A family business

Karen Worth follows career in fast food with daughters by her side

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Karen Worth

It is a bright, chilly November afternoon.

Karen Worth is walking into Wendy's when she hears 20-year-old Amanda call out, "Were you cold out there, boss?"

It is true that Karen, as Wendy's district manager, is Amanda's boss. Ditto for 19-year-old Kimberly.

But where the difference between these two employees and others is this - Karen is Amanda and Kimberly's mother.

"Both my girls work for me," Karen said. "It's definitely a family business."

For nearly three decades, the quick-paced, high-energy nature of the fast food industry has kept Karen in the business. And she's brought her two daughters along with her.

"They've been around fast food since they were 3 or 4," she said.

Karen brought the girls to the restaurants where she worked and taught them the basics of customer service, including how to serve drinks and greet customers.

Kimberly remembers those early times.

"It wasn't so much work," Kimberly said. "It was running around, having fun."

At least, it wasn't work then.

Now, as an assistant manager of Wendy's in Steamboat, Kimberly works under her mother's supervision.

Karen has worked in the fast food industry for nearly 30 years. She began at 14 years old, shortly after she immigrated to the United States from England at age 11. She and her parents lived in several states before they finally settled in Colorado.

Compared to the greenery of the British Isles, the terrain of western Colorado appeared otherworldly -"like a moonscape on a Star Trek episode," she said.

After graduating from high school at age 17, she began her career.

Upon moving to Craig in 1990, Karen was hired on as a crewmember at Burger King, where she worked 12 years and eventually became general manager.

For a change of scenery, she hired on with a Steamboat Springs Wendy's restaurant. When a new Wendy's restaurant came to Craig, Karen was there to see its construction crews break ground.

Karen became general manager of the new restaurant, a position she's held for seven years. During that time, she also became district manager for Craig and Steamboat restaurants.

For Karen and her two daughters, work includes joking, teasing and the occasional squabble, Karen said.

"Sometimes it's a little frustrating, but we all get along," Amanda said.

"I think it's more frustrating for them than for me," Karen added. "I expect more from them."

The industry has changed since before Karen, who also has a 15-year-old son named Christian, and her daughters began working together.

"Everything's computerized," including grills and fryers, she said.

"Food safety has come a long way," she added.

In recent years, fast food restaurants have remodeled their kitchens to make them visible to the public so consumers can see how their food is prepared.

Karen notices all these changes when she steps into another fast food restaurant.

"I'm more aware," she said. "I see a different picture than other people do."

The fast food business isn't the only factor that's changed in 30 years. Karen also has noticed changes in Craig.

"Craig is building, building, building," she said. "It's just growing."

Although Karen and her two daughters have stayed close together, the future also could hold changes for them.

Kimberly is considering enrolling in cosmetology school while Amanda plans to enter the Navy and work on computerized submarine navigation systems.

Ultimately, Amanda said, she'd return to her boss and her mother, "no matter what."

Similarly, Karen foresees her children eventually returning to Craig - a place, she said, conducive to raising children.

"It's Craig," Karen said. "They don't leave; if they do, they come back."

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