Jonathan Leong

Opening doors to hospitality, tourism careers.
Discover SIM GE Jonathan Leong at Hell’s Kitchen (actually Maze Restaurant) in London, with Head Chef Tristan; Jonathan’s hospitality and tourism studies gave him opportunities to meet top restaurant owners and celebrity chefs I WANT to be a professor in hospitality studies, says 24-year-old Jonathan Leong Mun Keong, who graduated with both a BA Hons and an MBA in International Hospitality Management from the IMI International Management Institute Switzerland in 2010. He’s barely out of hotel school but Jonathan is planning to get a PhD, probably from Cornell University in the US or Ecole Hotelliere de Lausanne in Switzerland. Meanwhile, he is doing freelance events management with a Singapore travel marketing consultancy firm. He’s also pursuing further post-graduate work online with Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, to be completed within 1-1/2 years. Starting from basics Jonathan began his studies in the hospitality trade at the SIM Global Education campus in Singapore in July 2009. The Higher Diploma course was followed by a stay at Lucerne, Switzerland where he received his BA (2nd Class Upper Hons) in International Hotel and Tourism Management in June 2010. He completed his MBA also in six months (July-December 2010), with a research paper on human resource development focusing on staff training in the hospitality trade. The paper deals with the different factors influencing training, such as organisational support, job role clarity (it’s amazing but true that many employees are not clear about their jobs, says Jonathan), and superior-subordinate relationship. Hands-on learning Lessons were usually project-based and hands-on, says Jonathan who remembers well managing a real restaurant in Switzerland with 11 other students. They had to cook and serve the food and to make a profit out of the project. But Jonathan’s favourite subject is green tourism or eco-travel for which he developed a business plan for investors. “I called our BP (business plan) project the Gaia Hotel,” says Jonathan, explaining that “Gaia” is Greek for Mother Earth, with the connotation that just as we treat our mother with love and respect, so too should we treat the Earth. The Hotel Gaia proposal was a team effort by five students, says Jonathan. “We first did a site-analysis in Singapore and found Bukit Chermin an excellent place to locate an environmentally-friendly hotel. Next we conducted a market analysis to find out if such a hotel could indeed make money. The third step was to identify the demand drivers - the factors that would attract customers. We felt that our concept of a full-green hotel posed a strong competitive edge and would certainly draw environmentally conscientious folks.” The BP project got an A grade for Jonathan and his team, but he didn’t think any investor would be interested since it would mean coughing up S$84 million! Career-ready skills during internship Job internship is part of the real-world, career-ready training required in the IMI programme. Jonathan said his internship was served in Tiffins Restaurant in Zurich where he worked with the chef on the difficult practice of food-costing. It is a process of determining the precise amount and cost of each ingredient that goes into a dish, as well as the time, effort and steps involved in the food preparation. Once the figure is calculated, a profit margin is added and the recommended price goes to management for approval. Jonathan says that up to 80 percent of his recommendations were approved. “Before I came, the restaurant had no systematic food-costing procedure; it was all agak-agak (guesswork), and no one has a clear idea if the prices on the menu were too high or too low.” Many full-house restaurants went broke, whether in Europe or Singapore as long as the owners did not implement systematic food-costing. Running the business based on instinct, not management science is a recipe for disaster, Jonathan observes of such outfits. One potentially disastrous situation is when the popularity of a restaurant’s dish depends on the chef. But when management knows the cost and amount of each ingredient and the detailed preparation to produce that dish, it doesn’t matter whether the food is prepared by a five-star chef or a fresh graduate out of cooking school. Jonathan was promoted to the management company of Tiffins and given the opportunity to travel to London with his senior management. They were hosted by Chef Tristan who heads Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Restaurant in London (see picture above). Ramsay is a celebrity chef hosting the TV show, Hell’s Kitchen. Latest: Since late-August 2012, Jonathan has been working as Assistant to the director of marketing & communications in Conrad Centennial Singapore. He has also completed his Certificate in Hotel Revenue Management with Cornell University. He is embarking on a course in Marketing Strategy for Business Leaders at the university’s Johnson’s Graduate School of Management. Career route in tourism To launch you on the road to a career in tourism, hotel management or the restaurant trade, consider signing up first for the Higher Diploma in International Hotel Management, a full-time study programme developed and awarded by IMI International Management Institute Switzerland. You study at SIM Global Education’s campus in Singapore to get your Higher Diploma, followed by another study period in Lucerne to get your Bachelor’s. --- Posted online in August, 2012, updated December 2012   Read more about other IMI Graduate, Edmund Chan’s story