Maintaining Rhodesia’s reputation for friendly and efficient service at
Hotel Training Centre
The high standard of service at Rhodesia’s hotels is favourably commented on by visitors to the country, particularly those from Europe and America where automatic tea-makers and trouser presses have often taken the place of a smiling face and a friendly “good morning”.
The Rhodesian standard of service is due partly to the natural courtesy of the African staff, who comprise the majority of the 10 000 people employed in the industry. Another important factor is the high standard of the national hotel and catering industry training programme which provides instruction for waiters, cooks, supervisors and managers.
The centre for this training is the hotel and catering department at the Bulawayo Technical College. Here, in a small but well-equipped educational unit, students receive a sound and thorough introduction to what is a promising life-long career.
The principal departments of an hotel are represented at the college, with a pastry kitchen, larder kitchen, main kitchen and training restaurant, in addition to classrooms. Since the department is responsible for the operation of students’ hostels at the college, catering students also receive practical experience in housekeeping and industrial catering.
The department’s programme of instruction is carefully tailored to the needs of the industry in Rhodesia. This is achieved by the Hotel and Catering Training Committee which co-ordinates and controls all training within the industry. This committee, which was established by the Rhodesia National Tourist Board, includes representatives of the Ministry of Education, hotel management, and the Industrial Council for the Catering Industry.
The top course offered at the department is the National Diploma in Hotelkeeping and Catering Management and competition for the 12 places offered annually is intense and educational requirements are very high.
During their first two years, students are instructed in food studies, beverage studies, accommodation studies, food and beverage management, financial management, personnel management, marketing, tourism, food science and human nutrition, economics, law and Chishona (the language spoken by the majority of black Rhodesians).
The third and last year of the course is served within industry under the supervision of the department and the training officers of the Department of Tourism. During this final year the student is expected to put into practice the theoretical knowledge he has gained during his first two years.
The standard of this diploma has proved high enough for graduates to be attracted to overseas hotels, and some criticism within Rhodesia has been expressed that the money spent in training them is therefore wasted. Mr. Tony Betts, FCFA, LHCIMA, MRIM, the head of the department thinks otherwise. “This is the penalty, one might say, for educating our students to an internationally accepted level,” he says.
Graduates of the National Diploma course already hold top positions in the hotel industry in Rhodesia and Malawi. Each course includes students sponsored by the Malawi government.
One of the most popular courses at the department is an eight-week basic course for waiters. This is particularly popular with young people who do not have educational qualifications, as it opens the door to a career within the catering industry. Students are generally between 17 and 25 years of age.
The practical training within the department’s own training restaurant includes the preparation and layout of tables and caring for the customers. This, obviously, includes seating, recording the order, transporting and serving food and the presentation of the bill.
Students are also given a background knowledge of food and food practice, and they are expected to know enough by the end of the course to translate menus, serve the correct accompaniments and give limited advice on the choice of a meal.
On completion of the course the student-waiter must serve for six months in industry under the supervision of the Department of Tourism training officers before he receives his course certificate.
The department also offers an advanced waiting course which enables experienced waiters to become eligible for head-waiter positions. This course, which is of four weeks duration, instructs students in the finer points of food and wine service and the principles and practice of dining-room and restaurant supervision.
Food in Rhodesian hotels by world standards is both high in quality and reasonable in cost. The one-year cook’s course at the department is intended to maintain this reputation. Basically the course takes students through the cookery syllabus followed by students on the three-year National Diploma course. In addition, they receive tuition in hygiene and elementary nutrition, food service, kitchen organisation, food costing and portion control.
They are also given instruction in English and liberal studies, a general course which is intended to expand their general education background with particular reference to the hotel and catering industry. An important part of their practical training is the preparation of five three-course lunches per week for the department’s training restaurant.
There are also advanced cookery courses for experienced cooks, enabling them to specialise in the fields of pastry, larder (cold work), and a la carte. The larder course, particularly, is often a cook’s first experience of advanced kitchen management, embracing as it does stock intake and control, and portion control.
One of the most recent courses introduced at the department and one of the most important for staff who have no academic background to advance within the industry, is the Principles of Supervision course. This is an opportunity for hoteliers and restaurateurs to select, for further training, members of their staffs who have considerable experience in the practical day-to-day aspects of their work and who have shown potential for training for lower management positions.
To maintain the high standard of work achieved by the student at the hotel and catering department, in-service courses at hotels are undertaken by the Department of Tourism training officers. The officers visit hotels, and in off-peak periods conduct refresher courses for waiters, cooks and receptionists. In addition to maintaining a high standard of service for the tourist to Rhodesia, this also ensures a uniform presentation of service throughout the industry.
The training undertaken at Bulawayo, and through the in-service course, achieves two important objectives. It ensures a continuing high standard of service at hotels and restaurants for Rhodesia’s tourist; and it offers avenues and opportunities for advancement for those who have made the industry their career. Both objectives result in Rhodesian tourism maintaining its international reputation for friendly efficiency.
Text by unknown author, first published in 1977