When Café Diem opens next Monday, Sept. 23, it will be run entirely by students.
Because practical experience is integral to the Mercyhurst University hospitality management program, its graduates typically transition smoothly into the workforce. One such hands-on opportunity is working for Café Diem, where several dozen students are applying what they learn in the classroom to their café roles.
This year, café workers have another advantage — working alongside new general manager Srdjan Popovic ’11, a hospitality management graduate who is enrolled in his second year of graduate school at Mercyhurst. Currently, Popovic is pursuing his master’s in organizational leadership with a concentration in human resources.
“I’m at a point in my life where I’m invested in people, leadership principles and relationship building,” said Popovic, who has also had his hand in teaching while at the university. A native of Podgcrica, Montenegro, Popovic was asked to return to campus last year as an adjunct faculty member to teach three sections of applied service lab for the hospitality department.
“There are a lot of companies in the world where people are not treated how they should be in terms of customer service,” he said. “I’m learning every day, in my classes and outside the classroom. I’m looking forward to working with undergraduate students and sharing my experience with them.”
After graduating from the ’Hurst, Popovic worked for a little under a year for Hilton Head Marriott in South Carolina before coming back to the university in 2012 to teach. The principles he learned and applied through hands-on experience both in the department’s state-of-the-art teaching kitchen and through the J.W. and Alice Marriott Café has shaped him into the professional he is today.
“While my undergraduate education and the experience I gained during those four years gave me insight into several different aspects of the hospitality industry, I think the organizational leadership program at the graduate level has vastly improved my leadership skills,” said Popovic.
“My classes over the years have taught me really good principles about management and customer service. I’m like a sponge soaking up knowledge; I’ve incorporated what I’ve learned into my own teaching and management styles,” he said.
Approximately 30 hospitality students are scheduled to work in the café this semester. Students implement their knowledge about food preparation and handling, safety practices, marketing, retail financial management, inventory and purveying, staff scheduling, human resources and conflict resolution through the café.
Café Diem, located in the atrium of the Center for Academic Engagement, is open for breakfast and lunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
The café features a variety of cold and hot breakfast and lunch items, including sandwiches and wraps, fruit, yogurt, coffee and tea, pizza, cookies, muffins and hot chocolate. Currently, the café only accepts cash, but is looking to install debit, credit and One Card (Laker Loot) capabilities in the near future.
PHOTO: Srdjan Popovic ’11