The restaurant was buzzing, the bar was full of oil rig workers, and a steady stream of guests were lining up to check into their rooms.

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But rather than being faced with the usual team of staff at the Holiday Inn Norwich North, guests at the busy four-star hotel were greeted by a fresher-faced team of workers. City College Norwich’s hospitality and catering students staged a two-day takeover allowing them to experience every aspect of running a real-life business.

The annual event – which has taken place at the Cromer Road hotel for the past five years – sees the teenagers take on a wide range of duties from reception, housekeeping, and supervising the gym, to bar management, food preparation and general manager.

With a total of 80 students taking part, it was the biggest takeover the college had ever staged.

Overseeing the work were the Holiday Inn staff who were impressed by what they saw.

Bill Heath, who will take over as general manager from Devin Grosse today, said he wanted to make sure the students left with a proper understanding of what it took to run a hotel.

He said: “You can do these things in the college environment but, at college, you have got 10 students to each member of the public. Here it’s much more of a realistic situation.”

Natalie Davies was one of the first City College students to take part in a hotel takeover 14 years ago at the former Forte Posthouse on Ipswich Road. Now rooms manager for the Holiday Inn Norwich North, she said the experience had inspired her to pursue a career in hospitality.

“I got the opportunity to shadow the general manager and had an amazing day. All through my career that stuck with me,” she said. “It was the goal I wanted to achieve – I wanted to be a manager of my own department.”

Mrs Davies now oversees the running of the takeover each year and is confident the students will make the most of the opportunity.

The two days culminated with a charity gala dinner on Wednesday night in aid of Hospitality Action and the college’s student opportunities fund.

Students ran the entire evening from greeting the 160 paying guests to cooking their meal, serving it, and tidying up afterwards.

Last year’s dinner raised £1,700 for the two good causes.

Steve Thorpe, head of the hotel school at City College, said: “The support shown by the hotel’s management and staff for the annual takeover is a real testimony to the confidence they have in the ability of our students to rise to this challenge.”

To see more pictures of the students’ takeover of the Holiday Inn Norwich North visit www.eveningnews.co.uk

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