Several top companies recruit from The Collins College
By Elaine Regus
The Collins College is the go-to place for hospitality recruiters from well-established corporations like Hilton Worldwide and Disney to exciting new companies like Eureka! Gourmet Burgers & Craft Beer.
Recruiters appreciate the academic background, customer service orientation and hands-on experience that Collins College students and alumni possess, not to mention their passion for the industry.
“The Collins College has one of the largest hospitality programs in the country but we not only have the volume, we have the quality,” said Career Services Coordinator Ann Lara.
Students are required to have 800 hours of professional work experience, and many exceed that requirement. This real-world exposure prepares them for work in the hospitality field, Lara said. And, students receive a well-rounded business education so they understand the finance, accounting and marketing aspects of the business.
Lara is the first point of contact for companies interested in recruiting students and alumni. She connects students and alumni with employers, who have positions to fill. She reaches current students through the Blackboard, Cal Poly Pomona’s password-protected website, which she updates weekly during the school year with summaries of available job openings. She contacts alumni through LinkedIn.
Companies are invited to host information sessions on campus, to participate in The Collins College Hospitality Career Expo in February and to attend campus-wide career fairs in the fall and spring.
Hilton Worldwide hosted an information session in March and more than 60 students showed up.
“The classroom was packed with students eager to learn about Hilton,” Lara said.
Meghan Magette, manager of campus recruitment for Hilton Worldwide, was grateful to the Career Center for the opportunity to recruit and to build the company’s brand on campus.
Currently, Hilton Worldwide is formalizing a recruitment and training program with only 10 priority schools nationwide, including The Collins College. The college is the only program in California in this recruitment pool.
“Our goal is to convert them into full-time hires, through the opportunities and internships in our management development program,” Magette said.
Above all, Hilton Worldwide is looking for employees with great customer service. The company was founded by Conrad Hilton in 1919 with the vision of spreading the light and warmth of hospitality. That vision carries through today in the organization that has 300,000 team members in 3,900 hotels in 91 countries and territories around the world.
“We look for students, who have that customer service attitude within them, who are willing to give 110 percent every day,” Magette said. “We’re also looking for students, who are committed to the hospitality industry and who look at Hilton as the preeminent global hospitality company.”
Hilton Worldwide offers a world of opportunity to its team members. Magette said many senior leaders, who started out right after college, are now vice presidents and senior vice presidents of the company. The company takes time to invest in its team members to help them develop and to grow. Hilton Worldwide chose The Collins College as one of its 10 priority schools because it is ranked among the top hospitality programs.
“They have such a great curriculum, and it’s not just book learning. It’s really hands-on experience in the classroom,” Magette said.
The college is constantly being innovative, reaching out to industry leaders and asking how they can make the students better. Members of the college’s curriculum committee and the Board of Advisors are eager to keep up with industry trends so the curriculum doesn’t become stagnant.
Magette said Dean Andy Feinstein asked to visit one of the Hilton hotels and check out the operations. “He wanted to know how the school could partner with us to make sure it delivers every opportunity available to its students,” she said.
Feinstein also was instrumental in developing a partnership between the college and the Disney College Program, which offers six-month, paid internships for students, who earn college credit while working at either the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim or Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Christopher Smith, a Disney College Program recruiter, said Feinstein worked with Disney’s Education Department to ensure that Collins College students got 12 credits for the internships and the courses they completed as part of the program. Feinstein also facilitates a class for Collins College students during their internships.
Most of the students complete their internships at the Disney Resort in Anaheim, which supports about 400 interns. Walt Disney World hosts about 4,000 interns, many of whom live on the Disney property.
Interns work in a variety of entry-level positions including: front desk, concierge, lifeguard, and full- and quick-service food and beverage. Smith said the internships provide a great opportunity for students to get their foot in the door at Disney or to gain transferable skills and knowledge they can take with them no matter where they go.
Typically, students serve their internships in their sophomore or junior years and then return to their home school to complete their education, Smith said. Some will continue on as part-time employees and others will find full-time roles after they graduate.
