16:39 PM

Helen Sheridan, TPA Hospitality/Delaware North Restaurant Department Manager

Guests and employees who encounter Helen Sheridan typically don’t forget her. Her thick Irish brogue, attention to detail and no-nonsense managing style have made the TPA Hospitality Partners/Delaware North Department Manager one of the top leaders of Tampa International Airport’s restaurant scene.

Her philosophy for the four restaurants she manages – Airside E’s Four Green Fields and Panda Express and Airside A’s Auntie Anne’s and New York New York Pizza – is simple:

“Treat people the way you want to be treated,” Helen said. “I’m a big believer in that. Keep the place clean and greet people with a smile, even if you’re having a bad day.”

Helen’s rock-solid work ethic and hospitable nature were instilled in her early, growing up the youngest of five children in the small Irish town of Kilnaleck in County Cavan. She worked on her parents’ cattle farm and there was never time for lounging or being lazy as she stuck to her strict and constant daily routine of waking up early, catching the bus to school and coming home to milk cows and do house chores with her siblings. On Saturdays she washed the cows and on Sundays her family went to Mass and then came home to get dinner ready.

If a guest came to the house, there was always a kettle on and a comfy chair offered.

“You made sure everything was taken care of and your visitor felt welcome,” Helen said.

By age 14, Helen was working in her cousin’s bar, and by the time she finished school at age 17, she was ready to join her siblings and friends who emigrated and settled in New York. Once there, she worked as a waitress at a network of mom-and-pop restaurants and learned the ropes of managing staff and customer needs as she made her way up to management. After 14 years, she took a job at the Empire City Casino where she worked her way from the assistant concessions manager to overseeing 155 employees, from the cocktail waitresses to the coat check staff.

“It taught me a lot about the corporate world,” Helen said.

Along the way, Helen had two daughters – Jessica and Jazmine – and one of them moved to Tampa with her husband some years ago. Helen had been to Miami and Orlando but when she visited Tampa, she fell in love with the city’s culture, finding it more fun and laid back than other big Florida cities.

She packed her bags and moved to Tampa without a job but quickly found a new career in the concessions and dining industry, bringing her many years of experience running busy restaurants with her. Three-and-a-half years ago, she landed a job with Delaware North as the concessionaire company began opening a network of restaurants and bars at TPA. She began at RumFish Grill and now manages four of the Airport’s most popular restaurants, balancing the needs of passengers, employees and concessions partners to keep the both the fast food and sit-down restaurant concepts running smoothly.

Earlier this year, Panda Express awarded her restaurant at Airside E the Operations Excellence award for achieving outstanding reviews, an accomplishment that makes her quite proud after managing the restaurant from the start.

“Panda is my baby,” she said.

In her rare free time, Helen likes to spend quiet evenings relaxing in her Wesley Chapel home or visiting the Gulf Coast beaches. She also loves to online shop and spend time with her family. She is now the grandmother of one baby grandson who lives in Arizona and her daughter who lives in the Tampa Bay area is expecting a baby boy in November.