To create the perfect meal, preparation is key. The same might be said for creating the perfect employee in the hospitality industry.
“Though some things like a friendly smile and a well-prepared meal will never change, the hospitality industry has gone through major changes in last few years,” says David R. Landau, program chair for Hospitality and Restaurant Management at Le Cordon Bleu College in Culinary Arts in Scottsdale. “Guest expectations have changed. We are seeing a more food knowledgeable and casual-minded guests. The industry has changed and hospitality education has changed along with it.”
Landau says today’s hospitality industry workers need be comfortable with technology, from creating a profit and loss statement in Excel or creating a training program in PowerPoint to being familiar with point-of-sale cash registers. To prepare the next generation of hospitality industry leaders, the Arizona chapter of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is partnering with colleges and universities to stress the importance of education and training for the future of the industry. HSMAI’s impact is already being fealt. Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and Scottsdale Community College are all offering classes in hospitality sales.
“Our core curriculum focuses on a diverse range of topics in hospitality; guest services management, marketing, information systems, human resources, accounting, food production and beverage management, property management and industry law,” says Janelle Hoffman, professor in the Hospitality & Tourism Management Program at Scottsdale Community College.
Hoffman says changes in hospitality educations have been influenced by technological advancements, the evolution of customer relationship management programs, societal marketing approaches, sustainability issues and international growth.
“I stay current in my research area of hospitality group sales,” says Richard McNeill, a professor at the School of Hotel & Restaurant Management at Northern Arizona University. “Just this semester, I have integrated new research findings into my classes — for example, the rising power of third-party intermediaries and disruption on traditional selling methodologies. My sales classes involve B2B selling since group salespeople are involved with big-ticket items. It’s not unusual for a meeting or group to bring $300K revenue to a hotel.”
In addition to keeping a eye on the pulse of current trends like McNeill does, Hoffman says the changes in the hospitality industry that have had a biggest impact on education include:
• Every sector of the industry is reliant upon the efficient use of technology. Reservation systems, point of sale, property management and in-room technology are just a few areas in which the implementation and effective use of both custom and pre-designed software make a vital contribution to customer service, employee satisfaction and monetary success.
• Today, customer relationship management (CRM) programs that add value to the product and service are extremely beneficial to cultivating the life-time value of our patrons.
• Understanding how new approaches in areas of societal marketing and sustainability are trending in a response to customer demands and how these efforts assist us differentiating our products and services.
• The hospitality industry works in a global environment. In the last 10 years, new places have opened up to travel and development, providing new opportunities to international employment and community growth.
• The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest employers.
“Many years ago, if you worked hard, you could work your way up in this industry, but times have changed,” Hoffman says. “Everyone is still working hard, but education has assisted in professionalizing the service industry. An individual’s education is something that can never be taken away and helps differentiate them in a competitive professional environment.”
Hoffman advises today’s aspiring hospitality industry to try to understand how diverse the industry has become and identify your specific area of interest. Also, it’s important for students to have real work experience in the area of customer service to balance the concepts and skills they will be exposed to in the education experience.
“Work experience is what employers are looking for,” says Lynne Wellish, an adjunct faculty member in the Hospitality College at Scottsdale Community College. “Find a mentor in the industry and start building a network of contacts. Meet other students in your classes and nurture your relationships.”
As hospitality education grows and is offered as a program of study by more schools, educators say the bar for the industry’s workforce will be raised.
“The hospitality profession will grow in respectability as more individuals see it as a career choice not just a job,” Landau says. “I also believe for those looking to enter the industry or for professionals who are already there, online education will provide the pacing and flexibility to meet the needs of these learners. At Le Cordon Bleu, we work closely with our advisory boards on the local and national level to identify what skills employers want our graduates to have. So it works both ways: the industry informs education and vice versa.”
LOOKING TO HIRE?
Az Business magazine asked Arizona educators what advice they would give to hospitality industry employers who are looking to hire new workers.
Jessica Shipley, academic advisor in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Northern Arizona University: “Take chances on students. If employers took more risks in hiring someone who didn’t necessarily have a lot of experience, but the student showed the employer that they were outstanding in other areas, they might be surprised by how well that student ended up being a good fit for their company.”
David R. Landau, program chair for Hospitality and Restaurant Management at Le Cordon Bleu College in Culinary Arts in Scottsdale: “Don’t wait for graduates to knock on your door. Go to the source; contact an accredited culinary and hospitality school. We have a career services office that exists for employers to reach our student and graduates. Put new hires at ease; help that recent graduate see how their entry-level position is part of the overall mission. In order to be motived to succeed, Gen Y and Millennial workers need to know how their job is important.”
Janelle Hoffman, hospitality program advisor, Scottsdale Community College: “Look to hire a hospitality student, someone who has already made a commitment to the industry. Also, take good care of your team members. Word of mouth in our industry is strong. Happy employees create happy customers.”