American culture has paved a path to success, one that has dictated the life choices of many of us from a young age: go to college, graduate, receive degrees along with the associated student loans, and get a job quickly so you can pay them off. As the nation’s collective student loan debts reach numbers in the hundreds of billions, the concept of a college education has become a big question mark, riddled with dollar signs. For Dale Moore, the senior director of facilities at Cava, college wasn’t even a discussion. For him, the “unconventional” was the norm.
“In my situation, college wasn’t offered to me. It wasn’t a thing in my household, so it wasn’t something I even thought about,” Dale recounts. “My parents were both blue-collar; my dad worked in construction, and my mom worked in a shipping department. Neither of them went to college, and that was the culture we all lived in.” So, when his friends went off to college, Dale knew it was time for him to enter the workforce.
Starting from the age of eighteen, Dale worked several jobs until he found one at a construction company specializing in restaurant repairs. Beginning as a helper, Dale worked night shifts, mostly hauling out the trash from the work site. But in his seven years at the company, Dale was able to work his way up: first, to working the day shift, then becoming a service technician, and finally, stepping into an assistant project manager role.
“I knew that I didn’t want to swing a hammer for the rest of my life. I had the drive, and how I did it was by being very persistent. I went to the owner and asked for opportunities to do what he did. Whether it was in my own free time or paid, I didn’t really care. I just wanted to get my foot in the door and start learning,” explains Dale.
In time, Dale’s drive paid off. The opportunities and his hard work aligned, and Dale found himself first in line as the company’s account manager, where he got to work with restaurants like Olive Garden, PF Chang’s, Chick-fil-A, and Chipotle—one of his biggest customers and the company he would later spend six years working for, eventually becoming the restaurant chain’s lead facilities manager.
A few years later, a colleague reached out to Dale from Cava—a Mediterranean food and restaurant chain—about stepping in as their Senior Director of Facilities. Since entering the position, the company’s development team has been leading the project to transform Zoe’s Kitchen Restaurants into Cava locations, with Dale assisting along the way.
As the project begins to wrap up this year, Dale reflects on how his internal teams and vendor partnerships have grown. “I strongly believe that our partnerships are a conduit of us, it’s not us versus them. We solve problems together,” says Dale.
In fact, problem solving, whether it’s critical or creative, is a big part of the job and a key element that Dale pushes all of his team members to learn. “We never want to say no; we’re problem solvers by nature. If you hit a dead end, you think outside of the box to get around that barrier and the next.” This mindset also bleeds into his other leadership values, as all team members’ ideas are actively encouraged. “We have people from different genders, nationalities cultures, and experiences, and we have people from backgrounds in retail, restaurants, and gyms. When one of us has an idea, we all can learn from it. In the end, everyone rises together.”
Build a Life without a Degree
Pursuing a college education is a big life choice, especially for those whose parents didn’t do so. If anyone knows about that, it’s Dale Moore. Growing up in a blue-collar family, even he admits that going to college wasn’t much of a consideration, let alone a discussion they had at the dinner table.
Today, Dale offers advice to those who may not have the space, or the resources, to have those big conversations. As Dale says, “It all depends on what you strive to be.”
For Dale, there were some advantages to not going to college: “I was able to get a head start by entering the workforce at an early age.” However, there have been some disadvantages along with them. “I didn’t get that basic experience in writing, public speaking, math, or Excel sheets— those are all things I’m catching up to,” says Dale.
Nevertheless, he’s gotten this far. But, to climb the ranks in his early days, Dale could not just do what he was asked— he had to push himself to pursue more. Dale also has dyslexia and is proud to be an inspiring figure for anyone who has struggled with similar challenges.
“You definitely have to put yourself out there, to be around the right people, and be willing to learn from them,” he explains. “I learned a lot in the field, and I don’t think people should think negatively about going to college later in life. As my career continues to grow, maybe getting an MBA is something I’ll want.”