasher.

What is your favorite menu item at Tender Greens?

I love our specials, and for a core item, the Chipotle Barbecue Chicken Salad.

What is your favorite restaurant or type of food, excluding Tender Greens?

Simple, delicious, homemade pasta.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

Playing and spending time with my wife and daughter.

Who are some of the leaders that inspire you?

My two business partners and cofounders of Tender Greens, Erik Oberholtzer and Matt Lyman.

What is the best piece of advice you think quick-serve executives should hear?

Surround yourself with people smarter than you and let them do their jobs.

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