California Restaurant Foundation takes local students inside Wienerschnitzel headquarters in Tustin

Fullerton Union High School students take turns taking pictures inside Wienerschnitzel headquarters in Tustin.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

A group of about 20 students from Fullerton Union High school headed into Wienerschnitzel headquarters in Tustin on Wednesday afternoon, led by chief executive officer J.R. Galardi of the Galardi Group, the parent company of the Southern California hot dog chain as well as Tastee-Freez and Hamburger Stand.

“We have a communal work space with a few offices on the perimeter so we can have a collaborative environment,” Galardi explained as the students followed him through the office.

The Fullerton teens were just a fraction of the 500 students across California joining in Experience Hospitality Week, a career-building experience giving students the chance to explore the business side of food service.


All participating students are part of the California Restaurant Foundation’s statewide ProStart program, a two-year culinary arts and restaurant management program offered at 140 California high schools.

Wienerschnitzel chief executive officer J.R. Galardi leads students on a tour of Wienerschnitzel headquarters.
Wienerschnitzel chief executive officer J.R. Galardi leads students on a tour of Wienerschnitzel headquarters in Tustin.
(Sarah Mosqueda. )

“The students are able to gain experience in the culinary field and through ProStart they are able to go to competitions and gain scholarship money,” said Mario Schwarz-Cole, a chef and culinary instructor at Fullerton Union High. “These are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

Last year’s ProStart Cup at the Long Beach Convention Center brought together 250 California high school students for a two-day competition to compete for $500,000 in scholarships.

In addition to scholarship opportunities, ProStart brings experts in the restaurant industry into the classroom.

“We have had quite a few guest speakers come out and speak to our students about what it is like to work in the industry in various jobs that could be available for them post-high school,” said Islah Shinault, culinary instructor at Fullerton Union High.

Presented by U.S. Bank, Experience Hospitality Week is another one of ProStart’s many career-focused learning opportunities. Guided tours and mentor discussions are also happening at Pacifica Hotels, Sysco L.A. and the Toyota Arena, giving students time with real executives and business owners.

Students heard from Galardi as well as the Galardi Group’s chief financial officer, Michael Nishi, and other members of the leadership team about distribution, sales and what goes into launching a new menu item. Representatives from U.S. Bank were also on hand to talk about the process of applying for a business loan.

“You can only learn so much from a book, but what you see here and hear from the CEOs and CFO and the executives and bank managers, those are skills you cannot really teach in the classroom,” said Schwarz-Cole.

Fullerton Union High 12th-grader Leilani Manzo said she has learned a lot from the program both from her teachers inside the classroom and from opportunities like the one they had with Galardi Group.

Fullerton Union High School students head into Wienerschnitzel headquarters in Tustin for a tour.
Fullerton Union High School students head into Wienerschnitzel headquarters in Tustin for a tour with chief executive officer J.R. Galardi.
(Sarah Mosqueda.)

“My teachers have taught me nothing but perseverance,” said Manzo. “But today I saw step by step how everything works. Everybody knows there is an office, but nobody knows how many people it actually takes.”

Galardi said demystifying the inner workings of a chain restaurant business is part of why the company participates in events like Experience Hospitality Week.

“I think it is important for any business to invite the younger generation to see what goes on behind the scenes,” said Galardi. “Everyone understands you go to a restaurant, you order food, you get food. But they don’t really understands everything that goes behind that and all of the elements of the restaurant business.”

The students enjoyed a lunch of chili dogs and corn dogs provided by Wienerschnitzel but they also had the chance to create their own business plan. In fact, all 23 schools participating in Experience Hospitality Week will end the week by taking the knowledge they have gained to create a food service business concept to submit to the California Restaurant Foundation. Five winners will be selected for a prize of $500 for their school from U.S. Bank.

It is real life experience Manzo said she knows she will use in the future.

“Something I have always been interested in is starting my own business,” said Manzo, “I have learned a lot here today about the roles everyone has.”