Stephen Starr likes Temple students. The sheer amount of Temple students employed at his 12 restaurants across the city is testament enough to this fact.
Despite the struggles of balancing school with work, students keep on working at the posh restaurants and giving diners the “Starr” treatment.
Most students said they average about 20 to 25 hours of work a week.
“They are pretty understanding,” said Cristina Hoyt, a junior accounting major and hostess at Alma de Cuba. “When they hired me they always said school comes first and they have been good at that.”
Balancing school with work is a challenge in itself, but the hours working at a restaurant often run into the early hours of the morning.
Despite Starr’s well-known career as a famous restaurateur, students interviewed said they didn’t choose to work at his restaurants because they wanted to go into the business themselves. Still, they all find a way to benefit from their jobs.
“I still don’t know what I want to do with my degree,” said Meredith Cole, a senior English major and a hostess at Barclay Prime.
“I figure in the restaurant industry, you meet a lot of people … it doesn’t hurt to send out my resume to different people that I meet and network. Especially where I work, because it is high class, there is a lot of networking.”
Hoyt isn’t alone in her plans to network.
“It’s interesting meeting a lot of people in the media industry,” said Brian Rinaldi, a junior American culture and media arts major back at the Continental in Old City. “I have made a couple of contacts.”
After speaking with various student-employees of Starr restaurants, three attributes stuck out to describe their fellow co-workers: good-looking, friendly and driven.
Rinaldi disputed the stereotype that Stephen Starr restaurant workers are standoffish and snobby.
“Everyone was so friendly from day one, I was surprised,” Rinaldi said. “Starting there, it did have that kind of aura – you know, it is Stephen Starr.
“I was wondering if it was going to be ritzy or uptight. But the people are immensely friendly. People get along and have fun. I really enjoy it.”
Working is only one facet of their lives, the students said.
As people not interested in pursuing full-time careers in the restaurant industry, they try to separate work from play for a healthy balance between the restaurant and their other interests.
“Everyone has other agendas,” Rinaldi said. “They are there, but they have other things in their own lives.”
While students enjoy their Starr positions, they said these were not permanent jobs. Restaurant work is notoriously known as being hard and laborious.
While many people do start working at a restaurant for temporary employment, the fast cash at the end of the night is addictive.
Still, the students know that their involvement in the restaurant business is not long term.
“I love my job, but it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Hoyt said. “I have no problem working here in the interim between finding a 9 to 5 job.”
Balancing school with work is no small feat. They work at some of the trendiest hotspots of the city and the celebrity sightings can be huge.
“You never know who is going to come in,” said Julie Rosenfeld, a senior communication science major and a hostess at Alma de Cuba. “For example, Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz just came into the restaurant a few weeks ago. Alicia Lane, the Channel 3 anchor woman, Ryan Cabrera, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have all been in, too.”
The business can be rough. Some admit it takes a certain type of person to survive, but Temple students seem to be doing just fine. “I think to work at a restaurant you have to have a little something screwy,” said Tom Jackson, general manager at El Vez.
Andrea Reich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.