Friday, August 18, 2006

Site for sore eyes

So much ho-hum is passed off as gee-whiz that we editors tend to filter claims of innovation through a Shaquille O’Neal-sized layer of cynicism. Then someone manages to yank your attention to something truly progressive, and there’s the same uplift you get from watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

That’s how it went when the folks from Johnson & Wales University came to our office recently to showcase a new website they’ve developed with the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The site,, was conceived and painstakingly designed to illuminate a path into foodservice for high school students intrigued by the possibility of a career in that field.

The site intends to give the youngsters a taste of life in the business by telling the story of someone who’s actually doing the job that interests them. J&W is building a library of profiles, each keyed not only to a particular hospitality position but also to a company that could eventually offer employment of that sort to the interested teen. For instance, if a visitor thinks he might like to work as an executive chef, he’d be led to a bank of profiles, where various real-life executive chefs describe not only their lives, in and out of work, but also what it’s like to work in their capacity for their particular employer, be it Marriott International, Compass Group or Capital Grille.

If the visitor wanted more information on that company, he can click on a link that takes him to a landing page hosted by the concern. There he’ll find indications about benefits offered specifically for students, such as scholarships, or internships.

For that soft-sell opportunity, the employers pay the non-profit site a sponsorship fee, which has yet to be revealed by J&W.

The profiles include detailed information on the amount of education needed to land a position, as well as an indication of the pay.

Of course, few of the site’s target audience have realized at their tender age that they’d like to work in marketing, or that being a unit manager could be far more satisfying and lucrative than being a chef. The site leads them to the appropriate job or industry discipline by asking broad-based questions about the lifestyle they’d prefer—being financially secure, for instance, versus having more free time.

The site isn’t a pitch for Johnson & Wales; indeed, the school is prohibited by the terms of its Labor Department grant from wooing applicants. Rather, the objective is promoting foodservice as a career choice, so that all parties see their pool deepening.

It’s a worthy cause, and a notable, noteworthy attempt to deliver.

If you’d like more information about the site, just drop me a note at, and I’d be glad to pass it along to J&W.

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