Birdhouse, a tailor-made training restaurant

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Switzerland, where two-third of young people are enrolled in a professional training programme, is recognized worldwide for its apprenticeship models. The Birdhouse, vocational training restaurant in Geneva, aims to train up to 70 youngsters over 5 years in the fields of cooking and service. While professional training is renowned in Switzerland, why such a restaurant whose purpose is, above everything, educating young people?

This is without a doubt what makes the Birdhouse unique” says Julie, room and service manager at the Birdhouse. Julie has been working there since its opening in August 2019. What she is passionate about in her work is to pass on her knowledge and passion for this profession. She sincerely hopes to inspire these young people by offering them the best apprenticeship and make them want to break through this profession at the end of their training.

What is the process of this training?

The apprentices’ training at the Birdhouse is to be completed over two or three years and leads to a diploma in both cases (AFP/ CFC diploma). The apprentices share their time practising in the restaurant and studying the theoretical part at the Center for Professional Training in Service and Hospitality/ Catering (CFP SHR) in Geneva”. The apprentices evolve in three different spaces: the Coffee Corner offers meals on the go and sweets throughout the day; the Espace Saveur cafeteria and the Nest, our restaurant with table service, in a more intimate setting. The apprentices are then confronted to various types of services and cuisines.

How does the Birdhouse offer a personalized learning formula?

Throughout their apprenticeship years, the apprentices are prepared for their final exams. The Birdhouse’s training is modelled according to their school program and is aligned with their theoretical tests which take place every two weeks at the CFP SHR. In order to train them, small themed workshops are organised regularly in the restaurant. The Birdhouse welcomes professionals such as cheesemakers, cellarmen, fishmongers, market gardeners to present their products and do tastings. Individual or small groups trainings follow the speciality chosen by the apprentices, namely wine waiter, bartender, barista or head waiter.

The final exam is made up of a theoretical part that can cover oenology, names of cheeses or setting a table. The practical part of the exam takes place at the Birdhouse. Julie prepares the apprentices by putting in place mock exams with a time limit and a scoring grid. The test can be cutting, flaming, or table service with guests at the Nest. Apprentices can also attend a mock exam at the Ecole Hôtelière de Genève, which is a real asset in their preparation for the exams.

What is the specificity of the Birdhouse’s formation?

The Birdhouse’s training is supplemented by internships to which the apprentices can apply on a voluntary basis. They are highly motivated young people. “Unlike other apprenticeship restaurants, apprentices are encouraged to discover other establishments. Indeed, thanks to our partnerships with the Ecole Hôtelière de Genève and Gourmet Brothers, but also thanks to the network of our trainers, we offer apprentices the opportunity to discover hotels or restaurants of a different nature than the Birdhouse. This greatly contributes to their learning because they are faced with different schedules and environments. They have to adapt to a different team. It is also a way for them to project themselves into the future and consider working in these settings.”

In addition to their training, the apprentices are supported on the family, personal or financial levels so that nothing might hinder their training. They benefit from tailor-made social support thanks to our socio-educational coach who is an integral part of the team.

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