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40 Under 40 - Class of 2015
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 6 years ago

Amy Johnson, 37

Operating director, PDQ

When she was 17, Amy Johnson got a job as a cashier at Hardee’s in Alachua County.

But the starting salary of $4.25 an hour didn’t deter Johnson. Within a year she was the general manager.

There was extra motivation, too. “Most 17-year-olds are thinking play money,” Johnson says. “My mom was single and I helped her out.”

Johnson’s management skills took her to Tampa, where she quickly became area director for Five Guys, overseeing nine restaurants for the fast-growing hamburger chain.

In December, Johnson opened a PDQ restaurant in Estero. “Being with Five Guys helped me a lot because I opened stores with them,” Johnson says. “I had the background.”

She moved to Estero about a month before the restaurant opened, hiring 45 people to staff it in just a few weeks. “The good thing about PDQ is they always set you up for success,” she says. “You have a timeline with a checklist.”

Still, she says staffing a restaurant remains the biggest challenge. The key is identifying a top employee and asking them to refer job candidates. “Word of mouth is really good when you find that person who is really solid,” she says.

Johnson says rising through the ranks and doing every restaurant job gives her credibility with the staff. “There’s nothing I would ask these guys I wouldn’t do myself,” she says. “It’s not all about point and direct.”

Expect Johnson to move up through the ranks at PDQ. “I was just offered a promotion,” she says. “I’m going to fly to Dallas on Thursday and check out that area.”

— Jean Gruss


Name: Amy Johnson

Age: 37

City of residence: Cape Coral

Twitter handle: N/A

Employer: PDQ

Title: Operating director

Birthplace: Gainesville

Years on the Gulf Coast: Nine

Marital status/children:  Married (wife), three children

Alma mater: Santa Fe College

Best place to network: In the restaurant

Coolest business experience: Meeting the Tampa Bay Rays (I’m a huge fan)

The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Trust but verify.  Inspect what you expect.

One website that makes your job easier: Hot Schedules

One community group you’re most involved with: Three Oaks Elementary and Estero High School

Favorite off-hours activity: Going to the beach

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: My grandmother and Princess Diana

What you would be doing if you could pick another career: I’d be in the medical field

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Bungeed off a 350-foot platform

What’s at the top of your bucket list: Seeing the Northern Lights

What new skill would you like to learn: Flipping houses

Who would play you in a movie about your life: Susan Sarandon

If I had a magic wand I’d: Make sure that no animal or human would know what it was like to ever be hungry, neglected or abused.

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