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Restaurant biz helps veteran on ‘Survivor’


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Angela Perkins, right, with competitors on an episode of “Survivor.”

What do you need to survive a month on a desert island? For U.S. Army veteran Angela Perkins, 21 years in the military didn’t hurt. “While my training definitely did help me physically, I think my social game was more important,” said Perkins.

Perkins is one of 20 contestants of “Survivor: Ghost Island,” the 36th iteration of the CBS reality show that took place on the tropical Mamanuca Islands of Fiji. The show pits teams of contestants against each other in challenges of strength and dexterity to earn immunity from being kicked off the island, but the game ends with other contestants choosing the final winner of $1 million.

“You need that social bond in order to move forward. You can earn immunity every time, but you still have to look to that jury and have them vote for you,” said Perkins. “That’s where building those relationships matter, that will ultimately earn you the $1 million.”

She said working as a server at a Cincinnati-area Buffalo Wings & Rings was invaluable for her time on the show. The same skills she used to foster relationships with customers and fellow staff kept her in the running during the game, and it was a change from her military career, which was dominated by hierarchy and aggressive personalities.

“In the restaurant industry, that aggressive personality doesn’t work as well. It’s a totally different approach,” said Perkins. “In the military, you’re required to listen to the leader. But in the restaurant industry you’re not, so you have to build that trust and connection.”

Working with a diverse group was a change of pace, too. In the military, she and her peers were all about the same age and had almost the same experience. But when she left the military, she started working with people half her age with very different backgrounds. She said learning to connect with different people was one of the most important lessons from her time in the restaurant, and one that would stick with her long after “Survivor” ends.

“You get so many life skills being in the restaurant business that I never would have thought I could acquire,” said Perkins.

And she has a little advice for restaurant operators dealing with the brutal labor environment. “It’s about inclusion and the same values that the restaurant is communicating that is important,” said Perkins. “Showing them that every voice matters.”

Perkins was set to learn if she won the $1 million prize May 23.

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