Courtesy of Sydney Rosenberg ‘26

Hotel students serve paid patrons at Establishment.

April 17, 2024

Establishment at Statler: A Culinary Classroom and Fine Dining Experience

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Establishment at Statler is not just a restaurant. It is a showcase of the talent and teamwork of students in the School of Hotel Administration.  

As part of HADM 3350: Restaurant Management, students are tasked with operating and staffing their own restaurant. The course was previously limited to juniors and seniors, but was opened up to sophomores this year due to a rearranged curriculum. 

Heather Kolakowski, senior lecturer in the Hotel School and course supervisor of “Restaurant Management,” described Establishment as a comprehensive learning environment.

“It really is a huge project that brings in aspects of [the student’s] whole hotelie career,” Kolakowski said. “The teams really get to know each other very well as they think about what sort of specials they want to offer for the evening from a meal standpoint, but also from a theme standpoint.”

Students in the restaurant management course use Establishment as a hands-on learning environment to synthesize food service concepts, business principles and hospitality management theories.

The restaurant was originally named Table 278 in the Fall of 2012. The Hotel School was then offered the opportunity to move the restaurant to the North Terrace space on the ground floor of the Statler Hotel. The students proposed a new name for the restaurant with the move, resulting in the name Establishment.

Students can apply their knowledge in a live restaurant setting, enhancing their skills and preparing them for future careers in the hospitality industry. Sydney Rosenberg ‘26, a Hotel School student enrolled in “Restaurant Management,” explained that this course allowed her to apply her coursework to a professional context. 

“It was really inspiring to see all of my knowledge that I had built up and acquired throughout the years come together,” Rosenberg said.

The course meets every week for a 50-minute lecture and a seven-hour lab and is taught by nine instructors between the back house instructors — who supervise the chefs in the kitchen — and front of house instructors — who manage the servers, bartenders, hosts, bussers, food runners and bar back. 

“We prioritize it as a classroom first and then a dining establishment second,” Rosenberg said. 

Each semester, students form management teams and take on responsibilities such as directing their peers in the restaurant’s operation, proposing and executing menu additions, marketing the restaurant and training and managing their classmates.

Students work in teams of four to lead and manage their peers who are assisting in the dining room and the kitchen to prepare the food. Each team member is a manager one night a semester and then rotates between host, server, bartender or chef throughout the rest of the semester. 

While teams tend to focus on cuisine or fusion in their dishes, Rosenberg’s group decided to make dishes focused on the group’s theme — Taste Don’t Touch inspired by Andy Warhol — mimicking the elite, unsophisticated culture of the art world in Manhattan with dishes like “pop art beat carpaccio” and “red velvet underground whoopie pies.” To advertise their theme, the group created @tastedonttouch.jpg, an Instagram page with a retro concept to reflect their theme. 

Rosenberg’s group created an Instagram page to reflect their Establishment theme.

“All of our courses that we’ve learned up to this point have prepared us in a way. It wasn’t just coming up with a concept, but we had to pitch it to our class and make sure it was feasible with our chefs,” Rosenberg said. “In terms of product requisition, we had to source our ingredients and make sure they were financially feasible within the constraints of Establishment.”

Many Hotel School students look forward to the Establishment program from early on in their time at the University. Rosenberg’s team had been looking forward to working together in the Establishment since their freshman year, and found the process grew their friendship. 

“It was just such a memorable night,” Rosenberg said. “It’s really [a] different friendship and relationship that I built with these other three managers.”

Establishment is not only memorable for those involved in the creation of the meal, but also for those enjoying the meals. Establishment reservations are often in high demand, with some being completely booked within 10 seconds. 

“It was pretty difficult to get a reservation for my friend’s Establishment. We knew that reservations opened at 10 a.m. a few weeks before the actual date, so my friends and I all got ready to book a table as fast as possible,” said Nikki Buhac ’26. “Among the six of us, we were able to get one table before the time slot we had chosen was sold out.”

Buhac described that it was special to see her peers transform into professional chefs and business managers.

“It was amazing to see the creations of my peers in their establishments and be able to enjoy and celebrate their hard work,” Buhac said. “It was so cool to be able to have such a high-quality dining experience in the same building where I have classes.”

While the demand for reservations is high, Establishment comes with some unpredictable challenges for the managers, such as guests being late to their reservations or not enjoying their meals. 

“I remember a student asking me, ‘Do you purposely make something happen so that we have to deal with it?’ And I say, ‘absolutely ‘not’. That is our industry,” Kolakowski explained.

Rosenberg emphasized that one of her biggest frustrations with leading the Establishment was coordinating with the peers her team worked with.

We planned so much for that night, and we had such high expectations to succeed and [high] standards of service,” Rosenberg said. “In the kitchen, I know that people didn’t look over the recipes or plan for their stations, which slowed down the back of the house. And in the front of the house, there was trouble with communication.

Kolakowski agreed that communicating to ensure the kitchen and dining room are on the same page is one of the biggest challenges that arise within an Establishment. In addition to it being the largest project of a hotel student’s time at school, there is the added pressure of delivering food to paying guests. 

Aside from the cooking aspect of the class, students need to think about the finances. Teams have to consider the costs of producing and purchasing these dishes and beverages for 60 people. 

Kolakowski explained that a team’s grade is not about their sales, but about how they can manage others and the written assignments post-establishment.

“If you have the highest sales doesn’t mean you’re going to get the highest grade. It’s really how they plan for it and how they manage during the night and then the deliverables that they deliver after,” Kolakowski said.

Despite the challenges and intense nature that Establishment has, the restaurant serves as a rewarding educational experience for students like Brandon Mazen ’26.

“It’s the best experience you can get in terms of being a manager and running a restaurant because you’re really just doing it hands-on instead of just learning about it,” Mazen said.