Over the course of the past four months, my desire to start a career in the hospitality industry has grown much larger due to the wonderful experience I have had as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for UGSRP. I have become well versed in many aspects of the hospitality industry, and have gained an attentive interest in all things related to sustainability. This position has given me insight into the topic of sustainability as well as other areas of interest.
To start my summer off, I had the pleasure of participating in UGSRP’s ‘Tipped Out?’ forum at George Brown College. I had the opportunity to listen to a dynamic group of speakers, learning their perspective on tipping within the restaurant industry. Many of the speakers were successful restaurateurs, and hearing them share their passion for the industry was inspiring. Furthermore, I was given the privilege of engaging with a great network of people.
Another impactful event that I participated in was the Canadian Restaurant Investment Summit (CRIS) held at the Hilton Hotel in Toronto towards the end of May. The experience of networking with executives of large name corporations in the restaurant industry, as well as having the opportunity to engage with individuals within the industry was invaluable. Sitting in on seminar discussions provided me with insight toward multiple aspects of the operations and planning processes that go into independent and corporate ventures. Additionally, at the conference, I was in charge of displaying the University of Guelph booth, and answering questions regarding UGSRP and our hospitality programs. I was proud to represent the University of Guelph and UGSRP, and was able to practice my oral communication skills.
As promised this summer, a major portion of my work consisted on the sustainability of take-out packaging in the restaurant industry. It is eye opening to see where our industry was dating back to post World War II era, and the lengths we have achieved to get where we are today. While I was admittedly shocked at the amount of needless waste in the take-out industry, I very am hopeful for all of the positive initiatives regarding take-out packaging in the near future. For the majority of my summer, I focused on conducting extensive Internet research for an upcoming UGSRP paper on take-out packaging. My research was not limited solely to the Internet; I also enjoyed being able to go to restaurants within the Guelph region, and conducted primary research (for the first time in my academic career) by purchasing typical take-out meals, and studying the packaging. Surprisingly, the majority of our take-out packaging is still made from polystyrene, a petroleum based product, due to its ability to store heat as well as being relatively inexpensive. As my interest in take-out packaging grew, I started to compile a chart of my findings to compare and contrast take-out packages among some of our most popular restaurants, generally within the quick-service sector. This chart highlights some of the major comparison points I found across five different establishments.
Aside from meeting many individuals within the restaurant industry in person, I was also responsible for conducting phone interviews in regards to tipping options within many restaurants. From this, I learned a substantial amount of information about operations of a restaurant, as well as employee perceptions on the systems within their restaurants. Additionally, I developed more effective telephone conversation communication skills as the summer progressed. Although most of my research focused on the sustainability of restaurants, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities that arose to research the sustainability of the wine industry, which is very closely related. Having taken HTM 4050, a wine education course offered at the University of Guelph, my knowledge-base was enriched by exploring specific vineyards, including both organic and biodynamic.
A final aspect of my research experience that I enjoyed was engaging the online community in sustainability related discussions through Twitter. I was responsible for sharing innovative ideas and thought-provoking information that my research efforts this summer produced to our Twitter followers @SustainableRest. This experience enhanced my ability to succinctly communicate large ideas in a simple way, and has helped me to communicate about sustainability more clearly with those who may not be familiar with sustainability in the hospitality industry, both online and in person.
After a successful four months as a Research Assistant, the value, connection, and knowledge I received from this position is exceptional. I give a big thank you to Bruce McAdams for a phenomenal experience. I am pleased to have networked and met many people, and it has been such a pleasure. UGSRP has certainly changed my view for the environment to be as environmentally conscious as possible in many aspects of my life. If you wish to stay in contact, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you, UGSRP!
– Julie Moroz