6 Takeaways from a Boston Hotel Shadowing Day

If the hospitality industry is all about creating incredible experiences, then it only makes sense that students studying the field would need first-hand knowledge of the amazing in action. Earlier this fall, hospitality students from Johnson & Wales University took a day trip from Providence, R.I. to Boston, one of the country’s top travel destinations just a short drive away, to examine the multifaceted functions of a major hotel brand up-close.

Their itinerary started at the Sheraton Boston and included a welcome from JWU alum and general manager David Salcfas ’88. The four-star 1070-room property in the heart of Back Bay also offers nearly 50 meeting spaces. From there, the group split up and shuttled to other area Marriott International properties to dive deep into one of four areas of interest: food and beverage, culinary, hotel management and operations or events.

Students waiting for bus in parking lot and taking a selfie

JWU Providence's proximity to major East Coast cities like Boston means premier hospitality hubs can be part of a class day.

One of the benefits of travel is that leaving one’s comfort zone (in this case, the classroom) makes a lasting impression. This immersive hotel-shadowing experience was no exception. Here, three Wildcats — Elijah Brown ’25 Hotel and Resort Management; Julianne Heath ’24 Baking & Pastry Arts; and Victoria Cuttone ’23 Finance and Sports, Entertainment, Event — Management — share their key takeaways from the day.

1. Industry competition is fierce.

“Arriving at the Sheraton Boston, you see a Four Seasons property and a Hilton property as well. I was amazed at the fact that the competition was literally 200 to 400 feet away from each other.” – Elijah

2. A lot goes on behind the scenes.

“I did not realize there were offices, kitchens and laundry tucked away on floors that had hotel rooms. It was very cool seeing what actually goes into running a hotel property.” – Victoria

3. Hotels offer surprising career paths.

“My favorite moment was just seeing the different operations in the hotel. When people think of hotels, they think of housekeeping and the front desk, but we are much more than that! From seeing back-of-the-house options such as finance, sales, engineering and F&B that just gave us a sense of what we can learn and that we can grow as much as we want in the hotel industry.” – Elijah

Class standing on top of building with Boston skyline

Students were treated to a rooftop view of Boston during their visit.

4. Hotels need culinary professionals.

“The head of event planning … originally went into this industry for baking and pastry. She told me how it was years and years until she found what she loves and decided to leave baking. She loves working in a hotel and explains how different it was from a bakery. It made my eyes open so wide because I’m really not about that morning-baker life either. She told me about the opportunities as a night pastry chef and how hotels may be more my thing. Working in a hotel can give you more opportunities than you would imagine for a baking and pastry student. The avenues I can go down are unlimited.” – Julianne

5. Events are a big part of the business.

“I learned that hotels do all different types of events, ranging from weddings to corporate meetings, conferences and more. There was actually a conference occurring while we were there. We got to walk around the sight and see it in action! This has changed the way I view events at hotels and maybe something I will be interested in in the future.” – Victoria

“It was truly interesting to see the operations and learn how big the kitchens really are. I hadn't realized until this field trip how important food was to hotels, and I never really saw myself in it actually because I thought no one comes to a hotel to eat. But boy was I wrong! The chef that I met with was preparing for an annual BBQ festival in Boston, where he needed two full-speed racks worth of ribs. I was absolutely stunned because I have never seen such a large production like this. It truly inspired me to start looking into higher-end hotels to work in.” – Julianne

6. Connections (and experience) count.

“I learned that the hospitality industry is so small. The connections you make now will forever be cherished as you continued to grow in the industry. Don’t be afraid to learn and bounce around, because there will be a time where you will need to use those acquired skills to get the job done.” – Elijah


With experiential education baked into the curriculum, Wildcats expect the unexpected when it comes to learning. JWU’s philosophy: Why attend a lecture when you can live it? Elijah said, “I chose Johnson & Wales because of these hands-on experiences that they keep giving us day in and day out. Johnson & Wales makes it their mission to make sure that their students are prepared for the industry.”

After all, you never know how an experience like this hotel-shadowing day can impact a student’s professional trajectory. “I would say my whole experience in Boston was an eye-opener,” said Julianne, who is planning a path as an executive pastry chef in fine dining but had never considered the possibilities in hospitality.

Victoria, who transferred to JWU to complete her degree, knows how unique these experiences really are. “Johnson & Wales University gives you all the tools needed to start your career way before you graduate. These opportunities have shaped my career in my industry and have given me a competitive advantage,” she said.

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