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Challenges Facing Cafe Laura Themed Dinner Capstone Class Mirror Industry

HM 430 is one of the School of Hospitality Management’s best-known courses.

The hands-on, experience-based capstone class requires senior hospitality management majors to plan, organize, and cook themed dinners that are staged at Cafe Laura on campus. Students handle everything from designing the table centerpieces to predicting the revenue their dinner will generate. Anyone can reserve a table, each dinner is held twice, and groups take turns as servers, cooks, and hosts over the course of the semester.

But because the coronavirus pandemic has forced Penn State to switch to remote learning, several groups needed to cancel the dinners they’d already worked hard to plan.

Senior Nathan Suh’s group was forced to cancel its “conspiracy theory” themed dinners, which were originally scheduled for March 26 and April 23. 

“It’s unfortunate that we’re not able to run our dinner,” Suh said.  “My group had an interesting theme lined up and, of course, we invested lots of time and effort into our project.”

In order to accommodate for missed work, groups who did not have the opportunity to present were given two options for a replacement final assignment. They could create a training presentation about the project for their peers or present a take-out menu while demonstrating how a restaurant should continue to operate during the coronavirus outbreak.

“I believe this new project shows us the importance of being able to adapt to sudden changes in our environment, whether the change comes from inside or outside of the workplace,” Suh said. “Of course this pandemic is an extreme situation, but changes of any size are what affects our industry. In the end, we are still learning a critical skill.”

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About the Author

Meredith Lea

Meredith “Deedle” Lea is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. You can find her hanging out with her ZTA sisters, eating Canyon pizza, or playing the saxophone somewhere in the Blue Band. Follow her on instagram @meredee.lea or on twitter @meredeed.

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