In less than five years, Britney Ziegler has taken the restaurant industry by storm as one of its most dynamic young players. Appointed Vice President of Brands, Marketing and Development of the David Burke Group in 2014, she not only serves as the primary liaison for the group's fourteen existing restaurants and lounges but also as the main point-of-contact for the myriad of brand expansion, partnership and product development opportunities that come through every day.
Under Ziegler's strategic direction, David Burke Group successfully maintains long-term partnerships with lifestyle and hospitality brands such as James Hotel New York/Chicago, Foxwoods Resort & Casino, Bloomingdale's, HMSHost, Legends Hospitality, Silverspot Cinema and Archer Hotel while also executing special projects with brands which have included Crumbs Bake Shop and the US Open. At the forefront of branding and development, Ziegler creates experiences through the evolution of existing concepts and the development of new brands to the David Burke Group portfolio. On a daily basis, she also oversees the group's marketing, social media and public relations teams to ensure the year's marketing plans are well underway while carrying out the initial phases of current and future restaurant openings.
A graduate of Pace University's Lubin School of Business, Ziegler joined the David Burke Group in 2010 as a host at David Burke Townhouse and quickly ascended to the role of Executive Assistant to Chef David Burke and later the group's Director of Special Projects and Brand Manager. Before beginning her career with the group, she honed her restaurant and hospitality skills as the Vice President of the Pace University Hospitality & Tourism Association and as the Assistant to Food & Beverage Operations Director at the highly lauded JetBlue Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy Airport.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I give all the credit to my mother. My parents got divorced at a very young age, and I watched my mother not only raise me and my sister, but also experience the death of our older sister who we lost to an extremely rare disease, and foster my handicapped sister. Through all of these challenges she never lost a beat. She spent many years working extremely hard to create a happy life for our family, a happy life for herself and build a business on her own. This has allowed me to aspire to be exactly like her: passionate, hardworking and dedicated to anything I set my mind on.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at David Burke Group?
I have always been in the hospitality industry but at more of a service level. The skills I learned in these positions has translated to my business relationships - it is extremely important to be hospitable and manage relationships through pure kindness while also attending to my partners' requests and needs. This knowledge has been invaluable throughout my tenure at the David Burke Group.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at David Burke Group?
I have been given an opportunity that many people never have the chance to experience. Working for the David Burke Group has allowed me to take on a managerial role where I'm able to learn, grow and make decisions at a very young age. It has helped shape me into the person I am today and I know there is no end to my growth and success. It is such a pleasure to work amongst a group of extremely talented individuals.
The restaurant industry has many challenges... we never stop. We are open 365 days a year, so you can imagine, a new challenge is constantly presenting itself. However, the biggest challenge has been to create change, especially with the direction of our company. We have evolved over the years and continue to do so as a very successful restaurant group. Many of these changes are quick yet they require significant personal attention since they not only affect our restaurants' guests but also our employees, partners and vendors. I have learned that change is important, but it requires much more than a flick of the switch. Managing these changes on top of my everyday workload is a struggle, but it's one of the reasons my job so exhilarating!
What advice can you offer to women who want a career like yours?
Work hard, be passionate, and find a balance between your personal and professional life - you need to find a happy medium. This is a difficult industry, mostly filled by men, and everyone, not just women, need to find a way to shine. Don't be afraid to speak your mind but be sure you have the support behind what you say.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Just get it done. I have worked, and still do, with some very important individuals- when they ask for something you must get it done. In order to do this you always have to think ahead and go beyond what they initially asked for. You always want to keep the person above you more apprised then they need to be. The best quote I have heard is, "your subordinate should be better, smarter and wiser than you." This will ensure you are always on your "A" game and growing with their support.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am fortunate to work in an industry which many people consider "fun," so I do have to say I enjoy waking up and going to work every day. However, my boyfriend has introduced me to the life of travel. For me, the best work/life balance involves both food and travel. My job fulfills the food aspect, and I find time in my personal life to fulfill the travel aspect--That is how I maintain a balance. Although, it is very important that I take off my work hat and enjoy dining at restaurants without analyzing every aspect of the meal.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women and girls?
There is this preconceived notion that women aren't as good as men. I think many women, even my peers, continue to carry this through life - I am not sure the cause but it's easy to let this mentality affect your confidence. Women can have it all. They can have a great career, a family and a personal life at the same time- they just have to acknowledge their talent.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My family and close colleagues have been a huge part of my success in both my professional and personal lives. I tend to take guidance and advice to heart, and I always appreciate the wisdom that others impart. I believe it is life changing to have a strong support system to help guide us all through life.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
It sounds so cliché but Sheryl Sandberg. I truly relate to her in regards to her personal life. Success and money make you happy, children fulfill a sense of parenthood but love is important no matter where you are in life. I admire her for that reason.
What do you want David Burke Group to accomplish in the next year?
We are on a quick expansion path with two of our concepts. Both of these concepts are rather new to our family. I cannot wait to see them come to life, share the experiences with our guests and hire more people to work with us. We take tremendous pride in servicing our guests and it's important to expand our family so we can continue to provide the same standard our customers have come to expect.