Heinz Bürki Interview

15 June 2018

We caught up with IMI co-founder and owner Mr. Heinz Bürki to discuss his career in the hospitality industry and his vision for the future of our school...

Why did you decide to study hospitality?

In Switzerland, hospitality has always been, and still is, the most promising way for a young person to develop and progress in industry. On top of that, my family had been running restaurants in Switzerland for three generations so hospitality was in my blood!

When did you first become involved in hospitality education?

I started my career as a chef apprentice, working for a few years in both Switzerland and the UK. I then studied at EHL in Lausanne. Luckily, I was selected at EHL to do my final training placement as an assistant to a lecturer. Thanks to this, I was then selected by the Swiss authorities to go to Bandung (Indonesia) to be a consultant to a new hotel school there which was a joint venture between Indonesia and Switzerland.

What inspired you to open your own business and start a hotel management school like IMI?

Back in Switzerland, I managed private hotel management schools (César Ritz in Brig and IHTTI in Neuchatel) over a period of eight years. I then decided, with two business partners, to open my own hotel management school near Lucerne. That is how IMI was created.

What does the concept of “Swiss hospitality” mean to you?

From around 1880 onwards, hospitality was one of the few successful activities in Switzerland. Why? Because the locals realised that there was enormous potential in the alpine beauty and scenic lakes and mountains. The natural beauty of the country is just stunning, and some enterprising people started to build trains, roads, cable cars, etc. to reach these places. Hotels were built first in the cities such as Luzern, Interlaken and Montreux and then started to appear all over the place. The hoteliers realised that, to attract tourists, all staff must be trained to a high standard so as to give the best possible quality of service to guests. Later, business tourism developed (and is still developing) based on the same concept of total quality.

What are the main values that you associate with IMI as a school?

Our policy has always been to be totally Swiss in the sense that we are 100% family owned and follow the guiding principles of quality and professionalism. We instill our students with the managerial skills to reach the top but, even more importantly, we develop their personality skills to create well-rounded future professionals with an international world view. We have always resisted becoming too big, because we believe it is essential that all students can receive personal attention and care from all staff members. We have developed our programme offering to teach the latest theories from the hospitality, tourism and business sectors while providing the managerial know-how necessary for the real-world demand.

Which particular memory gives you most satisfaction from the last 27 years of IMI?

There are so many happy memories, but it is always special to me when, at graduation ceremonies, parents come to me and thank IMI for having developed their son/daughter to be ready to face real life.

How does it make you feel when you hear about another IMI alumni going on to do great things in the industry?

This happens quite often. It makes me feel very glad for these graduates and it reinforces my certitude that, at IMI, we are following the right set of ‘values’ (see above).

How do you see IMI developing in the future?

My daughter Isabelle will take over and I will retire in two years’ time. IMI will always “listen to the market” and train individuals who will be the future leaders in hospitality, tourism, business and all service industries worldwide.

Do you wish to share some advice for students currently on a hospitality or culinary programme?

My advice is: You all have a goal - follow your star, but be ready and have an open mind if one day an unexpected opportunity comes your way. Also, never stop learning and developing yourself.

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