Hotel Henry Program gives students in depth look at hotel industry

The Richardson-Olmsted Complex has always been a visible representation of Buffalo’s rich architectural history. In April 2017, the complex underwent a major transformation  into a symbol of Buffalo’s renewal as a city on the rise. The new Hotel Henry has been open for several months but is finding additional use a crucial educational tool.

Hotel Henry has partnered with Buffalo State College’s Hospitality and Tourism Department to create The Hotel Henry Experience. Professor Rebecca Tate is the Faculty Director for the Hotel Henry Experience. She described how the program is structured to give students a full view of the hotel’s many functions.

Professor Tate said the department selected ten students who will be working ten hours a week in four different departments throughout the semester. Originally the program was going to utilize five departments, the fifth department being sales, to teach students about hotel operations. However, since the hotel is still new their sales department isn’t ready to take on student employees.

To be applicable for the program, students must be full-time Hospitality Majors, they must have taken HTR 368, Hotel Operations, be a junior or senior that can commit two semesters to the program, and be in good academic standing. Because this isn’t an ordinary type of class, students have different assignments for each week.

“They do journal reflections and assignments each week”, said Tate. “They are not tested like an in-class test but they are tested in their knowledge of the different department areas. They need to know how to write a banquet event order, or what’s on the menus at 100 Acres [Hotel Henry’s restaurant].”

The program is new but does have some flaws that Professor Tate and the other supervisors of the hotel are watching for.

“Because this is the first semester and it’s a new hotel, there are some tweaks we plan on. We are taking their feedback very seriously. We are looking at the rotations themselves such as how many weeks are they spending in one department, whether they need to be at the beginning of the program, and what projects they’re working on.”

Hospitality and Tourism students Matthew Jendrasik and Kelly Boyack spoke about how this class has been for them. Matthew has found that even the most minute details gauge a student’s skills in grasping the full scale of an event. For Kelly, the program exceeded the expectations she had for it and really provided a different set of learning experiences for her.

“I’ve only worked in a restaurant, for a few months, five years ago. So, this is very beneficial to me as a hospitality student, to really understand the beginning and end of an event, and the foundation of how to make something a success.”

Next semester, Matthew, Kelly and the other students will be selecting the departments they want to work in and possibly specialize in as a career. Some advice they had for incoming students would be to come prepared with questions because it will help you earn more about the program. Also, even though this program can seem more overwhelming at times, don’t allow that fear to inhibit the experiences you will have in this course.

Tate has been excited about this program because it really opens up the departments students too more experience. Some students can already apply for Buffalo State’s program with campus House, but this only teaches students about the restaurant business. Tate said this is her first time dealing with a program like this, even though it has been in the works for quite some time.

“We’ve been working on this for a number of years knowing that the Hotel Henry was going to open. It’s taken some work but in 2015 we were able to designate the hotel as a professional development site because they are so close to the campus and having me over there.”

This course is still a work in progress but is well worth it as students are getting their hands dirty and are completely immersed in the world of a hotel’s inner workings.

“It’s really a fantastic opportunity for the students to see real hands-on hotel experience”, Tate said. “The students are learning how to market the hotel, target different market segment, different types of guests, travelers and groups.”