In May 2017, The Matthews House piloted Restaurant Ready, a program through the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation. In addition to teaching students transferable skills, Restaurant Ready prepares participants, 16 to 24 years old, for successful employment in the restaurant industry.
“The main goal of Restaurant Ready is to provide our students a long-term career path,” said Justin Kruger, Building Employment Skills Coordinator at The Matthews House. The program started when the Restaurant Association noticed a need in the restaurant service industry for dependable employees, along with a population of youth who are available to work.
Justin said that when restaurants were contacted by the National Restaurant Association and asked what kinds of skills they are looking for in their workers, nearly every restaurant, chef or business had the same answer: skills such as dependability, capability, communication, team work, adaptability, and the ability to receive feedback positively. The Matthews House and four other organizations in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Austin, and San Diego were chosen to pilot the Restaurant Ready program. While the other pilot programs have on-site culinary training, The Matthews House does not.
“What The Matthews House brings is a very strong commitment to support”
Restaurants teach students about the job and treat them as equal employees while The Matthews House supports the students by helping them see how they can improve, and mentoring them as they navigate the restaurant industry. Restaurant Ready primarily focuses on teaching students soft skills, but recently hard skills related to working in a restaurant, such as basic knife skills and learning about the chemicals common in restaurants, have been introduced.
Along with restaurant skills, partnering with the Larimer County Workforce Center contributes to teaching students interview skills and resume building, both of which can easily be transferred to other jobs in the future. “The training is more those soft skills, which they call power skills,” said Jerri Schmitz, founder and Executive Director of The Matthews House. “All of those work skills that are needed in any industry.” While the skills learned in Restaurant Ready can be applied to jobs unrelated to restaurants, students are learning that working in the restaurant industry is a realistic long-term career.
“I think they are really getting to understand that the restaurant industry is a viable career choice. It’s not just fast food, but working in professional kitchens is a long-term career that could provide for them and a future family.”
In the Fort Collins area there are 10 partner restaurants participating in this program. Justin said he tries to ensure a beneficial experience for both the businesses and the students placed in the restaurants by getting to know the students individually to learn their personalities and how they best operate. The student to restaurant connection is an important aspect of Restaurant Ready. “I want them to fit there,” Justin said. “I want that restaurant’s culture and mission and community to line up with that student.” As restaurants learn of the Restaurant Ready program that is dedicated to training a workforce for the restaurant industry, they can contact Justin who will then have resumes available to send. Justin speaks from experience when he said this process will save employers time. As a former chef, Justin said he recalls going through the hiring process several times and said Restaurant Ready will allow chefs to spend more time working and less time searching for an employee.
Participants of Restaurant Ready come from various backgrounds and locations in the Northern Colorado area, and Justin said there is a broad range of students currently involved in the program. As the program is adjusted on the national level to improve and grow, Restaurant Ready has the potential to be an extremely beneficial program for the restaurant industry and the participants alike.
As of 2019, we no longer have this specific program, but have expanded to offer our Job Readiness Program.