When it comes to restaurants, Melvin Rodrigue has a voracious appetite – whether he’s eating at one or running it. Plain and simple, he loves this business.
That may not have always been the case – Rodrigue started out as a pre-med student at Tulane University. But, after taking a job at Dickie Brennan’s famous Palace Café in New Orleans, he changed course quickly. At 19 he was a protégé. By 24, he was the CEO of a restaurant company.
Now, nearly 25 years later, Rodrigue, the proud father of four daughters and president and CEO of Louisiana’s renowned Galatoire’s Restaurant Group, will be using his smart, hospitable approach to not only growing his own business, but to advancing our industry as 2020 chair of the National Restaurant Association.
If there’s one thing to know about Melvin, says Wendy Waren, vice president of communications for the Louisiana Restaurant Association, it’s that he is always willing to serve. “He is extremely professional; he knows how to take care of people, and how to create great experiences.
To this day, he gets calls for reservations at Galatoire’s, and he takes care of them himself, even though he’s president and CEO. That is who he is, he doesn’t put on any airs. He just makes sure we achieve the desired outcome, taking care of our guests.”
Rodrigue admits he was born to pursue a career as an industry leader. For one thing, he enjoyed every aspect of the learning. He was hungry to know everything and become expert at it. He was so eager to learn, mentors who coached him along the way actively advanced him from one opportunity to the next.
“When people ask what my favorite part of the job is or why I love the restaurant industry, I tell them two things: I get a rush from knowing we’ve all worked hard to create a great experience for our customers, and I love being a mentor to others to help them achieve their own career goals,” he says.
Rodrigue, who just started his year-long tenure as Association chair in January, has worked hard to enhance the reputation of New Orleans and Galatoire’s. As chair, he hopes to help enhance and advance the entire restaurant industry.
“We offer so much opportunity – more than most people might imagine,” he says. “No other businesses allow their people to grow as quickly as ours do. It doesn’t matter if they have high-school educations or master’s degrees. Our industry embraces the entrepreneurial spirit and embodies the American dream. If you have passion, commitment, and a good work ethic, you can go very far.”