Dr Christine Demen Meier is Managing Director of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education.
Christine brings over 20 years of entrepreneurship experience in hospitality, including the creation, implementation and management of new hotel and restaurant concepts. She first became involved in hospitality education in 1998, joining Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne to conduct research activities and develop the institution’s relationships with the hospitality industry. She implemented partnerships with organisations including Danone Professional, Nestlé Professional and Unilever Food Solutions, Saviva, Metro, enabling the creation of three Research Chairs. Aside from her academic and entrepreneurial achievements, Christine has extensive consulting experience in hospitality and restaurant management, working with companies in Switzerland, Ivory Coast, Turkey, Madagascar and Ukraine. She holds a PhD in Management Science from Caen Normandy University in France and a MBA in Integrated Management from the University of Applied Sciences Fribourg, Switzerland.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am Managing Director of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, one of the world’s leading hospitality schools with campuses in Switzerland, Spain and China. I have over 20 years’ experience of entrepreneurship in hospitality, including the creation, implementation and management of new hotel and restuarant concepts. I have been involved in hospitality education since 1998, and in my previous academic roles developed research partnerships with organisations like Danone Professional, Nestlé Professional, Unilever Food Solutions, Metro and a swiss company Saviva. Aside from my academic and entrepreneurship achievements, I have extensive consulting experience in hospitality and restaurant management, working with companies in Switzerland, Ivory Coast, Turkey, Madagascar and Ukraine. I have held my current role at Les Roches, based in Switzerland, since May 2019.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No, not really. However, I am not and never have been far away from the ambitions I had when I was younger. I have always been an entrepreneur. It was forever in my mind to be my own boss, even when I was employed, and to manage the maximum like an entrepreneur. That has been the case throughout my career.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Finalising my PhD when I was 54 years old. When I started it I was still an entrepreneur but I had begun to teach and it gave me the theoretical knowledge I needed to do things differently within that role; on the other side if I had the learning whilst working as an entrepreneur I would have overcome some mistakes that I made.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Yes and no. When I was an entrepreneur I was part of a professional food and beverage (F&B) association and it was difficult to change the model of organisation of my colleagues and their ways of working. I realised at this time that it will be impossible to change the traditional way of management when I was inside of the industry. It is why I decided to come back to academia in order to be more efficient and credible in developing recommendations.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Curiosity – you can do anything if you are curious. You discover lots of opportunities, and you can share these with others and progress. It is an ethos that we encourage at Les Roches. We are focused on innovation, in all semesters and in all undergraduate and postgraduate courses, not just in hospitality but in different sectors. Our students are exposed to and experience different sectors, benefit from guest speakers and integrated projects, and we are launching a creative innovation hub in June. All of these inspire curiosity – we are open-minded to a lot of things, new projects, partnerships and ways of working – an example being the launch of our MSc Digital Transformation, which will go a long way to addressing the digital skills’ gaps in hospitality and related industries.
Are there any particular female role models or mentors who have acted as a source of support or inspiration for you?
At the beginning of my career there were not a lot of females in F&B, so I had no mentors or role models as such. In a former role we did have a Chair of the Board who was a female and very impressive – very active in education and a real visionary – I probably did not take enough the opportunity to learn from her as I should have done at that time.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I am a mentor for others – as a career changer myself this is important to me. Every year I organise a dinner for the personal assistants who have worked with me, and we get together with their partners and children. Every month I am in touch with most of them individually, where we discuss different issues they are experiencing professionally and sometimes in their private life.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
This will be my last position, and it is a very interesting challenge. Les Roches already has a long-standing reputation for excellence. By March 2021 I want us to have a clear focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, and to have developed or be developing specialisations which support the industry and help us to stand out. This is a global mission, but I am excited about the opportunities in the UK within that. This could be around building the innovation ecosystem, developing partnership with other universities, or recruiting more students to our undergraduate and postgraduate courses. At Les Roches we have over 100 different nationalities, but we are always striving for the right balance to support learning from each other. The British sense of humour and approach to student life is different from other countries, and we welcome more students who are from or based in the UK. We are different to many other hospitality schools; at Les Roches Crans Montana we are a small community based in a small village, but it really is a quite unique experience.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
To try – if you have an idea do not be afraid to pursue it.