"Five minutes to service! Everybody ready?"
The prompt comes from Shawn Kuehn, the back-of-the-house graduate assistant at Barron's Restaurant in the University of Houston's Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM). There is an organized hustle and bustle as students prepare side dishes, ready sauces and spices and get set for the lunch crowd.
"Guys we have to make sure that all sides come out piping hot today, so let's keep them covered at all times," he reminds.
The restaurant is completely managed, operated and run by students who will be the next generation of hospitality industry leaders—in restaurants, resorts, casinos and cruises. The restaurant also is a class lab where theory meets the grill. All students in the lab will rotate as servers, hostesses, kitchen help, managers and even dishwashers.
"Food touches every aspect of our lives and it crosses every line of business within the hospitality sectors," said Kristi Baker, an HRM lecturer who teaches a course titled "Food and Beverage." Barron's is a working lab for the class. Ninety students in her food and beverage class and 40 students in her advanced management class will come through Barron's.
"If we don't give good service and we don't create loyal customers, that impacts the bottom line. They see this as more than just entry-level position training; they see it as 'this is what I need my entry-level employees to do later on for my business'."
Barron's is open to the public during the school semester. You'll see student-leaders negotiating the many pronged aspects of service, safety and professionalism.
"I've already had several come back and say 'I got this job over the summer and I realized how much I learned.' That's when it's a good feeling," Baker said.
Hospitality is part of what's happening at the University of Houston.