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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

Fort Worth Restaurant Owner Is Both A Boss And A Life Coach

A Fort Worth business owner is working tirelessly to make sure her employees don’t fall over the financial edge. She makes it her mission to employ, educate, and embrace each and every one of her staff members.

It's the story of a boss turned life coach.

ChadraMezza is a busy Mediterranean restaurant in Fort Worth. Christina Elbitar and her husband Nehme own the place. They have a second restaurant and catering company, too.

Keeping all that food moving takes a lot of people, about 50 employees.

And Elbitar isn’t your typical boss.

“I find myself in a coaching situation a lot,” she says.

From Banking To Transportation

When she says coaching, she means life and financial coaching.

Many of her employees come from low-income families and are trying to work their way through college. Most still live at home and help pay bills. So Elbitar does the best she can to teach them how to manage money. Her banker was a big help.

“She came and spoke to them about the importance of having a checking account. A lot of my employees would have their money stolen because they saved it in their rooms and somebody would come and take it," Elbitar says. "And that breaks my heart because I know how much they work for it.”

Another big issue is transportation. Elbitar says broken down cars are a constant reality for her employees. She encourages staffers to take the bus, but doesn’t expect them to walk in the dark.

“Sometimes we’re here until after 11, especially on weekends. And we drive people home," Elbitar says.

She also shuttles employees to doctor’s appointments and has even sprung for textbooks.

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA news
KERA news
Lizeth Garcia has been working as a waitress at Chadra Mezza for eight months.

Lizeth Garcia has been on the receiving end of that type of kindness many times. She’s been a server at Chadra Mezza for eight months. She’s also the mother of a two-year-old and an art major at Tarrant County College.

“She’s the only boss I’ve had like this and I’ve had good bosses," Garcia says. "I think we’ve all had our share of not-so-great ones. I’ve also had good ones, but not like this. I mean she really goes above and beyond.”

Putting Employees First: 'Really Special'

Elbitar always arranges Garcia’s shifts around school and childcare: Letting her be a mom and student first, and an employee second.

When Garcia was able to finance her first car, she says Elbitar was beaming.

"She makes you feel important, and like your accomplishments are also important to her. And that’s really special," Garcia says.

Elbitar doesn’t believe in keeping her personal life and work life separate. She says it makes more sense to retain happy employees than constantly fire and re-hire.

“There’s a people perspective too. Keeping someone here and welcoming them into our little family here of our restaurant at Chadra, that’s important, that’s really important," Elbitar says. "That’s the only way we’re going to get better.”

At Chadra Mezza, staffers might argue things are already pretty good.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.