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Saturday, 4 April 2009

A hospitality university?

Not sure how to take this proposal for a university dedicated to the hospitality industry. One hopes this is not another mushroom institution without proper standards, that I bemoan here. It seems to me that from society's point of view there are "clustering benefits" from having different courses in one institution. Why not simply partner with Mulungushi University, which is meant to be a public private partnership?


  1. There were many ways that I was tempted to start this sentence, but they all got erased. ;)

    I am in the "hospitality industry" and I fully recognize the need for specific skills training to achieve the desired results, BUT these are not things that you learn in a school. Someone hands me a resume saying they have spent the last several years in a school and I send them somewhere else to get real experience. Culinary schools have a purpose. McDonald's University (yes the corporation actually calls it that) has NO PLACE in this industry. As far as I am concerned, anyone who thinks they need a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management (as such degrees are called in the US) is someone who is unwilling to work for tips, which is how the industry operates, and how you learn.

    If you want to expert knowledge on how to get those tips, get yourself a degree in Linguistics or Psychology, not some corporate sponsored "hospitality degree" which will be useless if you ever change customer demographics or regulatory jurisdictions. Sorry to be so vehement, but the best workers I have ever had in my restaurant are those who are also working towards other things. I have had great success with medical students who are concerned about "bedside manner". This is one of the few industries where one can actually pay their way through school without accumulating unsustainable debt. Both my business partner and I came from success in different fields before we went into hospitality, and we are growing through recession while our competitors flounder. We fired a heck of a lot of people who would have been perfectly competent in other fields before we got our very stable staff that we have now.

    There are simply too many areas of education that Zambia falls short in to waste resources on what is really a matter of personal orientation. I personally am not a good server, I am too scatterbrained, too opinionated, too proud if you will. I do alright in a kitchen where the customers don't have to deal with me on a personal level, but I also know enough to hire better chefs than I am. In short, hospitality is not about what you know, but rather about how much people like you. The industry runs on tips (apparently not in Zambia with mandatory service charges), which is all the incentive a bright young person needs to find their way. Bowing and scraping is not easy, but someone shows up at my door with a degree, and I will assume that they think they already know what they will inevitably have to learn about the customer base, and I won't hire them.

    I am open to counterarguments from anyone who has such a degree, but I don't know any people in my local sector of this global industry with one.

  2. Yakima,

    What I found interesting about this proposal is that it is private sector led...sort of like McDonald's University!

    As a private sector initiative the govt would probably simply give it the go ahead...since no cash would be spent on it..but actually the more one thinks about it...the more it becomes clear that even that is fraught with difficulties...

    An hospitality university may actually distort incentives and push people away from other institutions....

    It sounds like this might be a case where the invisible hand might need some guiding!


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