Pizza man extraordinaire, Nate Sleeper, sat down with us to talk about his 21 years at Pizza Hut. Currently a region director with 89 restaurants, Nate shares the value of support in the workplace and what keeps the sauce flowing in his veins.
Tell us about your Pizza Hut journey.
I’m originally from Michigan, started with Pizza Hut in Michigan and moved to Arizona in 2014. As a young adult, I grew up with the brand. I started out of high school when I became a server, and here I am today a region director with 89 restaurants under me.
How have you grown in your time with Pizza Hut?
When I think about the person that started back then, I was so shy. Never would have considered a management position or being a leader. I didn’t see that side of myself at all then. Over the course of time, I realized I was interested in leading and working with people and helping people along the way, and as years have gone on, I think the parts of me that have come out the most is developing myself and developing others, and how I can learn from people just as much as I can teach people. I wasn’t the outgoing server on the floor, but I have confidence and have found confidence in myself, not just at work.
How have the people you’ve worked with influenced your career?
So many different mentors that I’ve had the opportunity to be around, whether I knew they were my mentors at the time or not. One of the things that I think is really special about this brand is what we all can do for each other and helping each other. There is a lot of tenure out there. Hundreds of years in a room.
Recently, you shared your story with other team members about being part of the LGBTQ community. What was your goal in having that conversation?
In my 21 years with the brand, I’ve made changes in my life that could have been considered controversial to others, and all the folks in this organization welcomed me with open arms and gave me a fair chance. When I finally got brave enough to speak my truth, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was ok and they accepted me for who I am. It didn’t change how they viewed me as a leader. What I wanted everybody to take from my story of being part of the LGBTQ community, which can be very controversial for some, and sometimes you see negative things happening, is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
How do you extend that message to your own teams today?
Being somebody that listens is the first part. My teams know they can talk to me, because I think they know I’m just going to listen and not pass judgment on them. We have a lot of diversity in our stores. We’re very big on our open door policy, and we promote it often. Any time that somebody has a concern, they know they can call me, or their area coach or HR. It doesn’t matter who we are, they know they can reach out to us. The other thing is really working on watching and having tough conversations. Just like with making pizza, if we see something happening, if we don’t address it or say something, that becomes an ok standard. It’s so important for us to educate and talk about the right way to handle situations and to treat every person as a human being equally.
What motivates you to come to work every day?
It’s so important for me to reflect to my team happy, excited appreciation and gratitude for them and what they’re doing. I’ve been in their role, but certainly not in 2020 with the things a restaurant manager has to deal with now. I just put myself in their shoes and think about what I can do to help them. I just want to be an offer of help.
Who are you when you are not at work?
Family is a big thing for me. I’m newly married, and we have a 3 year old. When I’m not at work it’s spending time with him, teaching him different things, answering his “why” questions and spending time with my wife.
What is your favorite thing about working at Pizza Hut?
People! I tell people all the time – we make pizza, but we’re really in the people business. It’s a great combination to be able to work with people and have fun while you’re working and running a business. It’s a fun brand!
–This story is part of an ongoing series celebrating Pizza Hut’s diverse team members serving customers across the country–