Deputy Dean of the IIM Hospitality Department Irina Goncharova speaks about Entrepreneurship in Hospitality Industry Master's program

11 June 2021
Deputy Dean of the IIM Hospitality Department Irina Goncharova speaks about Entrepreneurship in Hospitality Industry Master's program

Entrepreneurship in Hospitality Industry, a Master's degree program from the RANEPA Institute of Industry Management (IIM), is expanding to Russian regions. This year, along with the full-time on-campus course, IIM will also offer enrollment for an online program. Who is expected to join the program? Is it difficult? What disciplines do participants study? Is it possible to do an internship in the field of choice? Where do graduates work? Irina Goncharova, Deputy Dean of the Hospitality Department at IIM RANEPA, answered our questions.

- Please tell us first why anyone needs a Master's degree in hospitality? What makes it different from a Bachelor's degree?

- A Bachelor’s degree – at least our multidisciplinary undergraduate degree in Hospitality – provides an understanding of the operational processes in this business, including standards, operating procedures, and rules. New Bachelors know how to calculate and predict economic indicators, and make good management decisions at their department level. This is enough for starting a career in the hospitality industry or for the initial stage of business development.

Upgrading to Master's level means going beyond the current operations. It is the next step towards creating effective and profitable business models in HoReCa or event management. We teach our students to think strategically and make key management decisions. Our main goal is to give them the expertise and skills they will need to view their business’s operation as an integrated process, from the planning, organizing, and coordinating perspectives.

- If, say, a design engineer comes to you and says, I want to open a restaurant, could you teach me how? Will you offer them a Master's or a Bachelor's program?

- If a person holds a Bachelor’s degree and has a general idea of ​​management and economics, they can go straight to Master’s level. People with university degrees in technology actually progress faster and easier because they have well-developed analytical thinking skills. Graduates from related fields, like from the food industry, are also easily adaptable. It’s not so difficult to learn management and economics. It’s important to be motivated and determined to understand and to immerse yourself in a real business environment.

There are basically two categories of Master's students in the Entrepreneurship in Hospitality Industry program. The first includes our graduates. They have earned their Bachelor's degrees from the Hospitality Department at IIM RANEPA, have worked in the industry for a year or two and decided they needed to level up. With a Master's degree, they can move to the next qualification level, and be promoted to a higher-paying position.

The other category includes those who have completed Bachelor's programs in other fields, but with an interest in the hospitality business. With degrees from the Financial University, Plekhanov University, HSE and other schools, they have decided to radically change their career. They will certainly need to put in more time and effort, but the curriculum is built in such a way that, with enough diligence, everyone can become a hospitality professional. We give our Master’s students a chance to explore operations at all departments and even to do internships at companies operating in the field of their interest.

- So your students can get real experience of working at a restaurant or a hotel?

- It is our strong belief – confirmed by the reality – that without practice, it is impossible even to open a hot dog joint on your first try. Well, you might be able to open one, but it won’t stay in business for long. Not to mention a bar, a restaurant or mini-hotel.

Of course, we do not send our Master’s students to do months-long practicums, as we do in our Bachelor's program. Most Master’s students have employment. But if someone has no experience in the industry, we are ready to arrange special internships.

A student can take an accelerated course of working in a restaurant, which takes a few months, and proceed to the second stage of their internship where they can become an assistant manager. In Moscow, we usually arrange internships at Meat & Fish, a restaurant run by our partner, Sergei Mironov. It is also a valuable experience for people from the industry, and for those who are not familiar with hospitality cuisine, it is a unique opportunity to figure out how everything works.

- You said “in Moscow.” What about students who will be participating online from other regions – will they be able to do an internship as well?

- Yes, they will. We can organize internships in different cities because our department has a partnership with the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers (FRiO), which has more than 3,000 members in the catering and hospitality industry around Russia. And we have already agreed that the professional community in the regions will support our program. Local students will be recommended companies in their cities where they can take an internship or do some practical activities.

- How is the learning process structured?

