After TV journalist Alex Benes lost his appetite for the news industry, he turned to a long-time passion: the restaurant industry.
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Benes, a 30-year TV news veteran, says he became hungry for the major career shift in 2006.
“I had done everything I wanted to do -- everything I thought I wanted to do in TV news and journalism. I covered wars, covered politics, covered presidential campaigns, done a lot of investigative work … I think for me the industry changed in a way where I no longer shared a lot of its values,” says Benes, whose career included stints at ABC, Univision, NBC and CBS.
Benes, who had invested in his cousin’s growing restaurant chain Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill in the early ‘90s, says he decided to move out to California to help the business.
“I essentially said, ‘Look, I’ll come out and help. We’ll consolidate the corporate structure – the home office, as we call it – because we need to bolster finance, human resources, communications and marketing, [as] we were becoming a bigger company,’” says Benes, who today is a partner at the company.
Benes oversees communications and culinary development for the chain, which serves American cuisine with a focus on barbecue. Today, the company operates 14 locations in Southern California, and is planning an expansion to the East Coast, with a Virginia restaurant planned for early 2015.
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And while journalism and restaurants might not seem to be a natural pairing, Benes says his first career amply prepared him for his role at Wood Ranch.
“Moving into management at the networks and having to do budgets and worrying about labor relations and things like that are certainly skills you can apply to any business. But I think journalism in particular prepares you for dealing with people and that’s what we are: it’s a people business,” says Benes.
Thinking about leaving your current industry? Benes has one fundamental piece of advice: Stick to your interests.
“I’d say follow your passion and that sounds cliché, but that’s really just true,” says Benes, who attended culinary school to learn more about professional cooking. “Do what you like, pursue it… see how you can turn it into making money.”
As for him, Benes says he has no intention to go back to journalism – or anywhere else.
“I don’t know what I’d like to do more [than this],” says Benes.