Have you ever dreamed to work in a restaurant, but have not got the practical skills to do so? Gastrobar Saimaa offers a learning environment that enables your ambition. Gastro Bar Saimaa’s restaurant and bar are located at LAB University campus Lappeenranta. It is a place where students can convert theory into practical skills. The learning environment involves a diversity of kitchen routines as well as a chance to peek to business aspects of a restaurant.
Students that enroll to study for a bachelor’s degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management at LAB will experience numerous sessions in Gastrobar Saimaa besides the normal theory lectures in class. There are several projects and pop-up events planned and executed each semester, where students have a chance to deliver their skills to the customers (Image 1). Events are mainly designed and organized by students and involve different cuisines made according to domestic and international aspects.
Learning by doing
Learning by doing is a theory based on Dewey’s (1957) model where knowledge and practice are tied up (Purot). Venkula (2008, 65) agrees and continues that learning should always involve practical training which forms a base of building up professional competence.
At GastroBar Saimaa learning and practicing process starts by diving students into small groups. Each group has a different plan of pop-up restaurant and a theme that is finally executed. Theory lectures are linked directly to the pop-up event by planning the menu, decoration, service, and marketing functions. Plans are set to motion on the day before planned event and contain the preparation process including pre-cook, decorating, and table-setting (Image 2). Before opening hours of the pop-up restaurant, the finishing steps are made which is not entirely concerned of cooking, but also involves work in the bar as a barista and as a waiter in a customer service role.
Teachers and students also contribute ideas to build a welcoming drink or drink based on the à la carte menu to attract and give customers a warm welcome to pop-up events. The bar at Gastrobar Saimaa is built according to the Finnish regulations and takes the student one step closer to a real-world cuisine surroundings. Learning how to make professional beverages is the first step to apply for senior positions in working life at bars, restaurants, hotels, and opens a possibility open an own business after studies.
Equipment, tools, and materials are always available at Gastrobar Saimaa to ensure that the practice time is effective and uninterrupted. Students can work at the Gastrobar Saimaa after lessons which improves their practical skills and motivation to learn. Techniques and equipment in molecular cuisine are also part of the training program and equipment in the learning environment to help students keep up with trends, bringing new gastro experiences to customers.
International learning environment
Learning environment is formed of diverse cultures, which creates an international learning environment. Having a chance to study and practise in a multi-cultural environment is a valuable experience for any university student. By dividing students into random groups while practising, provides them opportunities to utilize their skills and improve themselves by learning from others. Working in changing teams points out the importance of teamwork and communication in an international context. Therefor Gastrobar Saimaa is not only a learning environment for the hard skills such as cooking, customer service, marketing, but also generates a scene where soft skills can be learned such as teamwork, leadership, communication which are crucial in working life in tourism and hospitality industry.
Organizing different concepts and themes of restaurant is a good opportunity for students to explore themselves in new tasks and roles that they haven’t perhaps tried before. The learning environment is not only helping to develop hard and soft skills but also gives students a possibility to reflect their strengths and weaknesses and pursue to improve oneself. On a student perspective Gastrobar Saimaa is a perfect and safe learning environment for students to gain multiple skills in an international context.
Quan Bui, Quyen Trinh, Thuy Nguyen, Giao Nguyen and Victoria Tran are currently studying Tourism and Hospitality Management at LAB University of Applied Sciences and have written this article as a part of Marketing Communication course.
Taina Orpana is a Senior Lecturer of LAB University of Applied Sciences and teaches Marketing Communication course for HOMA19 students.
Purot. Pedagoginen kehittäminen. Learning by doing. wiki-site. [Cited 1.4.2021.] Available: https://pedagoginenkehittaminen.purot.net/learning_by_doing_malli.pdf
Venkula, J. 2008. Tekemisen taito. Minerva: Helsinki
Image 1. Gastrobar Saimaa. 2020. Ciao Bella Team in group photo.. Facebook 18.11.2020. Cited 22.3.2021. Available: https://www.facebook.com/GastroBarSaimaa/photos/a.118497456678731/152402486621561/
Image 2. Nguyen, G. 2020.