- Classes are held in a small group – as a rule, no more than 20 people. This way all our students can discuss their projects with teachers and exchange knowledge and experience.

In an introductory session, we ask our new students what they want to achieve under the program. Usually, after two years, their initial ideas change a lot. For example, a young woman had in mind opening a children's cafe. Two years later, she actually opened a catering business – but one for IT people. Some participants, after exploring various options, find themselves in a related field: for example, they start their own culinary production.

Our syllabus includes compulsory management disciplines (Financial Management and Corporate Finance, Theory of Organizations and Organizational Behavior, Research Methods in Management, etc.) and elective subjects. We pay great attention to aspects such as food safety management, personnel management, tax policy, legal environment for business. A hospitality manager needs to know a lot of things, starting from where to buy ingredients and how to arrange the work with suppliers.

Since the hospitality industry includes different segments with their own specifics, we divided some disciplines into areas: for example, we teach Management Automation and Product and Process Design separately for students from the hotel and restaurant businesses.

At the beginning of the first year, we conduct a research and practice seminar where students get an idea of the different segments of the hospitality market and decide what interests them most. During their first semester, they also decide what their Master's thesis would include.

- What is a Master's thesis like?

- Our students develop a business concept for a hospitality project or enterprise. As a rule, it is about starting a business. Part of our students do applied strategic projects for the company they work for. In simpler terms, their graduation projects are devoted to how the business can make more money.

- Tell us a little more about remote learning. How will it be organized?

- It will be a mix of remote projects, online conferences and face-to-face meetings in Moscow, no more than once a year, during the summer exam session. According to the standard, the number of classroom hours for Master’s students is 16 per week. Remote students will also be taking 16 hours, but we will place greater emphasis on working with educational materials. A whole module will be devoted to management reporting – we will provide a set of cases and calculations.

We are launching a remote attendance format because we have had a lot of requests from the regions. The Entrepreneurship in Hospitality Industry program is also popular among Moldovans, Belarusians, Kazakhs, and others. But moving to Moscow for two years to study is both difficult and costly. The pandemic has shown that we are ready to provide services online, and the demand for quality education has, if anything, grown. Russian regions are short of specialists who could share their experience.

Not all regions have international hotel chains to use as a model. There is no full-fledged system of standards, and no personnel training system. Most people have only a vague understanding of which product will be popular with tourists this year, or the next, or ten years from now. This is what we teach on our program.

- What do your graduates do?

- Almost all new Masters continue to work in their field as managers, service coordinators, deputy heads of departments, heads of enterprises. Arina Antsukova is now director of a Fridays restaurant; Grigory Stryukov is deputy head of the reception and accommodation service at Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya hotel; Vitaly Kalugin is training manager for White Rabbit, and so on. Our graduates also teach undergraduate courses.

- Is it difficult to enroll in the program?

- Entrance tests include two stages. First, applicants take a test in Management and Marketing Theory, which is no problem with a Bachelor's degree. All the topics, recommended reading, and sample test questions can be found in the 2021 admissions program.

The second stage involves solving a business case from the hospitality industry. We describe a problem that managers of a certain project are facing, and the applicant needs to decide whether to close the project or to continue working on it. It is important for us to understand how the applicant thinks, whether they are able to substantiate their decisions, not in words, but in figures. To do so, one needs to have some understanding of business 101, know how to calculate the break-even point, etc.

- Let's summarize. What do you think are the main benefits of this program?

- The most important thing is the opportunity to communicate with experts who have successful projects on the market behind them, for two or two and a half years, if you take the program online. Our professors can advise students on which way to move, which business will be most profitable in the near future. It’s great to be able to chat with the hospitality industry stars who are well versed in business development.

Secondly, the program offers an immersion in the real life of this industry, with its challenges and new opportunities. There is an ongoing research seminar on current issues of hospitality throughout the second year of the program. Students participate in workshops, analyze specific real-life management cases, and explore the advantages and disadvantages of various business models. We actually teach them very specific things that only practitioners know.



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