Do I Need to Go to Culinary School to Open a Restaurant?

Jessica Elliott

Jessica couples her 24 years of restaurant and hospitality industry experience with meticulous research to deliver insight into technology, operations, and marketing topics. Her optimized copy helps companies engage their audience while strengthening their communication with clients, employees, and management.

If you’re new to the industry, then you’ll notice that the ranks of restaurant owners and operators aren’t limited to culinary school graduates. Individuals enter the food service industry for a variety of reasons that often have nothing to do with their current career or education.

While delicious food is an essential part of your restaurant, your long-term success depends on several factors. According to Restaurant Business, small eateries compete in a saturated market by “being the one customers choose.” Get to this level by using resources to create guidelines for each component of your restaurant business, not merely by graduating from culinary school.

Develop core plans before opening a restaurant

In a competitive foodservice market ripe with obstacles, it’s crucial to use fact-driven research and best practices to develop your restaurant systems. Depending on your skill level, you may need to invest in additional resources to perform analysis and identify opportunities. From operations to finances, restaurateurs start with the basics then continually adjust goals and strategies.

Write a basic business plan

A restaurant business plan provides an overview of your objectives, brand, and operations. You’ll include sections with industry and financial analysis, target market, and even a sample menu.

An independent review of a study by Palo Alto Software found that “writing a business plan correlated with increased success in every one of the business goals included in the study.” While you can write up a short document, this is an area where dedicating extra time to developing your research pays off.

Develop a marketing strategy

Consumers access information about your restaurant brand in multiple ways, from online review sites to Google My Business content. A strong marketing strategy takes into account the various touchpoints that your desired customers use while applying a consistent branding and promotion strategy across all platforms. Focus your marketing mix by creating both shared and unique goals for various mediums like:

  • Social media marketing
  • Loyalty and gift card programs
  • Email marketing
  • Print and in-store displays

Set up a process for safety and food handling certifications

Depending on your area, you may be balancing different certifications for all members of your staff. Stay up to date by using automated processes to alert staff of upcoming deadlines. This may include ongoing training programs for your team which helps avoid food safety and sanitation issues.

Create guidelines for hiring and managing staff

According to the Toast Industry Report, “59% of restaurant operators name staffing as a top challenge to success.” Avoid costly unemployment claims and high turnover rates by setting standards and expectations.

  • Create guidelines to assist with compliance with local, state, and federal laws.
  • Document management processes and expectations.

Use resources to increase restaurant industry knowledge

Will culinary school help my restaurant succeed?
Today’s digital-age provides a wealth of information online. Determine which areas of the restaurant business that you need to brush up on, whether that’s management or marketing, and find resources that help you.

  • The Small Business Administration offers free video courses and content. Plus, check out their local assistance for on-site classes near you.
  • Find a mentor in the industry. SCORE provides ongoing education and free mentorship.
  • Talk to your local Chamber of Commerce and colleges to discover free or low-cost tools for startups in your area.
  • Take advantage of online resources from industry experts.
  • Attend trade shows and local food events for insights into your market, products, and tools.

With so many resources, you don’t need to go to culinary school to open a restaurant. Instead, learn how to adapt to changing customer and employee expectations while balancing restaurant operations. Move forward in your new business with confidence by investing time in strengthening your weaknesses and distinguishing your restaurant from the competition.

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