When Varun Kakar was 16 years old, he decided to get a job to make a little money. Through a family friend, he heard that Fox Run, an Erickson Senior Living community in Novi, Mich., needed servers for one of its on-campus restaurants.
Looking back, he had no idea that starting this front-of-house job would lead to a professional, long-standing career in dining with Erickson Senior Living.
Growing up with Erickson
During his teenage years, Kakar held many different positions at Fox Run. He spent a year as a server, then worked as a service coach, training new servers. As Kakar started his freshman year of college, he was looking to work more hours, and luckily, he didn’t have to look far. Kakar remained at Fox Run, working as a banquet server with additional hours, as he completed college courses.
But he didn’t stop there. Kakar earned his associate degrees from Oakland Community College in business administration, management, and operations during the seven years he was working at Fox Run. Those years of higher education set him up perfectly to work in leadership roles.
When a supervisory position opened up in dining at Fox Run, Kakar applied.
“I was very lucky and blessed to get it because that was the first time I was in any sort of leadership position,” he says. After a very successful first year, he was promoted to assistant general manager.
On the move
After saying a bittersweet goodbye to Fox Run, Kakar moved to Maris Grove, an Erickson Senior Living community in Glen Mills, Pa., as a dining general manager. Then, he joined Erickson’s corporate dining team as a traveling general manager.
“I would go to different communities and provide support,” he recalls.
Kakar wanted to continue his education, but traveling all over the country posed a challenge. Recognizing his educational aspirations, Erickson celebrated his ambitious attitude and welcomed flexibility.
“They worked around my school schedule,” he says, so he was able to continue working full-time while attending classes. “I really appreciated it.”
He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Southern New Hampshire University.
Decisions that impact residents
Kakar says he learned a lot while traveling to other communities within the organization.
“I got the feeling that I was a part of something bigger,” he says.
“Whether I was training a new general manager, onboarding a new assistant manager, or just providing support, it all gave me a lot of insight,” explains Kakar. Building on his earlier experience at Fox Run and Maris Grove, he says he learned so much more about the company and the importance of the dining experience at the communities. “All the decisions you make have to be really well thought out - you truly impact the residents.”
Moving onward - and farther south - Kakar’s next position with Erickson was director of dining services at Highland Springs, an Erickson Senior Living community in Dallas, Tex. When the same role opened up at Siena Lakes, a new community being built in Naples, Fla., Kakar wanted to take all the skills and experience he gained to launch the dining program there.
“There’s been so much that’s exciting about working at Siena Lakes. The sense of being part of something new and seeing where it has grown - from the ground up - has been great,” he says.
Kakar has greatly enjoyed developing the dining program, working with vendors, hiring and training staff, getting to know the area, and meeting new residents. He also liked conducting research by checking out local restaurants to figure out what dishes the people moving into Siena Lakes would prefer.
‘Sense of accomplishment’
Kakar’s twelve years with Erickson Senior Living has awarded him with career satisfaction and upward mobility.
“I have such a sense of accomplishment,” he says.
When he’s not at work, Kakar loves spending time with his fiancé Brittanee and their two cats, Leo and Lynx. Not surprisingly, he’s also earning his MBA from Southern New Hampshire University.
He’s also known to play a mean game of pickleball - especially when it’s staff versus residents.
“They don’t take it easy on us,” Kakar says, laughing.
Most importantly, Kakar says, he really appreciates the people who live at Siena Lakes.
“I don’t think they look at us as employees; they look at us like family!”
To learn more about affordable, independent senior living at Siena Lakes, request your free brochure to get the scoop on amenities, floor plans, and so much more.