In the Spring of 2014, Melissa Gordon was tending bar when a group of Ruth’s Chris Team Members came in for happy hour. As they chatted, she learned that Ruth’s Chris was hiring. Impressed by what she heard about the company from these Team Members, Melissa decided to take a leap and joined the Ruth’s Chris family as a bartender.
Ruth Fertel herself never shied away from taking a leap as she founded and grew Ruth’s Chris. As Melissa put it, “Ruth was strong-willed. She was ahead of her time, and she bet on herself, even when it felt like the odds were against her.” This is something Melissa has often reflected on when setting goals and facing challenges. So, when Melissa started as a bartender at Ruth’s Chris, she took Ruth Fertel’s lead and bet on herself – setting a goal of becoming a General Manager by the age of 30.
Melissa knew she’d have to work hard to reach her goal, so she jumped in head first to make her dreams a reality. As a bartender, she quickly proved herself, mastering cocktail creation and becoming a standout Team Member. Within six months, she was promoted and took part in Ruth’s Chris’ Manager in Development training, learning every position in the restaurant, front and back of house. This is one of the many opportunities for continuing education that was key to helping Melissa reach her goal. Melissa also pursued her Certified Specialist of Wine certification with the support of the company, allowing her to pursue her passions and develop her expertise. She paid it forward by creating opportunities for other Team Members, creating internal beverage training programs that helped drive business and create a fun team environment.
After a mastering the ins and outs of the restaurant, she reached her goal of becoming the General Manager of Ruth’s Chris in Orlando, FL. She continued her pursuit of excellence – establishing best practices, nurturing her team, and leading her restaurant through a global pandemic in 2020.
While COVID presented some of the biggest challenges in Melissa’s career, it also gave her some of her most treasured memories. When the restaurant was open for takeout only, Melissa noticed several police officers eating to-go orders in their cars. Extending Ruth’s signature hospitality, she and her team set up socially-distant tables outdoors so the officers could more comfortably enjoy their next meal. The officers were thrilled, and Melissa’s team was happy to be able to thank these first responders for their service. “Ruth wanted everyone to feel special every time they visited her restaurant,” said Melissa, citing the founder as her inspiration to create memorable moments for Guests.
In 2021, Melissa learned about a role in the Ruth’s Chris Home Office that was a perfect fit for her, marrying her operations expertise with her passion for developing best-in-class wine and spirits programs. It was time to bet on herself once again. With support from her leadership, Melissa got her dream job, becoming the Manager of Menu, Beverage & Operational Support for the company.
“It’s an incredible feeling to come full circle with my career here at Ruth’s Chris,” said Melissa. Her success has been supported at every step by leaders who were accessible and passionate about promoting from within, along with her personal drive to pursue her goals and a work ethic that’s made them a reality. “Bet on yourself,” Melissa says, “Invest in yourself because you can never go wrong with that investment. I think Ruth would agree.”