Chad Jordan ’99 doesn’t hand out numbers at his restaurant — he calls customers by name when their orders are ready.
“Any restaurant can serve the food we provide at California Fresh,” he says. “But we learn people’s names, remember their favorite orders and make them feel welcome.”
Working in human resources after graduating helped Chad understand the importance of customer service. “I learned how to hire and interact with people and how to train them in any business,” he says. “We started California Fresh with great employees, and some of them still work for us.”
Chad never expected to own a restaurant in Santa Maria. He majored in economics and business and stayed in Santa Barbara for six years, pursuing a corporate career. Then the CEO of Chad’s company retired and proposed starting a business; Chad would run it, and he would help. One of Chad’s friends joined the venture, and the three of them started California Fresh in 2004. A second store opened in nearby Templeton a few years later.
Corporate catering became an important niche for the restaurant right away. About 50 percent of Chad’s business is providing lunch to a variety of businesses and government agencies.“We deliver free of charge, and it’s convenient for customers who don’t have time to pick up food,” he says.
For the first 72 hours of a wildfire, crews working for the U.S. Forest Service will eat food from California Fresh. Chad has a contract to deliver meals to firefighters until the Forest Service’s national caterer arrives.
Chad had always dreamed of doing business internationally, but he decided to franchise the restaurant on the West Coast, where the menu of freshly made sandwiches, soup, salads and smoothies appealed to local taste. Then Wall Street Café contacted him about placing California Fresh in the Gulf Coast Community of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait. The first restaurant opened in Doha, Qatar, in 2010 on the ground floor of a 33-story tower. The business targets Westerners, expatriates and American military familiar with sandwiches and smoothies. “In the next 10 years, we hope to open 15-20 stores in the region,” Chad says. “Qatar hosts the World Cup in 2022, and we want to be an established presence by then.” He now focuses on expanding the restaurant halfway around the world rather than California.
“Global experiences are great,” he says. “I’d never been to the Middle East before, and it’s been exciting to visit and learn about the culture.”
Chad appreciates the education he received from his Westmont professors. “They laid the foundation for real-world business experience,” he says. He met his wife, Michelle, at Westmont. She graduated in 2000 with a degree in biology and worked for a title company before their three children were born. She plans to go back to school, complete a credential and become a teacher.
Supporting organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, the soup kitchen and the food bank gives Chad an opportunity to minister to others. “I don’t always wear a cross on my sleeve, but faith is at the heart of what we do in the community,” he says. “We want to be a blessing.”
Westmont encourages community involvement, and Chad went to New Covenant Worship Center in Santa Barbara. He joined Pastor David Moore on mission trips and was ordained in the denomination, the African American Church of God in Christ. “It was a great experience,” he says. “I’ve been blessed in life. I’ve had a great natural father, a great spiritual father in David Moore, and a great business father who helped me learn how to run a restaurant.”