News - School of Hospitality Management (SHM)

Café Laura returns with new look, new tastes and new opportunities

Grand reopening celebration set for Sept. 9

From food preparation to healthier eating choices, the newly renovated Café Laura offers the gamut. The cafe re-opened today (Aug. 25) and will hold its grand reopening Sept. 9 after months of extensive renovations. The student-run restaurant housed in the Mateer Building features new fare stations, a revised design, and a variety of novel equipment and technology. More importantly, the $1.2 million renovation boosts the educational experience for students and enhances dining experiences for customers.

student workers at Cafe Laura

The training restaurant for hospitality management (HM) students closed for updates in April. Since then, students, faculty, staff and industry professionals have been working around the clock to ensure the eatery is open in time for the fall semester.

A partnership between Penn State Housing and Food Services (HFS) and the School of Hospitality Management (SHM), Café Laura is open 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and offers both grab-and-go services and in-house dining.

The renovation project, which has been made possible by a number of donations, has been planned for a while, said John O’Neill, director of SHM.

Read more about renovations to Café Laura.

Leland C. Pillsbury named as as Conti Professor

The Penn State School of Hospitality Management (SHM) named Leland C. Pillsbury, co-chairman of Thayer Lodging Group, as the fall 2014 Walter J. Conti Visiting Professor. Conti Professors visit the School of Hospitality Management to interact with students and faculty members, to present guest lectures in hospitality management and to speak at graduate and undergraduate colloquia.

“As the School of Hospitality Management launches its new interdisciplinary minor in entrepreneurship and innovation this year, Mr. Pillsbury is a most fitting Conti Professor,” said John O’Neill, director of the School of Hospitality Management. “He was renowned as an innovator at Marriott Corporation where he was the youngest vice president in the history of the company. More recently, as co-founder and chairman of Thayer Lodging Group, he has instituted his entrepreneurial vision to create one of the most dynamic owners and operators in the lodging space.”

Pillsbury will be on campus in September to interact with students and faculty members. He will discuss topics including entrepreneurship, real estate, strategy, finance and operations.

Prior to launching Thayer, he spent 19 years at Marriott, where he became an executive vice president and corporate officer. Pillsbury led the company’s entry into time sharing, Fairfield Inns and Residence Inns. Since leaving Marriott, he has played a major role in the launch of more than 15 new companies, including Internet services provider TIG Global, Chinese central reservations system innovator HUBS1 and PURE Rooms Co., providing hypoallergenic guest rooms.

Read more about Leland C. Pillsbury, fall 2014 Walter J. Conti Visiting Professor.

PSHRS names Michael Leven 2014 Hospitality Executive of the Year

Michael Leven, president and chief operating officer for Las Vegas Sands Corporation, has been named 2014 Hospitality Executive of the Year by the Penn State Hotel & Restaurant Society (PSHRS). Leven will receive the award during the 53rd Hospitality Executive of the Year award reception, which will take place Nov. 9, in conjunction with the annual International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show in New York. As part of the honor, Leven also will be inducted into the Penn State Hospitality Hall of Fame, located at The Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State’s University Park campus.

Michael Leven

Michael Leven

“The students, faculty and staff of the Penn State School of Hospitality Management are truly honored that a hospitality industry legend like Michael Leven has accepted this award and will be taking the time to meet and speak with us this year. Nobody in the history of the hospitality industry has done more to provide opportunities for people to advance as managers and owners,” said John O’Neill, director of the School of Hospitality Management.

Leven has served on the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Board of Directors since 2004. In 2009, he became the company’s president and chief operating officer and assumed responsibility for the overall operations of the company’s U.S. and international locations.

Leven is a veteran hospitality executive with more than 50 years of experience in the business and a distinguished and well-recognized record of success. He was formerly president and chief executive officer of US Franchise Systems, Inc., the company he founded in 1995, which developed and franchised the Microtel Inns & Suites and Hawthorn Suites hotel brands. He was previously president and COO of Holiday Inn Worldwide, president of Days Inn of America, and president of Americana Hotels. He has also served on the board of directors of Starwood Hotels and Resorts and is currently a trustee of the Marcus Foundation.

Read more about Michael Leven, PSHRS 2014 Hospitality Executive of the Year.

School of Hospitality Management lends expertise to Nigerian food service execs

Oluwatoyin Alabi, president and CEO of a catering company in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria, said one of the most valuable things he learned while studying with instructors in Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management (SHM) is how to maximize small spaces without compromising food safety.

Cochran Fellowship Program participants

Now Alabi is determined to share what he’s learned with his team back home at The Promise, a company that started in 2002 and now is a key catering service provider for offshore catering operations and remote sites of major oil and gas companies operating in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.

