Andra Johnson

Andra Johnson

Managing Partner and Beverage Director of Serenata & Zumo, Founder of Back to Black Cocktail Pop-Up

The hospitality industry has a long and sordid history of not being very inclusive. Continuing to push for fair and equitable treatment of people of color is extremely important to me and has inspired me to keep finding ways to get people engaged and involved in making a change.

I knew I wanted to own restaurants probably weeks after I started at Chili’s. I gravitated to the quick pace. There was always something to learn, always something to do. I found satisfaction in doing my job and doing it well. It didn’t take long for me to start writing out my career plan and what I was going to do in order to be a restaurateur by the time I was 30.
The most important piece of advice that my mentors have given to me is that saying ‘no’ is a way of protecting yourself. Take the time to figure out the value of your time and the quality of the work you do so that your self-worth and dollar amount worth are both being met. There will always be opportunities and it can be healthier for you to say "no" to things if it does not serve your purpose or your vision at this time.
The very first thing I look for in a potential hire is their reason for wanting this particular position at this particular establishment. Obviously, money is the driving factor for anyone who has to work, however, pre-COVID, the restaurant industry was highly oversaturated. If you just want to work, then I respect that, but it might not be the right fit. I look for people who want to learn and embrace the job. I want to hire a busser that aspires to be a barback. A barback that inspires to be a bartender. A bartender that aspires to be a bar manager or owner.
I find my inspiration in history usually, through people and stories that have not been told or recognized, I try to do my best to honor those stories and those people through my work on both sides of the bar.
Your employees will always tell you what they need in order to stay motivated and inspired at work. Sometimes our jobs as employers is to just listen to what they have to say. Several of my mentors saw my interest in beverage and in management and instead of having to peer over their shoulders, they allowed me an opportunity to have a seat and talk to reps and taste wine, or learn about particular spirits and I have always made a point to do the same thing with my staff. If there is an opportunity for growth for myself then that means that my team should also benefit. We do a lot of R&D here at Serenata and it gives an opportunity for each bartender to dive into a different country or culture and taste through different spirits and flavors in order to perfect their cocktail vision.
Without a doubt, “The World Atlas of Wine” by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson has been the single-most informative piece of literature that I have ever read on beverage and has helped me find my palate over the years.
I think it is important for people to keep their eyes open for trends in beer, spirits, or wine, however, keep in mind that publications have agendas and biases and may not always go the most diverse route in terms of what or who they are highlighting.

Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.

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