For restaurants and hotels, good service is paramount to their survival. It’s no secret these jobs can be gained without a formal education, but there may be a limit to your success in the industry without upholding certain standards or without any management training.
This is what the instructors at Red River College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program feel they’re lending to students.
“You’re going to hit a threshold where the next level you want to get to, you can’t,” says acting chair of the program, Karen McDonald, of the industry.
You can “work for five or six more years and hope to get lucky, or you can come here… and it opens up opportunities.”
Instructors at the college have a bounty of experience in the hospitality industry, and students quickly pick up their own.
By the second semester of the program, students are serving lunch at Jane’s Restaurant, cooked up by Red River College’s Culinary Arts students and experienced chefs.
The third semester students provide the fine dining experience to the evening crowd at Jane’s.
Students of the program also take part in two paid, four-month-long work placements where they gain industry experience in either the hotel or restaurant industry.
“We have no trouble placing students,” says McDonald, who lists The Fairmont Winnipeg as a popular host of the hotel employee hopefuls. “We probably have students in all the major hotels in the city.”
Often, these students may spend their first co-op term in housekeeping and then move on to communications or front desk receptionist positions.
Restaurant employee hopefuls often find co-op experience as banquet servers, or serving at golf courses or restaurants.
While they’re serving at Jane’s for course credit, students are not paid hourly but they do get to keep tips. International students can find paid work at Jane’s Restaurant or the Culinary Exchange as many of their permits only allow them to work for the school. The Culinary Exchange serves casual meals to the public as well as feeds the students in residence.
Courses in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program are split evenly between hotel courses and food and beverage courses, but usually the students stick to their desired industry when it comes time to picking their co-op work locations.
Students range from having little or no experience in the hospitality industry to having several years. “You’re learning some higher standards than you may have been accustomed to,” says McDonald, of RRC’s program. “I was a restaurant manager for 15 years and then I came here and learned so much.”
McDonald says regardless what stage they’re at in their careers, the students can learn a lot about the hospitality industry from courses in inventory management, accounting, basic food preparation, menu development, wine and hospitality law. They learn about the behind-the-scenes of the restaurant and hotel businesses that may not be exposed to all employees of a company.
The entrepreneurial elements of opening a restaurant are touched upon, as well.
“We do a modified business plan, concept development… initial write-up for the bank, and site and demographic analysis,” says McDonald.
“They go on to do scale drawings, looking at good design concepts and principles.”
Instructors can even boast that two grads of the Culinary Arts and Hospitality and Tourism Management programs from the last decade moved on to open their own restaurant, Marion Street Eatery, together.
Red River College has transfer credit opportunities with a number of universities for any who wish to further their education or to specialize in tourism management, which is not currently offered at the college. Hotel and Restaurant Management is the currently available second-year major.
The college recently entered into agreements with two institutions in France to help facilitate educational exchanges, research projects and academic collaboration.
Two students from the Culinary Arts program left Winnipeg in May for an intensive four-month training internship at the The Institut Paul Bocuse Worldwide Alliance in Lyon, France, the first-ever Canadians chosen to partake. These opportunities give students invaluable credibility on their resumes.
Though some graduates may not get management jobs right out of the gate, McDonald says students can expect good employment potential with their diplomas and great potential for career growth: “I would say if they’re not in the industry, it’s by choice.”
About half of graduates move quickly into supervisory or management-trainee positions in industry, though even those with less experience who start out in entry-level positions experience little trouble climbing the ladder.
McDonald says she was surprised to learn how versatile the applications of the diploma are.
Between the computer skills, learning to write business plans, basic economics, presentation skills and the extensive customer service acumen, students have the confidence to work in a number of industries after graduating.
“Plus, I tell them learning about wines makes you more interesting at parties,” says McDonald.