Hotel Capstone offers students valuable work experienceBy Serena Bailey | 07/27/2016 2:00pm
The buzz of the restaurant and the flow of the guests from within the event halls may seem hectic to some, but for the workers of Hotel Capstone, it's just another day on the job.
The hotel, located off Paul W. Bryant Drive, will be open thirty years in January and offers an opportunity for guests to stay a short walk away from campus. It also gives students a chance to gain work experience in the hospitality field.
“We have a history and a tradition here that’s really hard to match at other properties,” said Matt Hood, the hotel’s director of guest services and revenue. “We have the Alabama football team that stays here on game day Fridays, they’ve been doing that for 30 plus years. All that history, tradition and then convenience so that kind of sets us apart.”
Hood has been working at the hotel since he was a student at the university finishing his second degree in 2008. He started out in the banquet department before moving to the front desk. Three months after that, he became a supervisor and then a year later, director.
Working at the hotel while being a student, Hood said, helped him grow in both his multitasking skills and in his love for the university.
“We all see the front of the door aspects of the university – the growth, the traffic, all that kind of stuff,” he said. “But by working here I’ve gotten to see some of the back of the house aspects – see the international groups, the national groups that are coming here to stay on campus, look at all the different visitors that are coming for all the different departments so it really has grown my appreciation for the University of Alabama and what it’s doing for this community.”
Wanda Gaddis, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, said the hotel currently has 25-to-30 students on staff this summer. The number rises during the semester, especially during football season when the hotel is busiest, but it always has at least five student employees.
“It’s a learning position,” she said. “They can come in, learn the industry, and when they leave, they can go other places and get jobs in the hospitality industry.”
Gaddis has worked at the hotel for almost three years now and previously worked there for five years between 1991 and 1995. It’s been one of her favorite places to work, she said, because of the atmosphere that comes out of it being a small hotel.
“It’s a more family atmosphere," she said. "Everyone takes care of everyone else.”
Olivia Cesarone, one of the hotel’s food and beverage outlet supervisors, has been working at the establishment for almost four years. She just recently completed her undergraduate degree and will begin her MBA in operations management in the fall. Cesarone said she applied to work at the Hotel Capstone when she came to UA because she wanted to be close to campus but also continue to work in the hospitality industry after her experience working in a restaurant back home.
“This is above and beyond what you could expect or what you’d want,” she said. "I have tons of friends who work everywhere on the strip or everywhere downtown and like, a lot of places aren’t going to care that you’re in school like a smaller private organization is going to care about it. So it’s been nice to work and have somebody still know that you’re in school and you need your time set aside.”
Like Hood, Cesarone said working at Hotel Capstone has helped her both as a student and in preparation for her future career.
“My time management and my ability to work on my feet has definitely improved,” she said. “Working in hospitality – people always change their mind and change what they want for certain events and so being able to solve problems quickly and making sure that it all happens without the guest seeing that it’s changing or that its taking a little bit of extra effort on our side – that’s probably helped me a lot.”
Cesarone’s favorite part of her job is getting to meet all the different people that come to the hotel from visiting sports teams, to parents here for Bama Bound and other university guests. Hood shared Cesarone’s love of meeting new guests.
“Just the caliber of people that stay at this hotel – your random sports stars and your pro team managers and different groups that come here because of sporting events or whatever the case might be,” Hood said. “Whether it’s a German education minister or whoever, just to be able to interact with these people who come here because of The University of Alabama… it’s a fascinating experience.”