Behind the success of an Auburn staple, The Hound is a staff hungry to succeed in the restaurant industry. Kasha Walters, the general manager, is no exception.
Known for its trendy decor, Sunday brunch and great food, this downtown restaurant is a thriving homegrown operation.
Walters was honored at this year’s Stars of the Industry award ceremony as Alabama Restaurant Manager of 2018.
She has been with the business for a little over four years, but she never intended to be anything more than a server upon starting her journey there.
“I came here only to get a serving job,” she said. “I had moved here from Birmingham, and I wanted to work at either the Auburn Hotel or The Marriott doing sales, which is what I had been doing in Birmingham.”
After speaking with the owners, she found out they were looking for a new manager, but this was not what she had in mind, so she just took the serving job.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
“I was serving for about three weeks, and I went back to the owners because I loved it so much and said I was going to give being a manager a shot,” Walters said.
Looking back now, Walters believes she never would have become a restaurant manager if it was not for The Hound. She decided to try it because of how much she enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant.
“I still can’t believe how it all came together,” she said.
Recently, Walters was nominated for the Alabama Hotel and Restaurant Association’s annual award ceremony under restaurant manager of 2018 in all of Alabama.
Of all the nominees, she was one of the finalists selected by the board to attend the dinner award ceremony.
“My husband and I went down there,” Walters said. “It was a Monday night dinner, and we didn’t know anyone.”
When her name was announced as the winner, Walters was in shock.
“I was floored and honored just to be nominated, but to win the award was so unexpected,” she said. “It took me a minute to catch my breath.”
Walters is so honored to have this award because of how much she respected all the other experienced managers in the category. However, she said winning titles is not her goal for her career.
“I didn’t go into this career for recognition,” she said. “I am passionate about hospitality, leadership and career development.”
Walters thinks she was nominated by the owners of The Hound after being able to read the nomination.
“The nomination said how there is never a job too small for me,” she said. “I’ll wash dishes, bus tables, all the way up to forecasting to budgeting for the year to come.”
She said she does this because her goal is for each and every customer to have a perfect and seamless experience from the moment they walk in to when the door closes behind them.
“Whatever falls into that job description is my responsibility to help ensure that it happens,” Walters said.
She takes this goal to heart, and everyday strives to make customers happy. Walters did so even while being interviewed by stopping what she was saying just to say thank you and goodbye to customers walking out the door.
The general manager truly loves her job and where she works.
“This award encapsulates all of the hard work and all of the 16 hour days and early mornings we have had to do over the past four years,” she said. “It was kind of the cherry on top.”
She knows that no matter how many awards she or the restaurant wins, the restaurant’s mission is to please the customer. Awards do not outweigh good service and atmosphere in the eyes of a customer, Walters said.
“As much as I am honored to have this award, really the only thing that matters is the customers that come in this building today and tomorrow have an exceptional experience,” she said.
Her favorite part of her job is leading the rest of the team.
“It does take a team to pull off this operation,” she said. “While it does take parts of us, it takes each of us. Leading the staff is my favorite thing. I have met some of the hardest working, most intelligent and kindest human beings.”
Walters said this award is not just for her, but her whole team. The first thing she did after she won was call her team.
“I called to tell them that we had received this recognition because I can’t be manager of the year without being staff of the year,” she said.
Working at The Hound inspires Walters, and she sees the restaurant to be a great place for people to grow and find their passion. As for what has inspired her the most, she said it is the entrepreneurship.
“Working for Matt and Jana (the owners) has given me the freedom and the space to really test the boundaries of what leadership capabilities I have,” she said. “Nothing is a crazy idea to them. They are intelligent, respected employers and entrepreneurs.”
She admires them for making their dream of the restaurant become a reality.
“I had that same dream for myself and same desire to create something,” she said. “To continue this on and create more jobs and boost the economy and create more space for people to make exceptional memories is the passion that I have.”
The award recipient believes the restaurant is growing and is on track to continue to do great things. As for her job, she sees herself moving with the company.
“I will be at The Hound until we create the next opportunity for us,” Walters said. “Hopefully internal growth is where I am going.”
She is happy with where she is right now in her career, but winning this award reassures her that she is capable of doing more. Whenever a new opportunity from growth comes about, she will embrace stepping into a new position.
“When I won, I thought about how I never envisioned myself even being a restaurant manager, and now, four very long but very short years later, I am getting this statewide recognition,” Walters said. “This makes me think if I continue to be passionate, work hard and keep my priorities right the sky is the limit.”
She said this award has lit a spark under her.
Walters also gives credit to her husband, who is an owner of Little Italy Pizzeria, for why she strives for greatness.
“The only way any of this is possible is because I have a husband at home who is like, ‘It’s fine, honey, stay and close the restaurant late. I’ll be here when you get home,’” she said. “Him being there, seeing me win that award was everything. Having him there by my side winning was definitely the highlight of the evening.”
Walters never saw this as her career or life, but it has worked out to be unforgettable and a journey of personal discovery. She is in love with where she is and what she is doing.
“We can create whatever we want to with hard work, passion and some resources,” she said. “I’ve been here four years, but it feels like we are just getting started.”
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman