The late Mark McCormack, author of What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School, founded IMG. Starting as the agent for golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, McCormack built an international marketing colossus that represents hundreds of pro athletes and other celebrities and controls big events like Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. It has recently begun dabbling in the culinary industry, too, representing certain ventures of celebrity chefs like Ming Tsai, David Bouley and former White House chef Walter Scheib.
IMG also owns and operates IMG Academies in Bradenton, FL. If your kid is a sports prodigy and wants to be involved in his or her sport full-time at the highest level, the IMG Academy is where you want to send him. Recent graduates include Venus and Serena Williams, Pete Sampras, Derek Jeter and Kevin Garnett, plus dozens of other high-profile names.
Although IMG has 70 offices in 30 countries, company headquarters, as it happens, are located right across the street from Restaurant Hospitality's offices in Cleveland. And the honchos here have picked Ohio as the site of the company's next mega-venture: Lakeview Bluffs, featuring IMG Resort Academies. Located 28 miles east of Cleveland, the $1 billion project is billed as a sports-oriented resort community with 2,300 housing units.
Hmm…Resort Academies. Has a nice ring to it, but what will people learn to do there? Relax better?
In a way, yes. Set to open in the spring of 2008, the project will provide world-class training in what it dubs "all major sports": golf, tennis, soccer, baseball and basketball. There'll be a big health and wellness component, too. Throw in an undisturbed mile of Lake Erie shoreline, world-class steelhead fishing on the Grand River, IMG's first-ever golf course, a vineyard and a winery and you think you'd have pretty much everything a sports-oriented family-the target market for this project-could desire.
Well, not quite everything. It turns out you need a culinary school, too. What for? IMG vows to leave no stone unturned as it tackles what it describes as a "$40 billion, underserved active travel/life market." Part of the deal: "World-class instruction in other endeavors including a culinary academy, art institute and other non-recreational interests."
Which is to say, IMG thinks that to compete in the luxury travel segment, it can't just provide restaurants led by big-name chefs. IMG thinks people want to learn how to make the dishes for themselves, preferably learning how to do it from the big-name chefs.
It's hard to imagine that the deep-pocketed weekend warriors who will pony up for classes at the culinary school wing of the IMG Resort Academies will ever go into the profession full-time. But that's not the point. We're talking here about a brand-new market, something that IMG has proven in other venues it knows how to create. If we were you, we'd get on the phone to IMG and see how you can help them exploit it.
In the meantime, you may wish to make sure that things are going well at the culinary schools already located in your area. You may be more dependent on them than you already know.
How so? If your full-service restaurant is located in a city with a top-notch culinary school, your town's labor supply seems perpetually filled with trained, talented and eager new workers for both the front and the back of the house. If you're located in a town without one, finding adequately trained help can be a perpetual problem.
And if you're located in Norfolk, VA, or Charleston, SC, you're about to learn how big that problem can be. How come? Johnson & Wales University, which now has sizable culinary schools in both cities, will be closing them this spring. After that, J & W will consolidate these two operations in Charlotte, NC.
Is J&W moving because these two satellite campuses are struggling? To the contrary. J & W wanted to expand, and Charlotte came after it hard. The Charlotte Observer reports that the city sold the school a $7 million plot of land for $1 million; foodservice contract management firm Compass Group and the state of North Carolina kicked in another $12 million; and the Bank of America provided below-market leases for other building space. Total cost of the campus: $112 million. The first class graduates next year. It was initially projected to have 885 students; 1,120 signed up. The number of students will level out at 4,000 in couple of years. If you run a restaurant in Charlotte, your staffing problems are about to be over.
"I don't think we've ever been embraced by all aspects of a city like this," says J&W dean of culinary education Karl Gugenmos. "The mayor, the leaders, the business community-nothing we've ever done compares to what we have experienced so far in Charlotte."
Why did Charlotte woo J&W? Part of it is that the school is projected to have a $100 million economic impact annually. Nice. But Charlotte was a booming business center anyway. What sealed the deal was the "cool factor."
"Having a large infusion of young people is really going to add a new dimension to life in the downtown," urban planner Michael Gallas told the Charlotte Observer. "What gives flair and fun to downtowns is creativity and innovation. Manhattan has publishing, the fashion industry and the arts, things that lend glamour to the city. I think of Johnson & Wales as adding that dimension to Charlotte."
What will be added to Charlotte will be subtracted from Norfolk and Charleston. Operators there who needed part-time workers, interns, externs or recent culinary school grads had a fertile source in Johnson & Wales. The school provided an endless stream of skilled young talent that had a built-in passion for the profession. That stream will soon be drying up.
"Obviously, it's going to hurt," one restaurant owner told Hampton Roads newspaper the Virginian Pilot. "It takes young, enthusiastic, dedicated people to work in the restaurant business. It's going to be harder to find that talent."
With Johnson & Wales in town, the Hampton Roads/Norfolk area became known for a number of fine independent restaurants. They'll still be OK, but where will the next generation come from? "It's not so much the ownership as it is the worker bees," says Tammy Jaxtheimer, the paper's restaurant reviewer. "They're the ones that allow the owners to do so well."