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Students dish up extra value at McDonald's

New hospitality program partners with industry

(L-R) Siddharth Desai, Todd Finlayson and Ishan Vaishnav have been working together as part of Seneca's new Global Hospitality Graduate Certificate program.


McDonald's is getting a taste of freshness from Seneca, thanks to a new hospitality business program at Markham Campus.

As part of Seneca’s new Global Hospitality Graduate Certificate program, which offers the Global Hospitality Operations Management (GOM) and the Global Hospitality Business Development (GBD) certificates, students are working in the multibillion-dollar hospitality industry with partners like McDonald’s.

“These students are well-educated with non-traditional thinking and fresh ideas. They also have a certain drive,” says Todd Finlayson of Finlayson Hospitality Partners Inc., which operates seven McDonald’s Restaurants in York Region.

For the past year, students like Siddharth Desai and Ishan Vaishnav have worked closely with Todd as business consultants to help implement “a restaurant experience of the future.” The two also had the opportunity to visit McDonald’s head office in Toronto, where they met with senior executives and presented their ideas to engage and communicate with Todd’s 450 employees.

The ideas include the installation of a white board, where employees can share ideas anonymously, and the use of Kahoot, a free game-based learning platform that can be used, for example, during orientation and training sessions for new employees. Both ideas have been implemented at McDonald’s.

“It’s really exciting for us to be helping them implement our own recommendations,” says Ishan, who has a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. “Because of this project, I’ve learned so much about problem-solving and working with a team and with a real client.”

Both international students from India, Ishan and Siddharth are part of the first cohort to have graduated from GOM and are now enrolled in GBD. The program has provided them the opportunity to take on integrated projects that simulate working as part of a consulting firm, with a professor acting as their mentor. They have also undergone on-site field research as well as business management theory research to offer creative solutions and recommendations that address real-time and real-case business perplexities.

"This program allows us to integrate classroom learning in real business situations and prepare hospitality leaders of tomorrow," says Angela Zigras, Chair, School of Hospitality & Tourism. "It's truly a unique and dynamic interdisciplinary business program like none other."

As part of his research for the project, Siddharth, who has an MBA specializing in marketing, even got a part-time job working at one of Todd’s McDonald’s.

“I’m very impressed with the education and experience of this program at Seneca,” he says. “It has provided me with a more rounded knowledge and experience in this field.”

For the client companies, the program offers a team of students who provide novel directions for existing or future business management practices at no cost. As Todd notes, it’s also an opportunity to give back and assist with the development of hospitality leaders of tomorrow.

“Hospitality is a huge part in transforming the guest experience. We learn as we go and we’ve seen a lot of growth in the students,” he says. “They’ve brought forward a range of creative and tactical solutions that are good and delivered against our goals. Head office was impressed.”