San José State University Hospitality Management graduate Jennifer Hill is an assistant manager at the The Bench Restaurant, one of many eateries that dot the Pebble Beach Resort property in Carmel. For the last three years, she has come back to SJSU to train students as part of the Special Event Management Team program that will bring 35 students to the resort in February to serve as supervisors at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
As a student in 2010, Hill participated in the internship program.
“They really set you up for success,” she said of the week-long internship that requires intense training for the students in the months leading up to the Pro-Am. “They make sure they are right behind you, but they let you make decisions.”
The College of Applied Sciences and Arts Hospitality Management department has had a partnership with Pebble Beach since 2006 that allows 30-35 students a year to work at the golf tournament as interns. Pebble Beach managers and SJSU Professor Rich Larson oversee selection of the students, which includes an application and an interview with a panel of professionals. After being selected, the students participated in an orientation on Dec. 6. By the time the tournament starts, the students will have completed seven full-day training sessions on campus and at Pebble Beach. During the tournament, they will work up to 12 hours a day to keep food and beverage concessions running smoothly Feb. 9-15.
On Jan. 15, during their second day of on-campus training, Hill talked about why she came back as a trainer and what she learned from the program.
“I like their willingness to learn,” she said, “I can share my experience from a different perspective (than the other Pebble Beach trainers.)”
She said when she participated in the program, she had already had internships and had worked on planning weddings.
“I had experience with delegating and management so it wasn’t unfamiliar,” she said. “I think the confidence was the biggest thing (I gained.) Another is polish, professional language and how to problem solve – but the most important was confidence.”
Marissa Giacomo, a current hospitality management major, said she heard about the program shortly after she transferred to SJSU.
“I was interested in the opportunities that came with it,” she said. “It is a good way to get involved in the industry.”
She said during the first days of training they had learned about the history of Pebble Beach.
Adil Charki, a business student, said he had some friends who were in the program in past years.
“They really enjoyed it and said it was rewarding,” he said, noting that the students come from different backgrounds, including different majors on campus.
Dayna Miya, a hospitality and event management student, said she heard about the internship in her second year on campus in a hospitality class. She applied twice to the program before she was accepted this year.
“I didn’t really know what they were looking for,” she said. “But this year I knew the process. I’ve had a lot of experience with events for family and friends, but not with corporate and professional settings.”
On the second morning of training on Jan. 15, the conversations focused on professionalism for the students who will be tasked with managing Skyboxes and Chalet hospitality rooms for VIP guests along the fairway as well as other on-course food and beverage operations.
During their training sessions on campus, the students met in rooms in the Boccardo Business Center, where they transformed classrooms into a conference room. The students were even critiqued on their set up of the room’s food and beverage tables.
“For breakfast, I walked in and some of the set up was very well done,” said Jeff Wallace, the food and beverage director for Pebble Beach. “But the napkins and silverware – not so much. I noticed it was spaced too far apart.”
He advised that as supervisors, the students should seek out those with experience in table set up from their crew when they are setting up their areas at the golf tournament.
As part of the morning’s training, the students broke into groups and discussed the one most important thing that contributes to a customer’s first impression. The students mentioned such things as having someone to greet clients, cleanliness of the room, noise level, proper signage and directions, the flow of a room and how the outside of a restaurant looks.
Donn Achen, a training and communication manager from Pebble Beach, said it was his second year working with the students.
“It is important they understand how much their customer service skills come into play,” he said. “They need to listen. They will work with a variety of people and circumstances. They need to keep the same standards and values, whether it is a temporary or permanent position.”
Achen said the student interns are a critical part of the success of the tournament each year.
“They get a chance to work in a world-class hospitality spot and get coached by the best in the business,” he said.