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From Loyola to restaurant leadership: Meet Morgan Olszewski

From Loyola to restaurant leadership: Meet Morgan Olszewski

By Mikal Muhammad | Student Reporter 

Joining the leadership team of two Chicago restaurants shortly after earning her MBA was not part of Morgan Olszewski’s career plan.

But the two-time Quinlan graduate (BBA ’17, MBA ’18) now realizes that this is exactly where she is supposed to be.  

Today, Olszewski serves as the director of operations for both Onward Chicago, an upscale American restaurant steps from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus, and Yūgen, a fine-dining Japanese restaurant. At Yūgen, she also serves as the general manager and was part of the female-led team – including the executive chef, pastry chef, beverage director, and sommelier – that opened the restaurant in November 2018.

Below, Olszewski describes the circuitous journey that led her to the restaurant industry and how her Loyola experience gave her the tools she needs to be successful.

Why did you join the restaurant industry?

I never anticipated entering restaurant management! I originally was a pre-med major at Loyola, but did an entire switch. I decided to study business; I studied Spanish. Then after earning my MBA with concentrations in entrepreneurship as well as a certificate business ethics, I planned to go to law school. I took my LSAT and prepped all summer to go to law school.

That summer, I just happened to sit in at a meeting at Yūgen, which is owned by my father and Loyola alum, Michael Olszewski (BA ’86). He and head chef Mari Katsumura asked me to help out with a few logistical things on the business side of the restaurant.

One thing led to the next, which led to where I sit currently fully immersed at two restaurants. I’ve had the privilege and honor to work with remarkable teams at both restaurants to unify the creative vision and the business strategy. I think the real-life experience surpassed going to back to school immediately after spending five years at Loyola for my undergrad and MBA degrees, however, additional school is not out of the option.

How did Quinlan prepare you for your career?

Loyola provided the foundation for my business career. The entrepreneurship courses opened my eyes to how to start a business from square one, and also gave me the skills to be creative and innovative with the people I work with.

The whole Loyola experience focused on doing work as a team, rather than people trying to do everything by themselves. These restaurants don’t succeed because of one individual. I couldn’t do this without the involvement of my chef, my beverage director, or any other employee, because they’re all specialized and have experiences of their own.

My Loyola education also really cultivated my commitment to business ethics and a more holistic view of helping the community. It moved me to a place where I think, “Yes, this is a business, but what more can you do for your employees and make sure they are successful individually as well?”

What is the biggest challenge in your work?

Every day, there is some type of curveball or something new that pops up. So for me, the biggest challenge is continuing to adapt and being able to adjust to every unique situation to the best of my ability with the resources I have. You need to have the agility to bounce back and deal with all situations like a professional.

Any advice for future restauranteurs?

Three things are essential: being a team player, working well with different personality types, and being able to listen.

In the restaurant industry, there are a lot of moving parts. You are working with hundreds of different people, who are all good at different things. You have to understand each one and what they need to be successful. Also, how I could learn and strengthen my abilities from those around me. 

Any advice for Loyola students?

Embrace your failures. I know that sounds odd, but I think everyone goes into school thinking, “I have to do these certain things.”

For me, I’m here because of all the things that I’ve failed at. Medical school didn’t work out for me, but something else came up. Rather than looking at failure as a negative, take those opportunities as constructive criticism and adjust so you can find the path you are supposed to be on.

Failure is a growing opportunity. It helps you realize what you are good at and what you can improve. At Loyola, I learned more about myself and that has brought me to the place I am today.

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