Restaurant Industry Insights

Serving Youth in the Restaurant and Hospitality Industries

About 80% of restaurant owners started out in entry-level positions. For many, that translates to starting as a dishwasher or prep cook, working their way up to a waiter or cook, and, eventually, a managerial role. Somewhere along the line, the dream of owning their own restaurant took root and blossomed.

Today, people and organizations are helping ignite that first spark through hospitality academies. Some of these are designed specifically for at-risk teenagers. Others are geared to address hospitality labor shortages in their area while also helping high school students and adults gain skills that can help advance or propel them into the hospitality industry. 

Let’s explore a few of these all-important establishments and how they create the next potential restauranteur. 

Chef Bruno’s Hospitality Academy—A Caterina’s Club Program

Located in Orange County, CA, Chef Bruno’s Hospitality Academy, in partnership with Anaheim Union’s P21 Mentorship, provides a nine-week program for at-risk teenagers. Students are trained in skills needed in the restaurant and hotel industry, including financial literacy, service, administration, marketing, and cuisine. They learn about food costing, food preparation techniques, and safety.

The academy also acts as an after-school program, providing a space for teens to use their time productively, giving them a place to go that helps keep them off the streets. It’s trained over 850 students, and all graduates receive letters of recommendation. 

Victoria, a 17-year-old Katella High School student, shared, “When I first began the academy, I was very shy and reserved, but over time my attitude changed dramatically. Thanks to the program, my confidence has increased only to benefit me and my future. The program also led me to other opportunities like obtaining a paid internship and college scholarship. Most importantly, Caterina’s Club has given me the opportunity to help other students in my community.”

Mountain View Hospitality Academy

Located in Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis, TX, Mountain View Hospitality Academy is part of Mobile Comunidad, a nonprofit organization. This newly established academy targets high school students and adults who would like to or are currently working in the hospitality industry. 

As the Big Bend region continues to expand with hotels, inns, resorts, and restaurants, the demand for a knowledgeable and experienced workforce also escalates. This eight-week training program is designed to bridge the gap between people interested in the industry but have not yet acquired the necessary skills. 

They also partner with Cornell University, a recognized leader in hospitality training, which provides graduates with a certificate. The affordable, accredited training will cost under $1,000 and includes internships at the onsite Mountain View Lodge in front desk operations, reservations, marketing, and housekeeping. The program also helps set up interviews with local employers upon graduation. They’re encouraging employers to pay a living wage, reducing turnovers and expenses in the long run, and helping students see the potential for a long-term career.


The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart® is a two-year high school program. Focused on restaurant management and culinary arts, it reaches about 165,000 students in all 50 states. These students receive the support of mentors, learning about the profession through hands-on applications. 

Rachael Ray Foundation’s ProStart Grow offers high schools the chance to win grants to expand or build their classrooms. Students may also gain the opportunity to participate in paid internships. 

Additionally, the NRAEF awards over $1.2 million a year in scholarships to those pursuing a post-secondary degree in the restaurant and hospitality industries. 

Café Momentum

Café Momentum, with a flagship location in Dallas since 2015 and additional locations in Nashville and Pittsburgh, provides a paid internship program for juvenile justice-involved youths ages 15 – 19. The 12-month curriculum focuses on teaching marketable skills and creating a safe environment to help these students regain their self-confidence and break the cycle of incarceration and violence. 

According to the founder, Chad Houser, “There is no quick overnight solution that can course-correct decades of disinvestment, neglect, and marginalization. But we can at least attempt to create a new system of support for our kids coming out of the justice system. We can create a place for them to land.”  

This nationally recognized nonprofit restaurant and training program as well as many others in the industry, can inspire us all to do our part in helping the next generation succeed, flourish, and heal.


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