Cabrera, the current general manager of Layne’s of Lewisville, started with the brand as a dishwasher but quickly climbed to leadership. Now, he’s looking toward ownership.
At just 19 years old, Jason Cabrera became the general manager of the Layne’s Chicken Fingers location in Lewisville, Texas. While it is certainly a less traditional approach, CEO Garrett Reed said that his decision to promote young employees who showed potential into leadership positions has clearly paid off. Cabrera increased the sales at the Lewisville location by 27%. Now, at age 22, he works with the corporate training team to support new restaurant openings and has plans to buy his own Layne’s franchise in the coming years.
“When I made the decision to promote three teenagers to general managers, people thought I was crazy,” said Reed. “There was a lot of talk about this generation not wanting to work, but I saw a spark in these kids. Jason is a prime example of what a teenage dishwasher can turn into when they have an opportunity and support, and we’re proud to have those people holding key positions at Layne’s.”
A labor shortage opened up higher-level roles with the brand, and Reed turned to younger employees. Cabrera, for example, became the general manager just one week after his 19th birthday. He was quickly pushed into a leadership role that required him to oversee all operations within the restaurant, including hiring, scheduling, supply ordering, training and customer service.
“I’m motivated by knowing that anything that happens inside of that restaurant is on me,” said Cabrera. “Anything that goes wrong and anything that goes right … it all comes back to me.”
Cabrera made waves with his shift into this new role, with multiple local news groups highlighting his success and celebrating (often in awe) his ability to run a successful restaurant at a young age. Though his age quickly became a key talking point, especially given that he was often overseeing individuals older than himself, Cabrera never saw his age as a deciding factor in his journey. He knew he was young and was excited to have been recognized for his skills and commitment to the brand early on, but this was a strength, not an indicator of potential failure.
“I’m very excited about Jason’s growth because I have worked with him one-on-one since the beginning,” explained Layne’s Chief Operating Officer Samir Wattar. “Not even on running a business, just general leadership. We meet in my office at least once a month and we talk for a couple of hours about everything but the restaurant — leadership, life and goals. His growth with the brand has been challenging, but I’ve believed in him from the start, and he has proven me right every step of the way.”
Throughout his entire journey with the brand, Cabrera has worked to be the best he can at every level, whether he was washing dishes and buttering toast or working alongside franchise owners to train teams for a successful business launch. Reed even noted that one of the deciding factors in Cabrera’s promotion to leadership was his ability to demonstrate company values and embrace the intrinsic motivation that drove him to learn and grow so quickly.
This has allowed Cabrera to take in a wealth of information, collaborating with other employees, leaders and members of the corporate team to build a rich knowledge base.
“I’m pretty comfortable with everything. I’ve been doing this for four years now, so I know what I’m doing here,” said Cabrera. “Right now, I’m actually working on being a traveling trainer to help open new stores, so that’s my next step.”
While franchisees are already noticing the impact that Cabrera has on new teams and requesting his presence for future openings and supplemental training, this role is not the end of Cabrera’s journey with Layne’s. He wants to spend a bit more time in the training role to build an even better understanding of the business and the full scope of responsibilities that ownership entails.
“I’d definitely be the first person in my circle to be in that [entrepreneurial] ballpark,” said Cabrera. “I know all of the pros and cons of business ownership, but I feel very comfortable with everything. Garrett and Samir have always gone over game plans down the road, and I know if I have questions, they’ll always answer them for me. They’re always helping me out.”
Through continued partnership with Wattar, Reed and the rest of the leadership team, Cabrera aims to broaden his experience and hone his skills before taking ownership of his own franchise in his late 20s or early 30s. Thanks to the strong culture baked into the Layne’s system, Cabrera has turned what started as a part-time fast food job into a career with a bright future.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I first applied to work at Layne’s,” said Cabrera. “But now, I see a future with Layne’s. Some people dread going to work every day, and that’s not the case for me. I’m excited to go to work every day, and I plan to make the most of the home I’ve found here with Layne’s for both myself and other leaders and owners in the system.”