Confessions of Randy Lait

Published in FSD Update

Randy Lait admires his mother, wishes he were a better typist and would be a now-retired NFL punter if not for his career in foodservice.

Randy Lait, senior director of hospitality services at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, admires his mother, wishes he were a better typist and would be a now-retired NFL punter if not for his career in foodservice.

Q. What is the best part of your job?

I have the opportunity to lead a great staff at an up-and-coming university, serving some of the finest students anywhere. Plus, it’s never boring and I’ve had many remarkable experiences here during my career.

Q. What is the worst part of your job?

Those rare days when things don’t go well and the staff knows it and feel they have let me down. We’re all in this together, so we learn from it, make changes to improve and move forward … together. Unless you did something really, really bad.

Q. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Leading NC State University Dining through a total transformation. I took on the leadership role as our department was reorganized into a new division with other auxiliaries, and as we embarked on multiple simultaneous construction and renovation projects. We planned 13 new concepts in three facilities that all opened within eight months of each other. We totally changed our approach to food, culinary staffing plans, nutrition, catering and operating methods at the same time and were able to successfully navigate a transformation of our department.

Q. What is the most unusual foodservice/catering request you have ever received?

President Obama’s staff requested limes and a knife while visiting our campus for a speech. Have you ever tried to approach the president’s waiting area with a chef’s knife?  I can’t say it was that unusual a request, but we certainly spent an usual amount of time and effort in determining how to accomplish this simple task. Mission accomplished, by the way.

Q. If you weren't in foodservice what would you be doing?

I would be a punter in the NFL. Retired, now. At least I always thought I could have done that, despite having never played football in middle school, high school or college. I just know.

Q. If you had a time machine what historical event or era would you visit?

I think I would travel forward and see how things turn out for us all.

Q. Which talent would you most like to have?

I would most like to be able to type well. My wife and daughters all type at a remarkably fast and accurate level. I cannot string together eight characters without an error and I am typing emails, memos and reports constantly. I am a pretty good writer, but turning the thoughts into typed letters is a chore.

Q. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I were better at recognizing opportunities and seizing them. I’m not normally the last to catch on, but I wish I were first more often than I am.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?

My mom. For more reasons than I can express.

Q. What would be your dream vacation?

Beach, family, sun, cool breeze. We live this dream most every summer at least once.

Q. What is your favorite meal?

Rib-eye from Del Friscos, with au gratin potatoes and creamed corn.

Q. If you could eat dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

Abraham Lincoln. Hands down.

Q. What is your "guilty pleasure?"

Staying in bed way too late on a weekend morning watching silly movies like “Austin Powers.”

Q. What will people always find in your refrigerator?

Butter, not margarine.

Q. What is your most treasured possession?

I can’t say that I have one … they’re just possessions. There are things that I hang on to, like a golf ball signed by Lee Elder, a snow globe I had as a child, but these are just things. I value people more.

Q. What food fad do you wish had never started?

Fresh-ground peanut butter spread on a banana.

Q. What activity is at the top of your bucket list?

I want to learn to play the guitar, even if only at a caveman level.

Q. What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?

Chef Boyardee Spaghetti with Cheetos mixed in. I still do this once a year, at least … when I want to reconnect with my inner little boy version of myself. Stop laughing and try it.

Q. Are you a morning or evening person?

Evening … but getting better about mornings later in life.

Q. What are your words to live by?

In the absence of information, people will make up their own version of the truth and it will tend to be the most negative version they can come up with. So always tell your story, inform your staff and customers and help people know what to think about you and what you do.