Fortune magazine Top 50 Most Powerful Woman in America · (1955 - )
Began career as 16-year-old waitress in one of IHOP's pancake palaces. Now CEO and chair of the board of IHOP Corp., which is the nation's largest casual dining chain.
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Listening: Recognized that skills learned in the server trenches are key to effective leadership. Her mantra: listening to customer feedback feeds success. Lucky connection: Stewart snagged an entry level job offer with the Carl's Jr. burger chain after a chance airplane conversation with the company's founder.
In management training at Taco Bell, she toiled on the night shift as a self-described "terrible taco maker," but continued to push profits at her stores by coaching employees to exceed customer expectations. Later she climbed the ranks at Applebee's where she became president and was promised — then passed over for — the top executive spot. She turned the setback into a triumph after jumping to IHOP and acquiring the company that had failed to promote her. Wall Street has rewarded her turning around the beleaguered IHOP brand -- reinventing its franchise business model and revamping its restaurants. Now she's tackling an Applebee's transformation.Known for mentoring and a hands-on management approach, she's true to her roots: "I would never hire anyone in an executive position that I didn't have a meal with because I really feel strongly about how people treat each other," she said. "Did you recognize [the server] and what they brought to the experience and thank them? If you're going to be in our business, you have to have that spirit of customer focus."
Visalia, CA. An only child, her father was a high school history teacher; her mother a physical education teacher.
San Diego State University, B.S. in Communications.
Filmmaker Tim Ortman in 2007; couple lives in the Los Angeles area with her children from a previous marriage, Alec 11, and Aubrey 9.