When Daniel Fitzpatrick started out in the restaurant business nearly 40 years ago, he began as a cook and bottle washer for Burger King. His duties included everything from managing the grill to mopping floors.
Today is a much different story.
Fitzpatrick is currently the president and CEO of Quality Dining, Inc., a corporation that owns and operates 223 restaurants across the nation – including 165 Burger Kings. But while his title and job duties may have changed, Fitzpatrick still sees one major similarity in the job he first held and his current position.
“In one respect, I’m still the leader,” said Fitzpatrick. “I still have to bring energy to what we do. I’ve got to be as much of a spiritual leader about being excited everyday to serve our guests and manage our business well.”
En route to becoming the businessman he is today, some key parts of Fitzpatrick’s success started while he attended Cardinal Stritch Catholic High School.
The 1975 alum was very active in high school, participating in athletics and various other activities the school offered. But in addition, he was also very active with his family and worked long hours after school, all while instilling the values that were re-enforced at Stritch Catholic.
“My family, myself, all of us are pretty grateful that we had the opportunity to go to Stritch,” said Fitzpatrick. “There were probably a thousand intersections in our lives where things could have went well or went bad – and things went well.”
Fitzpatrick and his family lived in a rough neighborhood and went through some trying times. His father suffered a massive stroke at age 43 and spent 17 years dependent on others.
“My mother was the principle caregiver but we all took our shots. Whether it was feeding him, bathing him, bathroom, TV and even reading to him, whatever it was, we helped out,” said Fitzpatrick. “At one point in time, I thought everyone had a hospital bed in their living room with one of their parents living in it.
“That was a huge burden for my mother, but it instilled in us this work ethic (that my family has), because I was basically a fulltime worker.”
Fitzpatrick has not forgotten where his roots and continues to be a big supporter of Catholic schools. Over the course of his career, he has generously given back to the Catholic community.
Like the business side of his life, Fitzpatrick sees the money he gives to Catholic schools as an investment, and it is an investment he feels has yielded a great return over the years.
In addition to supporting schools and helping give countless children a chance at a successful life, Fitzpatrick is helping young people prosper in his own business.
After buying a number of restaurants in the Tampa market, Fitzpatrick spent two weeks in Florida training employees. In the process, he also promoted a number of crew members to entry-level management positions, which is when his latest awestruck story begins.
“As I’m doing this (training managers), one young lady says, ‘Can I have a moment?’ I said sure and she got up and walked away from the table,” said Fitzpatrick. “She comes back to the table after a couple of minutes and I asked if everything was all right. She says ‘Look, no one’s ever believed in me before. The fact that you’d give me this opportunity at this point in my life is extraordinary.’ ”
While the job opportunity was a bit overwhelming, Fitzpatrick’s support didn’t stop there. He gave her a pep talk, and advice she could use outside the business world as well.
“I said (to the young lady) ‘Well, quite frankly, I’m not sure you believe in yourself. As I saw in you, you need to believe in yourself. You gave us a chance to believe in you and we couldn’t be happier.’
“This woman is just doing a terrific job now. That type of touch is what we see in this business all the time and that’s kind of what jazzes me up.”
(Story courtesy of St. Kateri Catholic Schools. Reprinted with permission from the 2012-13 St. Kateri Annual Report)