Hiring a Tech-Savvy Student Intern

QUESTION: 

I’m a small independent operator with limited resources, but I’d like to be able to take better advantage of new technologies to improve my restaurant business. How can I do this affordably?

ANSWER:

I’ve learned over the years that many pizzeria operators are simply too busy to learn new technologies that can help them better track important financial data and build a more successful business. Over the past year, I’ve been working with the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) to develop a new internship program in the Computer Science and Accounting departments, with the goal of assigning tech-savvy college students to assist local small businesses with their technology needs. I believe this program could serve as a model for other universities around the country—in fact, we’re working to expand the program nationwide.

One of the participating businesses in this semester’s UCA program was a local pizzeria. Working for minimum wage, the student intern used his technological know-how to set up a system that better tracks the restaurant’s sales and customer data. In this case, the intern worked with an existing platform that provides daily POS and sales reports in real time to the restaurateur’s mobile device; captures customer information and purchasing habits for future marketing efforts; and maintains up-to-date, real-time records on food costs. However, for pizzeria operators that don’t already have a platform in mind, the intern can be assigned the task of researching technologies and coming up with the perfect one for the restaurant’s operations. In the process, students learn real-life business skills, and part of their final grades depend on the business owners’ evaluations.

The UCA intern even arranged for a Pizza Day for his entire class. The restaurant operator brought pizzas to the classroom and discussed the intern’s efforts and his impact on the restaurant. Each student was allowed to bring one guest to class, the intern promoted the event through social media, and it turned into a standing-room-only affair. The operator ended up creating a permanent special offer just for UCA students!

There are many grants and scholarship and internship programs that help students pursue business careers. In some cases, university deans are mandated to pursue partnerships in the community that impact and promote lifelong and experiential learning, research, service and community engagement.

I encourage you to contact a college or university in your area to find your own intern. Meet with the dean of the business or accounting school and offer an internship/partnership to tech-savvy students and get them involved in your restaurant on a part-time basis.  The worst that can happen is the students will love your pies and spread the word to their friends through social media!