New cafe at Hawkeye Community College provides a hands-on experience for students

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - A new cafe at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo is hoping to give hospitality students a more hands-on experience. Mac's Place Cafe is inside the Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center in downtown Waterloo.

It's a mostly student-run cafe. They put in two to four hours per week, and are trained for supervisor and management positions in hotels, restaurants and clubs.

Students prepare the food that is served. They also run the cash register and do inventory. Leaders say it helps the students improve their customer service skills.

The cafe opened up last week. Hawkeye has had a hospitality program for more than five years but felt like they needed to get students more hands-on training.

"They can come and use actual hands-on learning instead of taking tours, and going out to different places and viewing in the kitchen or in a cafe or in a restaurant setting,” said Ashley Gracia, the director of Hospitality Management Program. “They actually can do that here."
Hospitably management is a two-year program at Hawkeye. Working at the cafe is looked at as part of their curriculum, so most students don't get paid. Right now, 30 people are in the class and they are looking to expand.

Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids just combined its hotel management and restaurant management programs to form a hospitality management program.

It's done to reflect the career options for students in the industry. Kirkwood offers more than 500 hours of hands-on lab time for hospitality students, and more than 300 for culinary students.