Olive Garden manager earns national award for ‘exceptional’ service

When he was young, Tim Krantz wanted to be a doctor so he could take care of people.

But that dream never came true for the Richland man.

Instead, Krantz has spent the last 22 years working in the restaurant industry, taking care of his employees and customers.

As the director of operations for eight Olive Garden restaurants in the Northwest, Krantz’s bosses also noticed last fall how well he took care of everyone. His territory includes restaurants in Kennewick, Yakima, Spokane, East Wenatchee, Bend, Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Nampa.

Krantz earned a Diamond Club award last September. It’s one of the top honors presented at parent company Darden Restaurants. He was one of five directors of operations selected from more than 100 Olive Garden regions in the country.

Krantz was recognized for his commitment to delivering guest experiences at the highest level, while making a difference in the lives of guests and team members, as well as in his community, according to Darden.

This was the first time Krantz received the honor.

“You know, the award just reflects all of my team,” he said. “On our team, we treat everyone in the business as family.”

Darden Restaurants is a huge company. It operates eight restaurant chains, including Olive Garden, under its umbrella. It runs more than 1,500 restaurants and employs more than 150,000 people, making it the world’s largest full-service restaurant company.

As of May 2018, there were 892 Olive Gardens around the world, with an annual revenue of $3.8 billion, well over half of all Darden Restaurant revenues.

Krantz doesn’t think about those numbers, though. He thinks about the people.

It’s why he loves the hospitality industry.

“It’s a combination of things,” Krantz said. “For one, you get to go to work and change people’s lives on a daily basis. No. 2 is the guests. I absolutely love taking care of people. Which is why I wanted to be a doctor.

“You have to have (the passion) in your heart. And you have to be able to anticipate needs. You have to access what those needs are. People will always come for the food. But they come back more frequently for the service. It is value you are creating.”

Krantz has impressed his bosses.

“Tim is a dedicated and enthusiastic leader, who embodies our core values,” said Dan Kiernan, president of Olive Garden, in a news release. “His passion is running great restaurants and developing stellar restaurant leaders makes him an exceptional director within the Olive Garden family.”

Krantz grew up in the Tri-Cities, working at Red Lobster while earning his associate of arts degree at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

“My hosting job at Red Lobster was my first real restaurant job,” Krantz said. “I put myself through school. My family couldn’t afford to help me. I had paid my own way through school with tips. I was working at Red Lobster, Red Robin and going to school full time.”

Then Krantz decided to take some time away from school. It was then he realized where his heart was.

“I loved the hospitality business so much that I went into management at an early age,” he said. “I loved it. I have always loved it.”

He worked his way up at Red Lobster to managing a restaurant in California.

He was with Red Lobster for 16 years and said he was very loyal to the company.

“But I had been trying for 10 years to get home to Washington from the California store I was running,” he said. “I wanted to be close to my family. Everybody who knew me knew that.”

The move to Olive Garden happened almost six years ago.

“For years, when I worked at Red Lobster, my wife was working at Olive Garden,” Krantz said. “We couldn’t work in the same restaurant.” (At that time, Red Lobster was also owned by Darden, but has since been sold to another company).

Krantz said he would come in and eat at Olive Garden when his wife was working, and he saw the interaction of the employees with the customers. He was impressed.

Then a mentor he admired joined Olive Garden. He followed her.

“She helped to create a way for me to get home to my family,” he said. “An opening occurred in Tacoma. It was a godsend. I was only thee and a half hours from my family. I could do that. We accepted that offer and I was ready to be in Tacoma.”

Then things changed again. And he gets emotional telling the story.

“But then they came back at me and said, ‘Tim, how about if we put you back in Richland?’ ”

That was 2013. Krantz accepted the position.

“My dream job has always been to be a director of operations,” he said.

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