Krystal Harris: Our Titan of Training
As we open new stores, we wanted to check in with HipCityVeg’s Head of Training and Talent Development, Krystal Harris, on what it’s like to train new teams and how she became the ideal person to help build the best teams as we grow.
Not your typical Sunday morning
Krystal Harris didn’t watch the typical Sunday morning cartoons as a child. Instead, she was captivated by Julia Child and the WHYY cooking specials. Krystal grew up as the taste tester in her kitchen, helping her mother and grandmother when they let her prep meals. “I just liked being around food and cooking,” she recalls. “My love for working with my hands came from a really young age. I always knew I wanted to work in the food industry in that type of environment.”
In high school, Krystal attended a culinary arts vocational school to strengthen her cooking skills even further. But as she transitioned into adulthood, her set of skills and experiences expanded rapidly and widely. Krystal was eager to learn. “I was fascinated with the communications field,” she explains, so that’s what she studied in college. She floated around through various retail and restaurant jobs before landing a role in the military as a Geospatial Engineer. Yes, Krystal Harris is that cool.
Getting started at HipCityVeg
Intrigue and a desire to return to the restaurant industry brought Krystal to HipCityVeg in the beginning of 2014. “Dang! This is plant-based! How?” she wondered. “At the time, being vegan was different. It wasn’t as cool as it is now, it wasn’t as hip. You would go to a restaurant and have to search through five different sides to put together a meal.” Krystal immediately felt a connection to the company’s culture when she had a one-on-one conversation with CEO and founder Nicole Marquis right away during her interview process. This type of close-knit, positive culture is one that Krystal has worked hard to maintain during her time with HipCity. “I’m honored to be one of the people to keep the original culture going. We bring the culture, we bring the positive vibes, the good energy.”
Krystal describes herself as a natural leader. “People listen to me, people like to listen to me,” she says. “Being on a wait staff, serving, bartending, working hard and working my way up got me here.” During her first two years at HipCityVeg, anyone who was trained as a manager would immediately be sent to Krystal for guidance. She gradually started taking over new store openings until the Head of Training and Talent Development position was created just for her. “It just naturally happened.”
Opening the doors at Union Square
So what’s it like to open a new restaurant in a new city in 2021? “Training was tough at first because we couldn’t be face to face soon enough,” she admits. Opening the doors at Union Square during a pandemic was a challenge in itself, not to mention labor and supply chain shortages making it difficult to get the space set up in time. “It’s a trickle-down effect,” Krystal says. “Every industry is still affected to this day.”
But once all the supplies came in and the team could get started, everyone had a great attitude. “I like New York energy – it’s fast,” Krystal shares. “The long days don’t matter in the end. The doors are open, people want to work for us. It’s just not a job.” Even when things are constantly in motion, and emergencies crop up, everyone is ready for it. This is because they were trained by Krystal.
Krystal describes her training process as a well-oiled engine. “If something isn’t working right, I’m trying to find what part of training needs to improve. Where can I train better so that this will flow?” she asks herself. “I’m the type of person to put attention towards those types of things. Consistency is key. Stay consistent unless an opportunity presents itself and then take it from there.”
It’s the attention to every detail, including training of new team members, that is an essential part of providing the best food and service to every HipCityVeg guest that comes in the door. “The guests have been amazing,” Krystal gushes. “They’re so open and so welcoming! They make the entire experience even better.”
New York, we are blown away by your enthusiasm and kindness! We couldn’t have done it without you, and we couldn’t have done it without our Head of Training and Talent Development, Krystal Harris.