Barron’s Restaurant a source of learning
The experience of working in Barron’s Restaurant entails every aspect of a real restaurant – including a cramped kitchen, the hustle between the dining room and kitchen, orders being shouted at cooks and even lost meal-order tickets.
A real-life classroom, Barron’s – located in the south wing of the University Hilton – is starting its second week of the semester. The restaurant offers students authentic business experiences in a "live laboratory" setting, Debbie Maurer, Hilton director of communications, said.
Aside from the Food and Beverage course, students in the Food Service Production and Operations class were also involved in setting up Barron’s.
"I think it’s the best way to learn," hotel and restaurant management junior Brittany Grant said.
Students from Food Service Production and Operations arrive at the restaurant at 8 a.m. daily to begin preparations for lunch, with tasks ranging from picking up rolls from the bakery to setting up service stations for the management class.
Restaurant duties are rotated every week to teach students through immersion.
"This way we can get a feel for all the different environments in the restaurant," hotel and restaurant management junior Aiman Jarral said.
Students with no experience working in restaurants are surprised at the level of detail involved in daily operations, Maurer said.
"Some people said working in the restaurant wouldn’t be a big deal compared to other restaurants," Jarral said. "But it was for me."
Student managers are assigned to the front or back of the "house" and are in charge of salad, soup or dessert stations.
For the fall, Barron’s has come under the management of food and beverage service professor Henry Jancose after former manager Kathleen Patnaude, who had managed the restaurant since 1999, stepped down last spring.
"Having experienced the service industry before entering a real job, students are able to more easily step into any position they are offered," Jancose said.
Barron’s opened in 1989 and is named after Barron Hilton, son of Conrad N. Hilton. In fall 2006, Patnaude switched the varying dinner selections to a fixed lunch menu.
"I redesigned the class in fall 2006 from dinner, where the menu changed each night, to (having) lunch with a set menu every day," Patnaude said. "It is more realistic now."
After Patnaude’s changes, Barron’s is open between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday to mimic the daily lunch rush other restaurants experience.
"(I) would rather have (students) learn from mistakes at Barron’s than make mistakes in their first management position," Patnaude said.
In preparation for the reopening of the restaurant on Sept. 11, students spent the first weeks of school making practice runs and working in the kitchen. The students served the faculty food samples and worked out kinks in their operation, Jancose said.
"We spent time cleaning the restaurant, setting it up and just learning what Barron’s is all about," Grant said.
Among the most popular items, the salmon croissants sell "neck and neck with the burgers," Jancose said. The selection includes soups, salads and burgers – all of which are under $5.
"The objective is to keep other University students coming into the restaurant," Jancose said. "Otherwise business would be too slow for the students to really learn and gain experience serving."
For Patnaude, the immersion experience is valuable for students.
"If students can work in Barron’s," Patnaude said, "they can manage any restaurant anywhere."