Brett Testa’s introduction to the hospitality industry started at the ground floor, or rather, the dish pit. After his first foray into college didn’t work out, he started stringing together gigs to pay the bills. One such gig: a dishwashing job at Atlas, an upscale Atlanta restaurant located within the swanky St. Regis Atlanta hotel. The immaculate dining room and shiny plates made an immediate impression.
“The grandeur of it all swept me off my feet,” he said. “From that moment, I was hooked on hospitality.”
Eager to learn more, Testa studied service and wine, working his way up at Atlas to sommelier and then manager. He reenrolled as an undergraduate at Georgia State with renewed focus, earning his bachelor’s in hospitality management from the Robinson College of Business in 2019. He quickly lined up a job at the Dorchester Hotel in London, but those plans changed when the pandemic shut down international travel.
Testa used the pandemic as an opportunity to enroll in Robinson’s Master of Global Hospitality Management (MGHM) program. His skills and knowledge were especially honed throughout Soon-Ho Kim’s Applied Research in Hospitality & Tourism course as well as Kyle Hight’s Financial Management Applications in Hospitality Enterprises course.
The program also gave Testa the chance to showcase his expanded knowledge in front of industry professionals. After he delivered a presentation on the Atlanta hotel market at the Smith Travel Research (STR) Student Market Study Competition, multiple firms approached Testa regarding employment opportunities.
Testa has since accepted a job as an associate with global hospitality consulting firm HVS, where he conducts hotel property appraisals for the company’s consulting and valuation arm.
“A lot of the work involves direct, real-world application of the skills I developed in my financial analysis course at Robinson,” he said.
Testa’s industry and academic experience has inspired him to encourage hospitality professionals working in operations to earn advanced degrees. Per Testa, many people harbor negative associations with hospitality careers, and a significant number of professionals leave their jobs in hotels and restaurants for work that others might deem more respectable. Testa reasons that highly trained professionals can positively change the public’s perception of hospitality as an important and viable occupation.
“The best way to create a pleasant experience is to increase the respect guests have for their hosts,” Testa said. “That can happen when hospitality professionals possess a high level of training, knowledge, and experience.”