Rana Irfan Zaid moved to the United States from Pakistan during his sophomore year of high school and got a part-time job working at a local hotel. He enjoyed working in the hospitality industry, and his manager recommended that he pursue it as a career.
Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Zaid decided to study at DePaul’s School of Hospitality Leadership. The senior loves all facets of the hospitality industry but is currently interested in food and beverage.
Having the best guidance in the industry was really important for me to find success within a niche industry,” says Zaid.
“I wanted to pair up with a mentor in hospitality who could help me navigate through challenges and guide me toward my goals.”
Through the hospitality school’s mentorship program, Zaid was connected to John Economos, a partner at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE), the Chicago-based, family-owned restaurant group that manages and licenses more than 120 restaurants.
“I like being a point person for someone looking for guidance in the industry,” says Economos. “If I had a mentor in college, I probably would’ve started my career much earlier and with more confidence.” Economos, the general manager at Beatrix in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, studied communication management in college and had no hospitality experience. Through LEYE’s internal management training program, he worked his way from carryout clerk at Di Pescara restaurant into management through a series of positions with various LEYE restaurants.
“I come from a family of teachers, but I have never been a great teacher until I started mentoring students,” says Economos. “I am in a role where it’s not about me, but how I help develop others. I enjoy when Rana asks me for advice.”
Economos and Zaid met frequently at LEYE restaurants to talk about the industry, the interviewing process and opportunities throughout the company. Economos also let Zaid shadow him at Beatrix to see how to manage a restaurant. He then helped Zaid land a hosting job at LEYE’s upscale RPM Italian restaurant, as well as a spot in LEYE’s management intern program this summer.
“I was really lucky to find a mentor who I aspire to be like,” says Zaid. “John has helped expose me to different parts of the industry and become more informed. He has helped complete me.”
By Andrew Zamorski | Photo by Kathy Hillegonds