MSJC marketing students help Teriyaki Ninja make friends

July 18, 2013
A Temecula restaurant has more Facebook friends and better online reviews after students from Mt. San Jacinto College’s Temecula Education Complex used skills from their marketing class to help the business attract new customers.
Students from the Principles of Marketing Management course recently presented their ideas to the owners of Teriyaki Ninja, a nearly 2-year-old restaurant owned by Craig and Tiffany Slattery.
“They talked about social media and how important it is,” Craig Slattery said this week. Since the class presentation “I discovered that the tone of all of the reviews on sites like Yelp has really gone positive. We’ve responded to some reviews and customers like that. They understand that we take them seriously and our responses validate the importance of their voices.”
The restaurant is tucked in a strip mall off of Margarita Road and is not easy to find, but it has plenty of reason to attract customers. Unlike other fast-food places, Teriyaki Ninja serves healthy flame-grilled chicken, steak, and salmon rice bowls with homemade sauces and no preservatives, according to its web site.
Laurie McLaughlin, the dean at MSJC’s Temecula Education Complex, is a frequent customer. She discussed the restaurant’s secluded location with instructor Belinda Heiden Scott and the pair agreed it would make a great real-life project for the marketing students.
Heiden Scott said many of her students are Generation X and Y’ers. She wants to make sure they are “fully engaged” in her class. She said she plans to connect with more businesses for class projects.
“I often find these learners have grown up in the world of technology and hands-on environments with a lot of action. It only makes sense to move these learners into full action such as creating real-life scenarios like we did with Teriyaki Ninja,” she said.
Heiden Scott took her students to the restaurant to hear from the Slattery’s what issues they faced in the remote location. After gathering the information, the students got to work developing recommendations and invited the Slattery’s to their class for formal presentations.
“It was a good partnership,” Tiffany said. “It’s beneficial for business to get input (from customers and the students). It was beneficial for the students. They were learning more than just marketing.”
Craig Slattery agreed. As a former K-12 teacher, he said he enjoyed the educational aspect of the experience.
“Even though some of them were very nervous about presenting, you could tell they dug deep to give us information,” Craig said.
Student Brock Reilly, 21, of Lake Elsinore said he is an economics major, but the project helped him get a behind-the-scenes look at what customers want from consultants and about networking.
“I took the things we learned about marketing and applied them to myself,” Reilly said. “It helped me build confidence and bonds with my classmates.”
Student Vanessa Johnson, of Menifee, called Heiden Scott’s marketing class engaging and said the real-life, hands-on project with Teriyaki Ninja made it much more interesting.  A hair stylist for several years, Johnson said the marketing class was her first time back to college in five years.
“I decided to go back to school and it totally changed my outlook,” Johnson, 24, said. “I’ve made a major career decision as a result of the class. In the fall, I am starting a marketing internship with the Temecula Arts Academy.”
Restaurant owners Craig and Tiffany Slattery, far right, talk to students in a Mt. San Jacinto College marketing class. MSJC instructor Belinda Heiden Scott, left, listens with her students.
Teriyaki Ninja owners Craig and Tiffany Slattery (seated at table) were the center of a real-world project for students from a Mt. San Jacinto College marketing class.