How to Find a Mentor in the Restaurant Industry
Finding a mentor who can help you take your restaurant to the next level might seem like a challenge, but it may be much easier than you think. Your restaurant mentor doesn’t need to be famous or even wealthy, just successful at running a restaurant. Good communication skills, a positive attitude, and an air of transparency are also imperative key traits in an ideal mentor.
Here are seven places you can find a mentor who specializes in the restaurant industry:
Facebook Groups For Restaurant Managers
Believe it or not, Facebook is good for more than just taking selfies and socializing with friends. There are tons of groups specifically for restaurant owners and managers. Members share their experiences as restaurant owners, answer each other’s questions, and form real connections. Some even meet up offline and offer support in person.or through the phone.
Here are a few of the most popular groups:
- Restaurant Owners & Managers Group
- Restaurant & Bar Owners, Operators, & Managers
- Restaurant Owners Forum
These groups are closed/private, so you’ll have to request to join. As long as you have a Facebook account, you can select “join” and answer a few simple questions, like “Do you own a restaurant?” before the group moderator will accept you; the moderator usually reviews and approves all requests within an hour.
Conferences & Workshops
There are numerous annual conferences serving the restaurant industry. And typically, those who attend have at least some of the prerequisites for being a mentor. Although these types of conferences usually follow an agenda, there’s always plenty of time for mingling. You can make connections easily in an environment like this since all attendees are tied to the foodservice industry.
Here are three of the largest foodservice conferences in the country that you should consider attending at least once:
- National Restaurant Association Show – Exposure to the latest equipment in the food & beverage industry; access to sample products from suppliers; culinary demonstrations
- Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo – Interactive product showcases, sample new alcoholic beverages; west coast chefs’ culinary competition
- Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show – Education programs, culinary demonstrations, product showcase
When you meet your fellow attendees, be sure to show plenty of interest, and listen more than or as much as you speak. A willingness to listen and learn are two traits mentors look for before agreeing to work with a mentee. Also, distribute your business cards to any new contacts you meet, if the opportunity arises. This ensures that even if you’re not able to secure a mentor at the conference, you can follow up with potential mentors later.
Networking events are where people come together to connect, usually regarding business. These are good places to find mentors. To find an event in your area, start with meetup.com. Some networking groups are for new residents only, while others are more inclusive. You might also check your local newspaper and Chamber of Commerce to find out about other upcoming networking events. There’s a good chance you’ll find at least one person working in the restaurant industry.
LinkedIn is another great way to find a mentor. It might be a bit more challenging to find one specifically in the restaurant industry, but there are numerous leaders who regularly share leadership tips that you can apply in any industry. LinkedIn also has a feature that allows you set whether or not you’re interested in career advice. If you are looking for a mentor, turning this setting to “on” could make a difference; other LinkedIn members will be able to see you’re looking for mentorship and can provide it as they wish.
Small Business Development Center
There are Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across the country, and they serve small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. You can receive free face-to-face training on how to put together a business plan, marketing, financing your business, and so forth. These SBDCs are usually hosted by local colleges, universities, and state economic development agencies.
SCORE is a network of volunteer, expert business mentors. As with SBDCs, there are a lot of local SCORE divisions, so it’s likely that you have one nearby. The mentorship, workshops, and education that SCORE provides are free. You can visit the website today to be paired with a mentor. You can also perform a search to find one who has the expertise (restaurant industry) you need.
Volunteering is a different approach you can take to find a mentor. Consider which leaders in the industry that you’d like to have as your mentor and forge a connection with them. Ask to volunteer at their place of business part-time in exchange for their mentorship. You’ll be surprised at how quickly this works. They’re usually flattered to be considered as a mentor but also grateful for the help.
As you search for a restaurant mentor, keep in mind that they’re everywhere. Keep an open mind, and strike up conversations with complete strangers. Tell them about your aspirations, and find out about theirs. The best mentor-mentee relationship begins with communication.