When Thomas Penny took a job as a dishwasher for the Andrews Air Force Base Holiday Inn to pay his college tuition, he didn’t expect to embark on a career in hospitality management.
The business major quickly advanced from dishwasher to front desk clerk to restaurant manager. Today, 10 years later, Penny is the food and beverage director of the Holiday Inn Capitol, located just a block from the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Penny found his success in the hospitality sector, one of three areas — along with technology and pharmaceutical/biotechnology — that BLACK ENTERPRISE is examining for growth and career opportunities, particularly in light of a weak economy and the events of Sept. 11, which contributed to massive layoffs and attrition throughout the job market.
HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY PULSE CHECK
According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant/food service segment of the hospitality industry is growing as a result of several factors: a baby boomer generation that likes convenience, an aging population, more working moms, and more time spent commuting. Consumers spend more than 46% of their food dollars on prepared food away from home — an increase of 25% since 1955. Sept. 11 mostly affected high-end restaurants and restaurants located in cities, tourist destinations, and airports. Neighborhood restaurants, however, reported higher sales, says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and information services.
“Many consumers didn’t want to venture too far from their home,” says Riehle, who calls neighborhood restaurants a “social oasis.”
For the hotel and lodging segment of the industry, things are not looking so cheerful. The declining economy in 2001 contributed to a drop in room occupancies and business travelers. “[Even before Sept. 11], a lot of companies had started cutting back on having employees travel,” says Tia Gordon, spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Where the industry is headed. The growth areas in the restaurant/food service are casual dining, delivery services, carryout, quick-service or fast food, and the newer hybrid quick-casual, which provides more variety in food choices at the speed of fast-food service. In a 2001 National Restaurant Association survey, 40% of all adults said they’d use a drive-through option at their favorite restaurant; for those ages18 — 24, the figure was even higher at 56%.
“This indicates a good market opportunity to meet consumer demand for typical table service offerings delivered in a more convenient way,” says Riehle.
The hotel and lodging industry is focusing on promotions such as room and menu discounts and joint promotional ventures with travel-related businesses, including fast-food restaurants and service stations. Gordon says hotels are also targeting family travel, with an expanded definition of what makes up a family.
Breaking in. The hospitality industry experience is highly valued by most companies looking to hire executives and managers. Professionals working in the hospitality industry must work long hours, nights, weekends, and holidays. “Most executives are use to working the standard 9-to-5. The busiest days for restaurants are weekends, nights, and holidays,” says Lance Moresi, senior executive recruiter at Hospitality Recruiters in Fayetteville, Georgia. “Candidates