For a young Michael Barrett, one summer job was all it took to be “bitten” by the hospitality bug. Since that seasonal gig working for his Uncle Bob at the Pine Crest Inn in North Carolina, Mike has truly had a lifetime of achievement in the hospitality industry.
An Erie, Pa. native, Mike began his pursuit of lifelong education at Paul Smith’s College in New York where he earned an associate’s degree in hotel & resort management, then went on to earn a bachelor’s in hotel & restaurant management at the University of Denver, and even studied at Paris’s Sorbonne University. Even Mike’s time serving in the U.S. Navy connected back to hospitality—he credits his role as a Navy foodservice operator for introducing to him the ins and outs of large-scale food production.
As Mike will tell you about his varied career in the hospitality business, “you name it, he’s done it”—from his first job with Stauffer’s Management Food Systems in San Francisco, to managing food and beverage facilities at Newark International and Tampa International airports, and eventually back to his hometown of Erie, where he owned and operated several franchises and independent restaurants including The Dry Dock, The Pasta Factory, and Barrett’s Restaurant. Mike took over the Sunset Inn Erie in 1987, where to this day, he’s hosted thousands of guests for weddings and events.
Since joining what was then the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association in 1982, Mike has been a committed member and leader. He has been key to building and maintaining the Northwestern chapter, from serving as chapter president in 1985 to mentoring many of the chapter’s current leaders.
As chairman of the association in 2001, his steadfast leadership guided the association through a precarious period. Faced with many challenges, Mike stepped up to the plate, working alongside a small but mighty crew of fellow officers and dedicated staff members, to ensure that the association would thrive well into the future.
Mike’s passion for education is evident. He and Bill Temple helped establish the hotel & restaurant management program at Mercyhurst University in Erie. Mike even gifted one of his restaurant buildings (the former Pasta Factory) to the university to use as a teaching operation. He was also involved with the Department of Hotel & Restaurant Management at Sandhill Community College in Pinehurst, NC, serving as a board member.
Mike recently established an endowment in the PRLA Educational Foundation to ensure the future of the industry has access to the schooling they need to contribute to the industry’s growth.
As he nears retirement, Mike says he is looking forward to enjoying more time with his family—wife Paula, children Barbara and Brian and their families, including two grandchildren, as well as checking items off their travel bucket list. •