Fries with that Career Rise

For MT
Like many people, Lori Daytner loves to try new restaurants. The promise of new tastes, a new atmosphere, and association with friends over dinner is enough to get a lot of people through a long week at work.

However, while the majority of these people forget the details of their dining experience before their next meal, Daytner takes careful note of the food, service and presentation of each establishment.

"I'm really interested in how people have put together elements, whether it's the lighting or the design of the furniture ... and of course, I'm interested in what people in the restaurant are ordering."

As CEO and president of Rosinter Restaurants, part of Daytner's job is to gather ideas for the company's new locations, which are cropping up throughout Russia, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Some of the restaurants operated by Rosinter include TGI Friday's, Planet Sushi, Il Patio, Moka Loka and the American Bar and Grill.

She was appointed president of Rosinter last year, after almost 15 years with the company. Five of those years were spent as manager of the Prague branch, where she gave Russian trainees hands-on demonstrations on how to work in Western-style restaurants.

Lori Daytner knows how it feels to be in a waitress' shoes, having started out as one while still a student at the age of 17.
"We lived in the restaurant from morning to evening," Daytner said.

Daytner, 40, began her restaurant career while still a student at age 17, as a waitress in Burger King. Later, as she continued her studies, she worked part-time for another restaurant, climbing the ranks from waitress to training manager, restaurant manager, senior inspector and other positions.

Though her grandparents were from Belarus, Daytner did not have the opportunity to learn Belarussian or Russian.

"At that time, immigrants fell into two groups," Daytner said. "Those who kept their language and those who said, 'We moved to the U.S. We're going to speak English and that's it.'"

Eager to learn Russian, Daytner came to Moscow in 1990 for a three-month language program after receiving a degree in public relations from Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania. However, when her stipend was abruptly cut off, she had to find a job fast if she wanted to stay in Russia.

She began working part-time as a service trainer for English-speaking staff at the Hotel Metropol. About a year later she received a call from Henrik Winther, then general manager of Rosinter Restaurants. He offered Daytner a job as training manager at Rosinter, which she readily accepted.

"She knows the restaurant business better than anyone I have ever known, because she has worked in all the positions," said Jay Blandy, the managing director of environmental engineering company Maccaferri Gabions CIS. He said he met Daytner about 10 years ago, when he worked in Rosinter's HR department, and they'd stayed in touch ever since.

"Why is she successful? She's just a wonderful person," he said. "She's always positive, responsible, approaches most business questions with a very keen eye.

"She never avoids hard decisions -- or the messy work.

"She engenders the trust of everyone she works with."

Daytner said doing business in Russia presents special challenges, including a constantly changing business environment. She said one of the most valuable lessons she has learned is to never settle into a fixed routine.

"Your formula for success will always change, because the world is changing around you," she said.

She said one of the downsides of capitalism is longer and more erratic work hours, and that the Russian tradition of gathering in the kitchen is suffering for it.

"I like to think we're replacing some of that by giving people a chance to come in, sit down, and connect again," she said.

Staff Writer Jennifer Chater contributed to this report.