Good Help Isn't so Hard to Find: Hospitality Training Institute Tackles Service Industry Shortcomings

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With classes taught both on-site at restaurants and hotels, and in-house at HTI's own Alexandria, Virginia facility, Alex Atwood and his staff tackle the growing need for professional, well-trained hospitality employees.

With classes taught both on-site at restaurants and hotels, and in-house at HTI's own Alexandria, Virginia facility, Alex Atwood and his staff tackle the growing need for professional, well-trained hospitality employees.

For over two decades, the hospitality industry has grappled with a high rate of turnover, a steep employee learning curve, and a lack of standardized training. Today, many service industry positions are filled by inexperienced college students or newcomers with a limited grasp of English - and restaurants, hotels, and casinos are looking for a way to step up the skills of an untrained work force.

The Washington, D.C.-based Hospitality Training Institute (HTI), which opened in March 2008, offers flexible classes and training sessions that approach the service industry as a lifelong profession, not just a temporary paycheck. HTI grooms hospitality employees for a successful and rewarding career - a well-trained and enthusiastic server can pull in a healthy income and climb the ladder to management or ownership with the right instruction.

In an age of celebrity chefs and trendy décor, service sometimes takes a backseat to style - a common mistake that can spell disaster in terms of profitability and customer retention, says HTI owner Alex Atwood.

"It doesn't matter how great your food is or who your executive chef used to work for - if your service isn't the best it can be, your customers will go elsewhere," Atwood said. "A well-trained staff is the most important ingredient in any successful restaurant."

HTI's unique, customizable programs teach service industry employees the finer points of guest services, from how to greet guests to the correct way to pour wine and clear a table - details that make a difference to discerning guests, and to a restaurant's bottom line.

"Many restaurant owners never had to do service tasks for a living, so they don't understand the how and why of training," said John Tedesco, director of training for HTI. "And some operate on the theory that they can save money by hiring unskilled wait staff, not realizing that poor service and high turnover actually cost them more than they could ever save."

Innovative hospitality training courses are held weekly at HTI's facility, or sessions can be held on-site at Baltimore/D.C.-area restaurants and hotels - an approach that affords service personnel the opportunity to receive instruction in familiar surroundings. In addition to teaching the basics of good service, HTI has spearheaded a program aimed at staff with limited English proficiency. Developed with the help of certified ESL teachers, the courses teach industry-specific English conversation and vocabulary.

Group course requests and individual applications for HTI's programs are accepted on a rolling basis, and registrations can be initiated online or by phone.

For more information about Hospitality Training Institute's courses, please visit http://www.hospitalityinstitute.net/HTI or call 703-496-7292.

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