The program

Alabi was part of the Cochran Fellowship Program. As part of the program, Alabi and five other food service industry executives from Nigeria spent two weeks in July at the University Park campus with the SHM faculty touring area restaurants, grocery stores and other facilities to learn about operations when it comes to food safety and how equipment, technology, procedures and training are utilized.

Made possible through a grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the purpose of the Cochran Program for Food Safety & Catering for the African & Middle East Region was to provide the participants with concepts, principles and best practices in catering and food safety.

Read more about Nigerian food service execs participating in a two-week program about food safety as part of the Cochran Program for Food Safety & Catering.

Changes to Café Laura to Benefit Hospitality Management Students, Customers

Café Laura, an on-campus restaurant that trains Penn State hospitality management (HM) students for future careers in the industry, will be under construction this summer with changes designed to benefit both HM students and customers.

The project, funded in part by a gift from Panda Express, has Café Laura closing on Friday, April 25, with plans to reopen on Monday, August 21, for the first day of the fall 2014 semester.

Rendering of renovations in Café Laura

Café Laura is staffed primarily by students in two HM classes, HM 330 and 430. The students plan, market, prepare and serve customers while creating a memorable dining experience for the University community. It offers a wide variety of menu choices for lunch, and is well known for its popular theme dinners.

Read more about Changes to Cafe Laura.

Students attend Hunter Hotel Investment Conference

Natalie Wainger and Jessie Glassmire

Natalie Wainger and Jessie Glassmire, seniors in Penn State's School of Hospitality Management, attended the Hunter Hotel Investment Conference at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta from March 26 to 28.

The hotel real estate and finance conference is intended for hotel owners, operators, financial institutions/lenders and related suppliers. This year's conference was titled "The Time is Now!" The keynote speaker was Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide.

"This conference is considered to be one of the top four hotel investment conferences," said Brian Black, director of hospitality industry relations in the School of Hospitality Management. "It provides our students with education and networking opportunities with executives from leading hotel brands, owners and lenders. Few students get the opportunity to network with so many executives at this level."

Education sessions at this year's conference are focusing on topics such as hotel valuations, franchising, case studies, industry trends, design and construction, buying and selling, branding, asset management and creative financing solutions.

Read more about SHM students at the Students attend Hunter Hotel Investment Conference.

School of Hospitality Management names Nancy Johnson as Conti Professor

Nancy Johnson

The Penn State School of Hospitality Management named Nancy Johnson, executive vice president, industry relations Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, as the Spring 2014 Walter J. Conti Visiting Professor. Conti Professors visit the School of Hospitality Management to interact with students and faculty members, to present guest lectures in hospitality management and to speak at graduate and undergraduate colloquia.

“Conti Professors are hospitality industry thought leaders, and Nancy is one of the industry’s greatest thought leaders,” said John O’Neill, director of the school. “She is among the field’s best advocates, and her efforts have resulted in so many people becoming engaged in the industry and driving it forward.”

Johnson will be on campus in April to interact with students and faculty members. She will discuss topics, including hotel development, asset management, operations, strategy, political advocacy and women’s leadership. She also serves on the School of Hospitality Management Industry Advisory Board.

Read more about Nancy Johnson and her visit as a Conti Professor.

Fun at work promotes employee retention but may hurt productivity

smiling chef holding whole tomatoes in front of his eyes

Within the hospitality industry, manager support for fun is instrumental in reducing employee turnover, particularly for younger employees, according to a team of researchers. However, manager support for fun also reduces employee productivity, which can negatively impact sales performance. Read more about how fun at work promotes employee retention but may hurt productivity.

Penn State Hotel & Restaurant Society Names Jim Abrahamson 2013 Hospitality Executive of the Year

Jim Abrahamson

Jim Abrahamson

Jim Abrahamson, chief executive officer for Interstate Hotels & Resorts, has been named 2013 Hospitality Executive of the Year by the Penn State Hotel & Restaurant Society (PSHRS). Abrahamson will receive the award during the fifty-second Hospitality Executive of the Year Award Reception, which will take place November 10, 2013 in conjunction with the annual International Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Show in New York. As part of the honor, Abrahamson also will be inducted into the Penn State Hospitality Hall of Fame, located at The Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State’s University Park campus.

"Our alumni and industry advisory boards continue to emphasize to us the importance of our developing students’ leadership skills and abilities," said John O’Neill, director of the School of Hospitality Management. "We know that for our students to be successful leaders, they should learn from the hospitality industry's greatest leaders. That's why we're so happy that a seasoned leader like Jim has accepted our invitation to spend time with our students discussing his wealth of leadership experiences."

Abrahamson joined Interstate Hotels & Resorts from InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), where he was president of the Americas region, that company's largest operating unit, and was also an executive director of IHG's board of directors. Previously, he held key leadership positions in the areas of operations, development, and franchising with Hyatt Corporation, Marcus Corporation, and Hilton Worldwide.

Abrahamson is active in the hospitality industry and in community affairs. He currently serves as an executive director on the board of directors of Interstate Hotels & Resort. He also serves as national chair of the U.S. Travel Association. In addition, Abrahamson is the secretary/treasurer of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) and will serve as association chair beginning in 2015. He is a member of the AH&LA Governmental Affairs and HotelPAC Committees, and is on the advisory board of the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship. He is chairman of the board of directors at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and is on the advisory board at the Emory University Eye Clinic. Abrahamson holds a degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota.

"Recognition as the Penn State Hotel & Restaurant Society's Hospitality Executive of the Year is a great honor," said Abrahamson. "The hospitality industry is like no other, where anyone with ambition and initiative, coupled with an outstanding education, can achieve career success. I'm grateful my journey led to Interstate Hotels and Resorts. Through my experience with some of the industry's leading companies, I have been able to successfully guide our global growth strategy and witness it spring to life. Opening the eyes of Penn State students to similar possibilities is what renders this honor a true privilege."

Interstate Hotels & Resorts is the leading U.S.-based global management company operating nearly 360 hotels with more than 69,000 rooms spanning the United States and 10 additional countries.

PSHRS was established in 1948 to strengthen the hospitality profession and to enhance the reputation of the hotel, restaurant and institutional management program in the Penn State School of Hospitality Management. PSHRS and the school created the Hospitality Executive of the Year Award in 1960 to honor individuals who exemplify the successful leadership characteristics that they strive to instill in students and to convey to alumni and colleagues.

Last year’s award recipient was Steve Rushmore, president and founder of HVS. Previous winners include J. W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., executive chairman, Marriott International; Randy Smith, chairman and co-founder, STR; Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer, U.S. Travel Association; Niki Leondakis, former chief operating officer, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants; Andrew Kerin, former group president, Global Food, Hospitality and Facility Services, ARAMARK Corporation; Tom Giannopoulos, executive chairman, MICROS Systems, Inc.; and other notable executives in the industry.

Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management Names Danny Meyer as Conti Professor

The Penn State School of Hospitality Management named Danny Meyer, chief executive officer of Union Square Hospitality Group as the Fall 2013 Walter J. Conti Visiting Professor. Conti Professors visit the School of Hospitality Management to interact with students and faculty members, to present guest lectures in hospitality management, and to speak at graduate and undergraduate colloquia.

Meyer visited the School of Hospitality Management during the Fall 2013 semester to interact with 300 students through classroom lectures and roundtable discussions with student leaders and faculty. Meyer also hosted a group of students for a tour of several of his restaurants in New York City as part of an educational visit which exposed students to hospitality management in a vibrant setting.

Union Square Hospitality Group includes Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard, Shake Shack, The Modern, Maialino, Untitled, North End Grill, Union Square Events, and Hospitality Quotient, a learning and consulting business. Meyer, his restaurants and chefs have earned an unprecedented 25 James Beard Awards. Meyer’s first business book, Setting the Table (HarperCollins, 2006), a New York Times bestseller, examines the power of hospitality in restaurants, business and life. An active national leader in the fight against hunger, Meyer has long served on the boards of Share Our Strength and City Harvest. He is equally active in civic affairs, serving on the executive committees of NYC & Co, Union Square Partnership, and the Madison Square Park Conservancy

The Conti Professorship Program was established by alumni and friends of the Penn State School of Hospitality Management in 1987 to honor Walter J. Conti for his contributions to the school, to Penn State and to the hospitality profession. Conti, for whom the professorship is named, is a well-known restaurateur and industry leader from Doylestown, Pa. He is the retired owner and chief executive officer of Conti Cross Keys Inn and the Historic Piper Tavern, both located in Bucks County, Pa. Conti has held various leadership positions in the National Restaurant Association, including chairman and “diplomat” of the association’s educational foundation.

Past Conti Professors include John Metz, executive chairman, Metz Culinary Management; Plato Ghinos, president, Shaner Hotels Group; Bill Fortier senior vice president, Development, Hilton Worldwide; Everette James, former secretary of health, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Steve Rushmore, president and founder, HVS; Mark Lomanno, former president, STR; Franco Harris, president and owner, Super Bakery, Inc.; Ferdinand Metz, president emeritus, Culinary Institute of America; Tim Ryan, president, Culinary Institute of America; Wallace Doolin, former president and CEO, Friday's Hospitality Worldwide, Inc.; Raymond Shultz, former president and CEO, Promus Hotel Corporation; William Shaw, former president and COO, Marriott International and Jim Evans, CEO, Brand USA.

Dip, dip, hooray — kids eat more veggies with flavored dips

Close up of Carrots

Many parents have a difficult time persuading their preschool-aged children to try vegetables, let alone eat them regularly. Food and nutrition researchers have found that by offering a dip flavored with spices, children were more likely to try vegetables — including those they had previously rejected. Read more about how kids eat more veggies with flavored dips.

School of Hospitality Management names Frits van Paasschen as Conti Professor

The Penn State School of Hospitality Management named Frits van Paasschen, president and chief executive officer of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. as the Spring 2013 Walter J. Conti Visiting Professor. Conti Professors visit the School of Hospitality Management to interact with students and faculty members, to present guest lectures in hospitality management and to speak at graduate and undergraduate colloquia.

Several Penn State alumni who work for Starwood accompanied Frits van Paaschen, CEO, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. during his Conti Professorship visit on campus. L-R Front: Daniel Entenberg ('01), Sarah Cannon-Foster ('86), Frits van Paasschen, Brian McGuire ('98), Nan Crouter, Tom Mituzas. L-R Back: Jason Bayona ('05), Bob Pirollo ('92), Tom Martini ('88), Javier Nogales, John O'Neill.

"Frits brings to the school a wealth of cutting-edge knowledge and experience about branding in the hospitality industry based on his tenure at Starwood since 2007 where he has nurtured such esteemed brands as W, Westin, Aloft and St. Regis," said John O'Neill, director of the school. "We are delighted that Frits and several Penn State alumni at Starwood were able to spend time with our students to discuss this dynamic industry and their personal experiences, and to give career advice."

Read more about Frits van Paasschen, Spring 2013 Conti Professor.

International Foodservice Manufacturer’s Association honors two Penn State grads

Two Penn State School of Hospitality Management graduates were recognized by the International Foodservice Manufacturer’s Association (IFMA) on May 20. James Purdum, general manager for Hospitality Services at Penn State, was a Silver Plate recipient, while John Metz Jr., president and CEO of Sterling Hospitality, garnered both the Silver and Gold Plate awards. The pair was honored at the Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration at the Great Hall at Union Station in Chicago.

Purdum is a 1977 graduate of Penn State and earned a bachelor’s degree in food services and housing administration. He was honored in the category of Hotels & Lodging.

“This award is a tribute to the hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence by the entire Hospitality Services team,” said Purdum. “It’s also a recognition of the support and commitment our hotels have had from our leadership, our guests and the many colleagues we are fortunate to work with each day to support the mission of this great University.”

Metz Jr., who was honored in the Independent Restaurants/Multi-concept category, is a 1990 graduate of Penn State’s hotel, restaurant and institutional management program.

“I’m proud to accept this recognition on behalf of the 859 employees in our company,” said Metz Jr. “They are spectacular people and unbelievable resources. I wouldn’t be here without them. They are the true recipients of something like this.”

Read more about James Purdum and John Metz Jr. and their IFMA awards.

School of Hospitality Management educational partner at Bisnow BLIS 2013 Lodging Investment Summit

The Penn State School of Hospitality Management was the educational partner for the Bisnow BLIS 2013 Lodging Investment Summit held at the Washington Hilton on April 24-25th.

Over 500 executives representing leading hospitality companies from across the country gathered for this two-day summit which included keynote speakers and panel discussions.

Keynote speakers included Chris Nassetta, President and CEO, Hilton Worldwide, Jim Abrahamson, CEO, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Paul Whetsell, President and CEO, Loews Hotels and James Murren, Chairman and CEO, MGM Resorts International. Two of the more than two dozen panelists included PSHRS President, Tom Riley, Vice President, Acquisitions and Development, Kimpton Hotels and SHM Industry Advisory Board Member, Dan Lesser, CEO, LW Hospitality Advisors. Topics were focused on the state of the hotel markets with macro discussions on the economy and micro discussions on future hotel development. Dr. O'Neill kicked off the summit with opening remarks and the introduction of Chris Nassetta.

Hospitality students earn high marks on industry exam

Students in Penn State's School of Hospitality Management have exceeded the national average on a rigorous examination that demonstrates their ability to read, interpret and make decisions about the most widely used monthly report used by hotel managers to track the performance of hotels around the world — the STAR report.

The 16 Penn State students who took the exam — known as the STAR exam — earned an average of 82 percent, and all Penn State students received a passing grade of over 70 percent. The national average was 72 percent. The students were enrolled in the course, "Hospitality Real Estate," which is taught by John O'Neill, director of the School of Hospitality Management. The students trained for and took the exam as part of the course. They took the exam and learned their scores in late December 2012. Read more about SHM students who took the STAR exam >>

Penn State Hotel & Restaurant Society names HVS’s Steve Rushmore 2012 Hospitality Executive of the Year

Steve Rushmore

Steve Rushmore

Steve Rushmore, chairman and founder of the global hospitality consulting organization HVS, has been named 2012 Hospitality Executive of the Year by the Penn State Hotel & Restaurant Society (PSHRS). Rushmore will receive the award during the fifty-first Hospitality Executive of the Year Award Reception, which will take place November 11, 2012 in conjunction with the annual International Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Show in New York. As part of the honor, Rushmore also will be inducted into the Penn State Hospitality Hall of Fame, located at The Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State’s University Park campus.

“Steve Rushmore has repeatedly shown the entrepreneurial vision to find market opportunities to serve the hospitality industry with excellent and unparalleled services," said John O’Neill, director of the School of Hospitality Management. "He also serves the industry as a frequent speaker and author, and the industry recognizes the HVS brand name as the leader in professional services.”

HVS is a hospitality consulting and services firm with more than 30 offices around the globe. Rushmore founded HVS in 1980, and he continues to direct the worldwide operation of this firm, as well as the firm's ever-growing expansion and new product development. He has provided consulting services for more than 15,000 hotels throughout the world during his 40-year career and specializes in complex issues involving hotel feasibility, valuation, and financing. He was one of the creators of the Microtel concept and was instrumental in its initial public offering (IPO). Rushmore is a partner in HEI Hospitality, LLC, a hotel investment fund.

HVS has provided consulting services for thousands of clients in all 50 states and more than 60 foreign countries. Its professional staff of more than 400 industry specialists offers a wide range of services, including market feasibility studies, valuations, strategic analyses, development planning and litigation support. Through its divisions, HVS supplies unique hotel consulting expertise in the areas of executive search, food and beverage operations, gaming, technology, hotel operations, asset management, marketing, interior design, parking, golf and investment counseling. HVS is the industry's primary source of hotel sales information. Its databases contain information on more than 13,000 hotel transactions and thousands of financial statements. HVS is also the most comprehensive source of hotel compensation data.


"It is an honor for me to receive this recognition, particularly from a hotel school program as renowned as Penn State," said Rushmore. "I take pride in and enjoy working with and teaching the students at Penn State, as I know they are the emerging leaders in our ever-evolving industry."

"The 7,000 alumni and 700 students of Penn State's School of Hospitality Management are proud to honor Steve Rushmore as our Hospitality Executive of the Year,” said Tom Riley, president of the PSHRS. "We recognize his industry leadership and appreciate his commitment to hospitality education."

ABOUT STEVE RUSHMORE:

As a leading authority and prolific author on the topic of hotel feasibility studies and appraisals, Rushmore has written all six textbooks and two seminars for the Appraisal Institute covering this subject. He also has authored three reference books on hotel investing and has published more than 300 articles. He writes a column for Lodging Hospitality magazine and is widely quoted by major business and professional publications. Rushmore lectures extensively on hotel trends and has taught hundreds of classes and seminars to more than 20,000 industry professionals. He is also a frequent lecturer at major hotel schools around the world.

Rushmore received a bachelor's degree from the Cornell Hotel School and a master of business administration degree from the University of Buffalo. He holds MAI and FRICS appraisal designations and is a CHA (certified hotel administrator). He is a member of numerous hotel industry committees, including IREFAC and the NYU Hotel Investment Conference. In 1999, he was recognized by the New York chapter of the Cornell Hotel Society as "Hotelie of the Year,” and in 2010, Penn State recognized him as Walter J. Conti Visiting Professor.

ABOUT PSHRS:

PSHRS was established in 1948 to strengthen the hospitality profession and to enhance the reputation of the hotel, restaurant, and institutional management program in the Penn State School of Hospitality Management. PSHRS and the school created the Hospitality Executive of the Year Award in 1960 to honor individuals who exemplify the successful leadership characteristics that they strive to instill in students and to convey to alumni and colleagues.

Last year's award recipient was Randell Smith, chairman and co-founder of STR. Previous winners include Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer, U.S. Travel Association; Niki Leondakis, chief operating officer, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants; Andrew Kerin, former group president, Global Food, Hospitality and Facility Services, ARAMARK Corporation; and other notable people in the industry.