Amidst closures and restrictions, the restaurant industry has been among those hit hardest by the global health crisis this year. To help, a team of 11 MBA candidates in the Curry College 2020 cohort used their culminating Capstone project this fall to provide new research, best practices, and recommendations. Their work will aid Good N U Hospitality as they prepare to navigate both the immediate and lasting impact of the coronavirus on consumer dining behavior and trends.
"As a cohort class, when we started to think about the type of company we wanted to work with for our Capstone project, we immediately turned to the hospitality industry," says Chris Parnell, the MBA Capstone project leader. "We wanted to make a difference and help a company in an industry that was most affected by the pandemic."
This week's Capstone presentation revealed findings from Upserve that showed Boston, San Francisco, and New Orleans as the worst affected restaurant cities in terms of year over year revenue decline due to the pandemic. The Boston Herald also reported in September that nearly one in five restaurants in Massachusetts have permanently closed this year.
Acting as expert consultants, the MBA cohort developed a comprehensive business plan including new findings, best practices, recommendations, insights, and implementations that address the restaurant company's two largest stressors: Recruiting and engaging employees and enduring a second wave of the coronavirus. The plan delivers roughly 50 recommendations, including specific action plans that include new staff training practices, expanded social media marketing strategies, improved takeout/delivery models, and reimagined indoor/outdoor dining spaces- all informed by thorough consumer behavior and restaurant employee surveys, industry best practice and competitor research. Cohort members spent as many as 40 hours a week compiling the new plan throughout the fall semester, including site visits to many of the company's different restaurants.
"The presentation and ideas are awe-inspiring. We have thought about some of these ideas, but we didn't know how to begin to implement them. This business plan will give us the exact path we need to put the ideas into play," says Alex Tamargo, director of operations, Good N U Hospitality, at the virtual presentation held Wednesday. "You've done a great job, and we're excited and grateful for this hard work. This has been a wonderful experience for us."
The Capstone project, in which the MBA cohort work as a team of consultants to an area organization on an applied research project, is the signature end of the graduate program at Curry College. Other Capstone partners in recent years have included Reebok, Cisco Brewers, Hasbro, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Parnell, who works as the operations manager for Miller & Co. at Compass, selected the MBA program at Curry College over Boston College and UMASS-Amherst for the distinct experiential learning opportunity presented in the Capstone. "It's a great MBA program for professionals that want a cohort learning model with a Capstone project," he says. "As someone who hires staff, employers want someone with real work experience. The Capstone provides that real, hands-on aspect of consulting and working with a client and a team. You can't get that experience sitting in a regular classroom."
The capstone project is a unique differentiator amongst MBA programs, says Steven Gunning, professor and director of graduate programs in business at Curry College. "The capstone project brings together all that our MBA students have learned and allows them to apply it to solve a real business challenge in a professional consulting role. It's experiential education and hands-on learning for them while also providing real value for the client."