Starting a business that uses culinary talent for financial profit means you not only need cooking skills but also must know how to organize and manage a business operation. Making delicious food and eye-popping desserts offers no guarantee of success. You can master food skills from culinary training or restaurant experience, but you still need to deal with business issues such as people management, inventory and pricing, keeping records, and marketing.
Restaurant businesses fail almost as often as they succeed. The problem lies in the great divide between cooking talent and business skill. Many people have no skills to run a business, but they handle kitchen duties like a master. In fact, good business skills can even cover up shortcomings in the kitchen. Everyone knows a local diner where people joke about how bad the food tastes, yet people continue to eat there.
Choose Wholesale or Retail
Foods businesses fall into wholesale or retail categories. Bakeries often sell their goods in retail shops and to other restaurants and distribution outlets, but most businesses will concentrate on one market or the other. Wholesale culinary businesses include bakeries, organic foods, candies, proprietary spice mixes, salad dressings, and unique condiments.
Retail culinary businesses include running restaurants, operating food trucks, running booths at fairs and festivals, serving food at groceries, catering meals or events, or running snack bars. Both wholesale and retail foods operations need city licenses and must meet local health department regulations. You must cook food in licensed facilities that get regular health and safety inspections.
- Private chefs work for one client exclusively. Home chefs and kitchens enjoy the protection of privacy laws, but you might face inspections for corporate kitchens.
- Personal chefs work in the homes of many clients and use their kitchens. Chefs without lots of financial resources can start these types of businesses without meeting expensive regulations for cooking areas.
- Clients, however, expect cleanliness and safe food-handling techniques from personal chefs, so culinary training and certification helps you attract more clients.
Find a Marketable Product
Your marketable product might be a single food item or full-course, fusion cuisines. Your personal preferences in food might present too narrow a focus to make a good profit in your local market. Christmas cakes and pastries enjoy high demand in season, but you would have nothing to sell when the season ends. Decide whether your ideal culinary career would be running a full-service restaurant, bakery, niche market, sandwich shop, soup and salad buffet, or gourmet food booth at the mall.
Testing, Financing, and Marketing
You will need money to start any business. You may have savings or find you can borrow from family or friends. You might need to seek a commercial loan or investor for your business idea. Regardless of how you finance, you should write a business plan that lists expenses, how you plan to market your business, how much you expect to earn, and study possible problems that might occur. Lenders and investors demand comprehensive business plans, but you should have one even if you finance your own business. Researching the information will give you valuable insights and help you avoid mistakes.
Your foods or menu items need testing for quality and sustainability. You need to know where you will get food supplies, and finding local suppliers has become very trendy in the culinary business. For safety, you will need to store and hold food at safe temperatures to stop bacterial growth. You need several types of insurance coverage to protect you from a litigious culture ready to sue for the slightest mistake.
Marketing strategy sometimes gets overlooked, but finding your target buyers could define whether you succeed or fail. If selling wholesale, you need to find outlets. The products might need promotion to consumers, creative store displays, and descriptive brochures. Restaurants might arrange local food reviews, billboard advertising, signage, local media advertising, coupons, or online promotions. Culinary businesses offer rewarding careers doing the work you love, but you must meet the demands of business before you can delight diners or consumers with your culinary skills.