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Nicole Harker is a 2018 International Gold & Silver Plate Society stipend recipient. She attends Penn State University and is majoring in Hospitality Management. Find out what she had to say when we asked her a few questions about her foodservice stipend and future career.



What is your major & what made you decide on it?
I am a Hospitality Management major. My passion for the industry developed when I went on a trip to Italy in the Summer of 2015. Experiencing all of the different hotels and restaurants was just as exciting as visiting the famous tourists sites! The thrill I felt when arriving at a new hotel or entering an upscale restaurant was enough to determine my love for the hospitality industry. That feeling, paired with my desire to impact everyone I meet, pushed me in the direction of a Hospitality Management degree.

How has your stipend enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
My stipend has allowed me to gain foodservice experience without the financial burden. I was able to step out of my comfort zone and dig deeper into my passion. Receiving this monetary reward has granted me the opportunity to become a step closer to figuring out my career in hospitality.

What was your first job in foodservice?
My first job in food service, but also my first job overall, was as a line-level employee at Dairy Queen. My employment lasted for three years and in that time, I earned the role of Shift Leader. Dairy Queen was my first taste of F&B and I loved every second of it!

What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
Right now, my "dream job" would be to possess my own restaurant franchise(s) or launch my own restaurant/hotel. The idea of running something all my own is extremely appealing to me. I would love to implement my own ideas into a hospitality company and grow it from the bottom up!

What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
Throughout my roles in the foodservice industry, I have learned how to properly manage employees. I have adopted my respective management style and I know that it will only improve as I grow within the hospitality industry. Also, my classes at Penn State have instilled me with food safety policies that will ensure top notch establishments. Lastly, I have witnessed the importance of kitchen efficiency. An efficient foodservice operation produces better quality food, more relaxed employees, and satisfied customers.

What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
Food safety and traceability continue to be a huge concern in the world of foodservice. Too many restaurants are finding themselves on the news because of a food-borne illness outbreak. Food safety and supplier reliability are the backbone to preventing these situations. Foodservice operators reap more liability today than every before.

Remaining up-to-date with technological advances may pose as a challenge to some foodservice establishments. Businesses must be able to follow technology trends, while still maintaining their market segment that may not favor these changes. Mobile applications are a prime example of these advances that are greatly affecting the foodservice industry.

Retaining valuable and reliable employees is a struggle in today's world, especially for fast food and fast casual restaurants. Hiring is an all-year-around process, which means training is also constant. Finding employs that fit perfectly with the company is critical and supplying proper training will increase the probability of retention.

Do you have mentor? How have they helped you?
My summer internship introduced me to numerous mentors that I will continue to stay in touch with throughout my hospitality career. Every F&B manager took me under their wing and taught me an array of different skills. All six managers possessed different supervising techniques, so I observed and adopted a variety of them. I know that my close relationship with each and every one of them will prove helpful in the future. I appreciate everything they have already done for me and I can't wait to use what they taught me to excel in this fantastic industry.

What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is grilled salmon sprinkled with lemon juice, garlic mashed potatoes, and a spring mix salad with fresh vegetables!

What companies have you worked at for internships?
I have worked at the Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor, NJ.

About The IFMA Education Foundation

The IFMA Education Foundation promotes the next generation of foodservice leaders. The Foundation is committed to give qualified culinary, marketing or food science students support toward completion of education requirements. Over the years, we've accomplished our goal by providing scholarships, publications, educational programs, internships and stipends to accredited institutions and individuals enrolled in accredited institutions.

About People Future 2025 

The IFMA Education Foundations new industry initiative, focused on attracting the best and brightest talent into the foodservice industry. Click here to learn more.

How to help the next generation of foodservice!

  • Support the IFMA Education Foundation by making a donation
  • Get involved in the People Future 2025 initiative

Contact us at ifma@ifmaworld.com.