A University of South Carolina Beaufort professor has found at least one way to keep his students excited about class work: Give them a real-life assignment.
Sean Barth's students in a hospitality management course recently completed a plan for a new restaurant in Bluffton. They'll get to see some of their plans -- which included menus and decor -- come to life with Station 300, an entertainment center that features a bowling alley, arcades and a restaurant, scheduled to open next month in Buckwalter Place.
The president of Bluffton Family Entertainment Center, the business's developers, said the idea for the project began during a meeting with Barth.
"We recognized that we had to develop a restaurant from scratch, so we concocted the idea of a student project," Gary Trimm said.
Barth divided his 22-student class into two groups. The students were required to design and price a menu for the restaurant, plus a catering menu for the party rooms, and determine a theme and decor for the restaurant.
One group went with a Southern cuisine -- fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, peach cobbler and more. The restaurant would look like the inside of a train car, which fit with Station 300's railroad theme.
The other design was in art deco style, with an eclectic menu that included bar and grill favorites.
Trimm said he was impressed by both of the plans, and the students' ideas worked their way into the business, which is slated to open Jan. 7. The suggested peach cobbler is now a chocolate cobbler, for instance. And students' ideas for cocktail names within the railway motif, such as a margarita named for the Santa Fe Railway, appealed to Trimm.
For the students, it was a chance to tackle a real-life situation, and all the problems it might present.
"Instead of it just being something out of a school book, we got experience you could put on a resume," said senior Ryan Baggott, who lead one of the groups.
Barth said real-life experience drew in the students,so much so that he plans to replicate the project with other area restaurants. Next semester, students will plan menus and ideas for Coco's On the Beach on Hilton Head Island.
"Usually, there's a lot of blank stares in the classroom no matter what I do," he said. "This, the students really bought into."
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.