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Getting into the hospitality industry can be a tough task to undertake, especially beginning fresh in the bar business.

Whether students at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management want to own their own business or work for one, they aren’t allowing their ambitions to be deterred by stressful days and long nights that are common in the profession.

But the star of the Spike TV show Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer, knows that books aren’t always the best way to get a firm grasp of success in the industry.

“I think there’s nothing better than an internship,” said Taffer, who is filming the 96th episode of Bar Rescue. “You can’t understand hospitality until you feel hospitality.

“I think they qualify you better and, from a perspective of someone like me, they make you more hirable as well.”

To successfully bring what students learn in the classroom full-circle, both Taffer and graduate teaching associate Marissa Orlowski believe real-world experience is a necessary ingredient.

That’s why all of the approximately 3,500 students attending the Rosen College of Hospitality Management must complete three semester’s worth of internships while enrolled.

“It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and listen to someone talk or work on a project,” said Orlowski, who spent close to 15 years working for companies such as Disney and The Cheesecake Factory before landing at UCF about three years ago. “I firmly believe that getting your hands dirty and having industry experience is invaluable to you career.

“With no work experience to put some of the things in perspective, it’s difficult to take what we do in the classroom and understand what it really means.”

By the end of the semester, students in her beverage management class will have developed a concept for a bar. Among other things, the concept includes a menu, cost for items, recipes, staffing plan and marketing plan.

To get those concepts and values through to her students, Orlowski sometimes uses Bar Rescue as a teaching platform.

“I agree with the problems he identifies,” she said. “It’s very rarely that he does something to fix the bar that I would disagree with.

“I’m having the same reactions that he, and the bartenders that he brings in to help the bar, are having.”

But when Taffer is rescuing a bar, there a few things he uses that can’t be found on the pages of a textbook.

“What they don’t teach you in college is success in the hospitality business is driven by Reaction Management™,” said Taffer, who trademarked the term. “The cook in the kitchen is, in fact, not cooking an entrée, he’s cooking a human reaction.

“We create reactions. We achieve it through service.”

Senior restaurant and food service management major JR Cook, who has been bartending for almost five years, knows how important service’s emphasis is in the industry.

“I’ll forgive a bar that doesn’t have the best drink, but I had great service,” the Ritz-Carlton bartender said. “Why do you pay $6 for one beer when you can buy a six-pack for $6 and drink six at home? You’d rather pay the premium to sit at the bar and experience the ambiance.”

So the next time you’re sitting at the bar or dining at a restaurant, you may want to remember…

“The beaches of Florida will be empty if our hospitality isn’t good,” Taffer said. “At the end of the day, it’s the hospitality we provide that makes Florida great, not the beaches.”

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Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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