Clay Dover started as a busboy. Now he's the President of one of the hottest brands that's blowing up.


This interview with Clay Dover, the President of Velvet Taco, is part of Inspirations, a regular series from Helen Lao and ClearPath that asks extraordinary founders, executives, and rising stars in the growth-oriented food industry about their why.

Clay has held various roles for some of the most successful restaurant brands and 25 years of restaurant operations and marketing experience with a variety of restaurant brands. He recently served as a co-chair of the NRA Marketing Executives Group and as an advisory board member of several restaurant industry organizations. He was awarded the 2012 CMO of the Year award by the American Marketing Association in Dallas.

Clay continues to be a role-model for many 'Rising Stars' within the industry.

Who or what inspires you and why?

Our Velvet Taco Managers and Team Members inspire me each day. Running a restaurant is hard work, our managers do it with a smile, while the Team is making Taco's at a high volume. I appreciate our team's effort each and every day.

What types of people do you work best with and why?

I work best with people who are positive and those who want to make an impact in their workplace. We have to keep moving forward in our industry, changes are happening right in front of us each day and we have to continually be evolving in order to be successful.

What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far and why?

Having to do everything on my own from a young age. Our family did not have much and I began bussing tables at age 15 to buy my own clothes, paid for college by waiting tables, and supported my young family as a restaurant manager working 60 + hours a week. While challenging, it also helped create my drive for for success, and taught me the value of hard work.

What’s something you’ve worked on that you’re proud of and why?

I have always worked on helping others whether with their individual career or in their positions. Some of my proudest accomplishments have been when someone from my team is promoted or takes a bigger role with another company. I find joy when I am able to provide help, advise, or support to others.

What’s been one of your greatest rewards in business and why?

Making great friends in the restaurant industry. I've come to lean on those relationships for professional and personal support throughout my life.

Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self and why? 

Patience. Let things come to you. Don't try to rush everything when you are young.

What's the one word that describes you and why?

Driven. I want to be successful at whatever I set my mind to, and nothing will stop me from achieving my goals.

What’s one company, brand, or individual that you admire and why?

Raising Cane's. I was fortunate to spend over 6 years there as we grew from 62 to 232 restaurants and established the Dallas based RSO. To be part of that team was instrumental in my development, and the lessons learned from the founder, Todd Graves, CEO Brad Sanders, and others were invaluable. The Company lives and embraces its culture, yet maintains the highest expectations for success. It is a one-of-a-kind company.

What is one thing you’d like to accomplish this year and why?

Exceed our 2019 Velvet Taco growth and EBITDA goals. It sounds pretty boring, but we have set aspirational goals because we are an aspirational brand. Our team is working hard and I'd like to be able to celebrate achieving our lofty goals.

What is one book that you think everyone should read and why?

Oh, The Places You Will Go by Dr. Seuss. There are many fantastic life lessons in the last book written before Dr. Seuss's death. Lessons such as: You already have everything you need in order to succeed. You’re in control of your destiny. And most importantly, You were made to do the impossible, because impossible is made possible through each step you take, so never put a limit to who you can be and what you can achieve. It's a great book.


About ClearPath

At ClearPath, we value relationships over everything because we know that great people are the secret sauce to success. We serve as ambassadors for our growth brands--connecting them with leaders they need to build their businesses. Our focused and modern approach to executive search empowers us to match the right candidates--faster. 

Our clients do not hire us to search for the right candidate, but to find the perfect match. So we call what we do, executive matching. #executivematching

Helen Lao