Entrepreneurship Students Learn about More than Good Burgers

Published on April 10, 2009
Wolff Center students prepare burgers for hungry customers at the 2008 BurgerFest competition.

Wolff Center students prepare burgers for hungry customers at the 2008 BurgerFest competition.

Students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business grilled their way to success at the annual Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship BurgerFest in April. Entrepreneurship seniors split into four competing companies that operated and managed food stands selling to students, faculty and staff from across the University of Houston campus.

With a dash of marketing, a helping of fundraising and sponsors, and a heap of cooking, the teams competed for their grades. Each company was charged with first electing a CEO and developing a complete business plan, including guidelines for branding, menu options, pricing and design, before executing their strategies at BurgerFest.

“Students learn how to run a business. It is the culmination of 18 months and implementation of everything they have learned in their classes,” said Lin Travis, program manager of the Wolff Center.

“It is also a community outreach for students as they all contact different businesses and make connections between the businesses and the Wolff Center in the future,” she added. They are graded on revenue, cost, capitol, leadership guide and a business plan as if they were taking it to a bank in the real world, Travis said.

Part of the competition is attracting students and visitors to each venue through design, menu options and marketing. Teams chose their own names and decorated their booths to fit with the various themes.

“We have to utilize the information we learned before BurgerFest. You can plan all you want, but the unexpected, like running out of food, will happen. It is about overcoming adversity,” said Scott Beckham, a marketing and entrepreneurship senior that was a member of the “Grill It” team.

Two teams ― McLovin BBQ and Bourbon St. Crawfish ― proved that they had good business sense after they merged and became the winners of the competition with the highest total sales. The members of Grill Team were recognized as the team that raised the most cash through BurgerFest sales and donations.

Although the event’s name suggests only one menu item, some BurgerFest teams thought outside the bun this year. “Grill It” offered hotdogs, tacos and fajitas to add some spice to their menu, and the Bourbon St. Crawfish team was on fire selling crawfish, potatoes and corn.

“I chose the Grill It tent because they had tacos,” print journalism senior Hannah Eastham said. “The people looked like they were having a good time, too. Their line was so long; I knew they must be doing something right.”
The idea of BurgerFest is fun, but also serves as a culmination of what entrepreneurship students learn in their classes and also replicates the planning and quick thinking required in the real world, Travis said.

By Debi Ostrom