Not everyone knows the “why” in the work they do. Najla Haywood’s why is simple and she has never questioned it.
It’s her family’s legacy.
Haywood left her career in Washington, D.C., to help lead one of Charlotte’s largest Black-owned businesses, FDY Inc., a food service management company that’s been in operation for more than 40 years.
The company owns and operates retail brands across several states, including several businesses inside Charlotte’s airport.
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In April, the family-owned company will officially open its latest space — a restaurant located inside Goodwill’s Opportunity Campus on Wilkinson Boulevard.
Floyd David Young started FDY, alongside his wife Norma in 1982. His first contract was with Johnson C. Smith University, where Young had previously worked as food service director.
Because of his work at the college, he knew the needs of the local community as well as what it took to manage the dining hall.
Haywood told QCity Metro her grandfather wanted his company to do things: “elevate the dining experience” at the HBCU and offer jobs to people from the school’s community.
“Anybody that wanted to work, he wanted to give them a job,” Haywood said of her late grandfather.
From there, Young grew the company to manage university dining experiences at several schools from Charlotte to Maryland. FDY became known for excellent service and high standards in dining.
Haywood says the company began to thrive.
After successfully managing dining across multiple colleges and corporate centers, the company set its sights on a new kind of environment: the airport.
Sixteen years ago, FDY opened a Bojangles’ Famous Chicken and Biscuits at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, a location the company still owns and operates.
Bojangles’, in Concourse A, was FDY’s first airport space and gave way to what is now multiple restaurants within three major airports — in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Norfolk, Va.
In Charlotte, in addition to Bojangles in Concourse A, FDY operates Red Mango Yogurt Cafe, Smoothie Factory Juice Bar and a second Bojangles location in Concourse B.
Between the Raleigh and Norfolk airports, FDY operates a Burger King, Bruegger’s Bagels, Raleigh Taproom, Char-Grill Burgers and Shakes, Uptown Burger Bar and Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina.
The company also operates other concepts, like a retail store it built at Clemson University and a store it operates at Union Station in D.C.
The spirit of opportunity
Today, FDY employs more than 150 people, a number that will grow when it officially opens Community Table Bistro inside the Opportunity Campus, which serves as the headquarters for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont.
Goodwill first opened Community Table Bistro in 2016 to serve as a job-training program as well as an affordable eatery for the community. It closed in August 2020 during the onset of the pandemic.
FDY later purchased the restaurant.
“The Goodwill Opportunity Campus was created as a place where people could see possibilities, seize opportunities and prosper. Under FDY, Inc.’s ownership, we hope Community Table Bistro inspires possibilities and creates opportunities for our team members, participants and members of the community to come eat together in fellowship,” Jose Luis, chief operating officer at Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, said in a statement posted on the organization’s website.
In keeping with her late grandfather’s vision, Haywood says FDY still cares about the community and wants to create opportunity through its work.
It’s that idea, she said, that led to the company’s partnership with Goodwill.
The restaurant is
Bazley has worked for FDY for about a year and told QCity Metro the company “really helps people succeed.”
Bazley began as a line cook and says she was given the opportunity to advance after sharing her passion for desserts with the FDY team.
Patrons at Community Table Bistro will find a relaxed atmosphere with ample seating and cafeteria-style ordering.
The menu features rotating dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients. The restaurant is committed affordability, offering meals like chicken tenders, fries and drink for as low $7.99.
And there will be desserts for sale, like Bazley’s apple pie eggrolls and churro beignets.
Though FDY has been successful, Haywood — under her father’s leadership as the current President — says they have more plans for the future.
Haywood told QCity Metro the company will soon launch a food truck in Charlotte and expand a series of “ghost kitchen” brands they own.
The ultimate goal, though, for Haywood is to “stay true to the mission [her] grandparents had 40 years ago.”