“I’ve found my niche,” says Heather Lolley, director of restaurant operations for Link Restaurant group.

Every day Lolley is charged with overseeing the operations of five downtown restaurants: Pêche, Herbsaint, Cochon, Butcher and Calcasieu. Link Restaurant Group is led by restaurant veterans Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski.

A veteran of the restaurant industry, where she got her first start at the age of 18 working as a hostess for Houston’s on St. Charles Avenue, Lolley honed her customer service skills for years working at various restaurants, including Landry’s in Lakeview and Emeril’s Delmonico, before she was first introduced to Donald Link and Tim Jackson in 2000 when she became a bartender at Herbsaint.

“In 2004, I became the floor manager at Herbsaint,” she says. “Then Katrina hit.”

Lolley says Link demonstrated true leadership skills throughout the ordeal. “He paid us through the hurricane,” she says. “It was amazing. He really took care of us.”
Link opened Cochon, along with Stryjewski, in 2006. “When the general manager left I threw my hat in the ring,” Lolley says. She got the position.

Butcher and Calcasieu soon followed in 2009, the same year Lolley returned to Herbsaint, this time in the role of general manager. “As the business grew, we had to start building a corporate structure,” she says. In ’11, Lolley was offered the job of director of restaurant operations.

“My job is to develop the managers, to conduct the weekly meetings and to deliver the vision from the chef to the managers and the staff,” she says. “It’s a nice ballet when it all comes together.”

Lolley says she’s most excited about the recent expansion in her job description. “We recently started our own foundation,” she says. The Link Stryjewski Foundation “is something I’m really excited about. YEP and Kingsley House will be our main charities.

“I’m excited to start hosting our own events for these organizations,” she says. “Both are getting to the root of the problem – offering young people a secure, safe place to learn that allows them to make better choices and create more opportunities for themselves.”

Lolley says Link Restaurant Group has been involved in charity work for years, lending their support to events like Boudin & Beer and Hogs for the Cause, as well as directly to organizations like the Tipitina’s Foundation and the Edible Schoolyard.

Mentor: My mother. She’s always been able to walk in other people’s shoes and see the good in anyone and put people at ease – all-important things in the service industry. I’d say Donald (Link) and Steven (Stryjewski), too. They are two very different minds working toward the same goal and have taught me so much.

Defining moment: I’d have to say Katrina. It pushed me to take a chance and take that general manager job.

Advice to young women: Believe you’re worth it. You can do anything you want. You’re strong enough and you deserve it.

Goals: I want to get more involved on a community level. I like the direction we’re going in. I want to see us make greater effects for our city.

Favorite thing about what I do: It doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like I’m hanging out with friends and family, people I enjoy spending time with.