“They get to work for Disney for a period of time and have a little bit of fun, too,” Smith said.
Disney has been recruiting from The Collins College since the internship program began at the Disney Resort in Anaheim in 2005.
“We are looking for students, who have a passion for the hospitality industry or any guest service aspect,” Smith said. “It’s definitely an added benefit if they love Disney.”
Collins College students in particular are looking to gain more hands-on experiences like those they get through the restaurant series that culminates with them managing and operating the Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch.
“Collins College hospitality students are very driven, very eager and very professional,” Smith said. “They also are very hospitality savvy and very business savvy.”
Eureka! Burgers an Craft Beer
Justin Nedelman, managing partner for Modern Hospitality Systems LLC, parent company of Eureka! Gourmet Burgers & Craft Beer, said The Collins College is the company’s No. 1 source of recruitment for managers. Three of Eureka’s five general managers are Collins College grads and they are among the youngest in the industry. Alumni Trevor Tyler, Valerie Lopez and Ivan Padilla are each general managers.
“Typically, we prefer enthusiasm and passion over experience,” Nedelman said. “That’s a big differentiation for us. Having that genuine passion and that energy and excitement for the industry is way more important for us than experience.”
Eureka! serves gourmet burgers, craft beer and high-end spirits in a gastropub atmosphere but without the ego of similar restaurants in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Its homemade fare and sophisticated bar have an approachable feel that appeals to families as well as aficionados.
Eureka! first opened in 2009 in Redlands and has spread to Claremont, Fresno, Bakersfield and San Luis Obispo since then. Aggressive expansion plans include Santa Barbara in September, San Diego in December and Berkeley next summer. Alumnus Andrew Segal ’10 is training to be the GM in San Diego.
Nedelman, who recently joined The Collins College Board of Advisors, said he prefers to recruit from the college because the students are more academically prepared and numbers oriented.
“Coming out of college, the more numbers savvy they are, the better. They are more intelligent and can make changes to the restaurant based on profit-and-loss statements. They really understand what’s going on not only on a daily operational basis but they also understand all aspects of the revenue and expense side of running a business over the course of a month,” Nedelman said.
In addition to understanding spread sheets and raw numbers, Nedelman’s recruits must have a natural interest in the restaurant industry.
“We can teach them the kitchen. We can teach them the bar. They’ve got to be natural leaders that appreciate the numbers and have a genuine passion for customer service especially as we become bigger,” Nedelman said.
The company’s objective is to create a management training program for students in their senior year to see if they fit the Eureka! culture and to determine if Eureka! is a good fit for them. Currently, a Collins College student is working part-time as an assistant manager as part of a pilot program.
Anyone interested in a career at Eureka! might consider joining a brew club or doing some home brewing or visiting breweries or distilleries on their days off. “It helps to have a genuine interest in craft beer and trends happening in the spirits world,” Nedelman said. “That’s a really key hiring tool.”
More than 50 of Nedelman’s employees including the entire staff at the Redlands restaurant have achieved at least the first of three levels in the Cicerone Certification Program, which indicates expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving a wide range of beer, similar to a wine sommelier.
“We are quite sure we have the highest percentage of cicerones in our company than any restaurant company in the United States,” Nedelman said.
The company provides incentives such as concert tickets to employees, who take and pass the Cicerone exam. “A big point of differentiation for us is we want our people to be educated about the beer and educated about the food as well,” Nedelman said.
This story originally appeared in the 2012 fall issue of Collins magazine.
Marielle Croudo talks with students during the Career Expo. The 2012 alumna is one of many Collins grads, who have been recruited by Disney.
Barbara Hollkamp, senior
vice president of Human
Resources Consulting for
Hilton Worldwide is a strong advocate for The Collins College and visits campus often. Hilton Worldwide selected the college among only 10 universities nationwide for recruitment.
Eureka is a growing
company that exclusively
recruits managers from
The Collins College. Trevor Tyler ‘09 is the general manager of the location in San Luis Obispo.