The hospitality management industry has been a staple in countries around the world for centuries. As a discipline, hospitality management serves a skill set more than may meet the eye, namely customer service, business operations and leadership within the sector of hospitality. Hence, having this field as a college major has become paramount, providing students aspiring to be involved with business and management in the industry a foothold to pursuing this career.
In 2022, Drexel University paused its admissions for its Hospitality Management program. In this program, students were learning “the fundamentals of hospitality, customer experience and business and explore all facets of the hospitality industry to find the area that best suits their interests and goals.” Pausing this program, as Drexel stated, was not intended to affect the Culinary Arts and Food Science program. While at the time, many may not have realized the long-term consequences beyond simply the lack of program availability, we are now seeing the ripple effect of this pause on other spheres of the Drexel influence on Philadelphia.
The Philly Chef conference, an annual ‘meeting of the experts’ of high profile chefs and food journalists, has been hosted by Drexel University’s Hospitality Management department and College of Nursing and Health professions for the past 10 years. First organized by the Director of Hospitality Management at Drexel, Michael Traud, the conference was not only a meeting place for industry professionals to convene and exchange their ideas and passions, but was also as an opportunity for “engaging [Drexel] students with industry leaders while also connecting members of the restaurant community through a day of education.” At its peak, the conference successfully assembled “top chefs, food producers and personalities” to provide insight to students and community members about the latest trends in food and beverage techniques, serving as an amazing resource for students interested in the field.
This all changes for the 2024 conference.
Next year, the conference will be shifting its ownership, out of Drexel affiliation. Instead, the conference, renamed Chef Conference, will be sponsored by Visit Philadelphia and the reservation website Resy (owned by American Express). Restaurants around the city are already getting involved, setting up the event for its successful trajectory seen over the past 10 years. While this is likely, in part, due to the pausing of the Hospitality Management program, Drexel still owns trademark to the “Philly Chef Conference” title, and is reassessing the event in hopes of continuing it soon.
The loss of the Philly Chef Conference by Drexel is a blow to not only the university, which previously was successfully running the conference, but the students and community members who had benefited from the conference for professional development and career purposes. The absence of this pipeline to talent from Drexel may pose a risk to the development of students pursuing this industry at Drexel. Beyond that, the pausing of the hospitality management program serves as a huge blow to students who may have wanted to pursue a career in the field. It is yet to be seen how Drexel will deal with this loss in the future, and how students will be affected by it in years to come.