Born from industry vets and LWH partners Adam Weisblatt’s and Holly Fox’s desire to create a comfortable environment for hospitality workers to share their challenges, attend management-level training, and connect with potential employers, the program is committed to advancing hospitality by investing in its most important asset – people.
Each class is led by Weisblatt or Fox, alongside special guests. Classes will be offered three days per month, and each topic will have two 14-seat sessions. Encouraging conversation and interaction through a series of discussion topics and case studies, the 90-minute classes will be conducted around a conference table, followed by a 30-minute Q&A session.
In this MRM Talking With feature, Weisblatt discusses the program and why they we want to help the next generation of hospitality professionals continue to push forward.
Why did you decide to start Last Word Academy?
My business partner, Holly Fox, and I believe that the hospitality industry will continue to grow over the coming decades, and we want to encourage people to progress in their careers. Our brands and clients are constantly looking to fill positions in restaurants and bars, and we all struggle to find front-of-house and back-of-house leadership candidates that are prepared to effectively lead a business.
We’ve always felt that successful hospitality leaders understand both the trade and business of this industry. Aspiring managers can (and should) learn the industry from the ground up – but the business skills necessary are not so easily acquired. Our aim with LWA was to provide free access to learn these skills, while providing networking opportunities for all involved.
In what ways do you hope to improve leadership in the hospitality industry?
We’d really love to see more young leaders and owner/operators in this business. In our experience, the path towards career advancement is not always so clear – especially in an industry with so many small hospitality groups and mom/pop operations. Many of these companies have limited resources to train the general staff, not to mention the advanced skills needed to truly run an operation effectively. If we can share some basic skills that will help people find their own voice and leadership style, that would be a huge success for us.
What do you define as some of the “open-ended challenges” of running a hospitality operation?
One of the most difficult challenges of managing a hospitality operation is logistical experience needed to run what is basically a micro-corporation. Each operation has an enormous amount of line items within their expenses, many of which are literally turning to garbage the moment you buy them. Considering the humble amount of revenue many of these venues are seeing, it’s incredibly difficult to find managers or operators who can navigate the quantity of expenses to be controlled while still providing customers with a valuable experience.
The ability to oversee a kitchen staff, bar staff, floor staff, etc. – along with controlling an ever-diminishing inventory, intense competition, rising labor and rent costs, and increasingly savvy customers – is an open-ended challenge that is what the best hospitality operators embrace and constantly strive to improve.
Why did you choose to structure the classes in a small interactive setting?
Limiting the classes to 14 attendees allows for a huge amount of interaction within the group. The concepts we’re covering often present themselves differently to each participant, each of which has experienced their own successes and failures on the subject.
We find that sharing these experiences in combination with insight from an experienced trainer provides the group with new ideas that they can immediately institute in their own careers and their lives in general.
Why is it tuition free?
Our own business and clients benefit immensely from capable hospitality managers. If this program can encourage people to take the next step in their careers – and if they want to do that with us or people we know – their abilities will make the investment worth our time in the long run. We think a lot of other operators, companies, and brands will feel the same way.
What do you hope students take away from the courses?
We hope that the students go home inspired. If the attendees can learn a few leadership, communication, financial, management, or operational skills, we hope they are able to integrate their new abilities to enhance their lives. This industry is open to everyone, and we want to encourage people to take their careers seriously.
What response have you received from students?
We’ve received incredibly positive responses from our attendees, thus far. The students have ranged from cooks, bartenders, F&B directors, chefs, and directors of operations. For some, the classes have opened their eyes to entirely new skills. For some of our more experienced attendees, the classes have served as a form of validation that they’ve been doing things correctly, while still providing an opportunity for them to talk through more complex challenges.
Do you see Last Word Academy expanding?
Absolutely. We have some very big plans, but we’re not quite ready to share them, yet:)
What are some lessons you have learned that you are trying to instill in students?
Through our vast and varied experiences (both good, and bad) within the industry, we have learned an endless amount of valuable lessons. Considering the significant number of people required to operate a hospitality venue, along with the even larger number of people needed as customers – we feel that the ability to lead and understand personalities is the first skill new managers will need to master.
One of the most important lessons we share is simple: Everyone deserves respect, and they deserve respect the moment you meet them. Trust must be earned, and it requires training, systems, and oversight to ensure that level of bond is solidified.
How does teaching compare to consulting?
Both consulting and teaching can be incredibly rewarding, but mentoring others provides the most personal satisfaction. The hospitality industry has done a lot for the both of us, and we love sharing the skills we’ve learned along the way with anyone who genuinely wants to learn.
To learn more about upcoming topics or apply for a spot on the Last Word Hospitality, click here. Forthcoming subjects include:
Operations: Be the Dependable Professional
Emphasis: Creating a Managerial “Mis en Place,” The Importance of Recruiting & Training, and Maintenance is a Virtue
April 2: session one 11 a.m. | session two 2 p.m.
Concept & Menu Development: Matching Passion with Strategy
Emphasis: Concept and Strategy Development, Building Cohesive Brands, Programming, and Being Honest with Yourself
April 3: session one 11 a.m. | session two 2 p.m.