Auburn student places first in online ICHRIE Restaurant Management Challenge competition

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Auburn University senior Sam Cook, majoring in hotel and restaurant management, bested more than 160 students from around the world to place first in the second annual ICHRIE Restaurant Management Challenge.

Three of Cook’s classmates also placed in the top 10 in the two-week online competition for college students at International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education member institutions. Matt McManus finished third and Darius Merchant and Clayton Cawthorne placed seventh and eighth, respectively. Auburn University was the only school to have four students finish in the top 10 of the competition.

“It really speaks to the quality of our students to not only compete against students from hotel and restaurant management programs from around the world that are much bigger than we are, but to perform so well against them,” said David Martin, assistant professor in Auburn’s Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management.

Martin encouraged students in his food and beverage management class to voluntarily compete in this year’s contest. Using a program called ProSim Restaurant, students spent two weeks managing a simulated restaurant online. They were in charge of purchasing, staffing and menu design.

The goal is to generate the most weekly profit. The top three finishers earn cash prizes and recognition from ICHRIE and ProSim. Martin offered extra incentives to any of his students who finished in the top three, including donations from the Capella Hotel Group, which manages The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center, and International Beverage Company.

“With the Restaurant Challenge offering $1,000 to the first place winner and my teacher offering a prize for achieving first place, I thought I would give it a shot,” said Cook.

Even though Cook was successful in classroom assignments involving ProSim, he was challenged by the level of competition from students around the world and how the slightest fluctuation in any number of factors would contribute to his restaurant’s overall profit.

“The challenge took a lot of time to do, but with so much on the line, I had to do my best to win,” he said.

McManus, who aspires to open his own restaurant someday, said he learned a great deal from the simulation. It tested his ability to make the most out of the food ordered, while balancing the number of staff needed to successfully serve the number of customers expected.

“I know the methods to run a successful restaurant and this was a chance to apply them, even if it wasn’t real,” McManus said.

(Written by Amy Weaver.)

Contacts: David Martin, College of Human Sciences, (334) 844-3291, (, or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (