Cafe Laura

Student-run Cafe Laura receives rave review from professional association

The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association offered a rave review for Penn State hospitality management students who hosted a luncheon for the organization at Cafe Laura, the School of Hospitality Management's "living lab" in Mateer Building.

As part of the course Food Production and Service Management, students prepared and served lunch to roughly 100 PRLA members who were attending PRLA's spring conference at the Nittany Lion Inn in April.

"Cafe Laura was truly one of the highlights of the conference because the growth of young people into our business is vitally important," said John Longstreet, president and CEO of PRLA. "This was a wonderful opportunity for our members to have a great lunch while also seeing the future of our industry at work and seeing what a terrific laboratory Cafe Laura is for young people to learn the business."

While serving such a large number of guests in a short period of time can be challenging for restaurant workers, Longstreet was impressed with students' performance.

"I was very pleased at how well students did in getting people through the line," said Longstreet, who is also a member of the school's Industry Advisory Board.

Members also appreciated the menu selection, which included Mediterranean chicken, portabella ciabatta sandwiches, spicy lamb gyros, fried chicken wraps, pizza, minestrone soup and salads.

"The quality of the foods, not only the made-to-order-salads, but also the hot foods and the pizza, got rave reviews from our members," Longstreet said. "We attend banquet luncheons all of the time, so for our members to get a chance to experience Cafe Laura truly added a dimension to the conference that is going to be very memorable."

Longstreet also praised Donna Quadri-Felitti, Marvin Ashner Director of the School of Hospitality Management, and instructors J.P. Ranjeva and George Ruth for making the event a success.

While the event was unique, hospitality management students handle daily lunch operations for the on-campus restaurant.

"Event planning and execution is part of our students' curriculum," Ranjeva said. "The PRLA experience was a good test of their planning, organization and teamwork skills. At the same time, organizing this private event was not that different from what the students do every week when catering to more than 140 clients for lunch at Cafe Laura."

Steve Rutkowski, who served as one of the restaurant managers for the event, appreciated the opportunity to host PRLA members.

"It makes me feel good to know that I served leaders in the restaurant and lodging industry," Rutkowski said. "People are the greatest asset to the hospitality industry, and their leadership is important to the overall service of others. I am very appreciative of this one-time experience."

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican from Centre County, offered remarks at the luncheon. A Penn State alumnus, Corman said the PRLA event marked his first visit to Cafe Laura.

Written by: Jennifer Miller, jlm966@psu.edu