July 16, 2019

Business and Entrepreneurship: The Other ‘Arts’ of Culinary School

The culinary arts are a form of creativity and expression that brings people from different creeds and cultures together to indulge in the shared experience of delicious food. But they’re also an industry – and a lucrative one at that. The National Restaurant Association projects $863 billion in restaurant sales for 2019, which is an improvement over 2018. The industry is so large that it accounts for 10% of the overall U.S. workforce, which is the equivalent of 15.3 million employees. The bottom line is that people like going out to eat.

Nevertheless, the competition is stiff. Most restaurants shut down within the first year of opening, and nearly 80% close shop before they hit the five-year mark, according to CNBC. Often, this is the result of picking the wrong location to start the business. Other sources of insolvency might include failing to adequately project operating expenses such as the cost of ingredients, employee wages and equipment upgrades.

This isn’t to discourage Austin culinary students from diving into culinary entrepreneurship. The restaurant industry is a vibrant and exciting marriage of commerce and creativity, and it’s thriving. Now as is as good a time as any to jump into the fray. Just keep in mind that there is another art to the industry – that of business and entrepreneurship.

Culinary entrepreneurs have a lot of ground to cover before opening their doors.Culinary entrepreneurs have a lot of ground to cover before opening their doors.

Beyond cooking: The business side of culinary arts

Anyone who’s considering opening a restaurant, deli, catering service, bar, cafe or other eating and drinking establishment need to keep a variety of factors and expenses in mind. For starters, that entails a realistic sense of what you’re getting yourself into. Owning a restaurant is a full-time job, and getting it off the ground is even more than that.

Other critical factors to consider include:

  • Competition in the area.
  • Licensing, health codes and local tax law.
  • Restaurant safety.
  • Sources of financing to get your business up and running.
  • The concept behind your restaurant.
  • Interior design, furniture and other elements of your space and how they influence diners.
  • Building and testing a menu.
  • Sourcing your ingredients and knowing the costs of those ingredients.
  • Marketing your restaurant and the associated costs.
  • Whether or not you should offer delivery and takeout.
  • Much more.

You also need to be aware of the average profit margins depending on your type of restaurant as benchmark for your success. For example, fast food-style eateries have different average profit margins than a full-service restaurant.

All of these considerations, and more, weigh into the success of a career in culinary entrepreneurship.

How culinary school prepares students

Launching any type of foodservice operation is incredibly difficult without having guidance from professionals and successful culinary entrepreneurs who possess real-word experience. At Auguste Escoffier’s Austin culinary school campus, students have the opportunity to work with successful culinary professionals from all over the world on both the cooking and business sides of the industry.

For example, we offer a course called “Culinary Entrepreneurship” in which students will learn the ins and outs of creating and managing a culinary business. The course culminates in students creating and presenting a business plan for a foodservice operation. At the same time, students may take other courses that cover the history and culture of cuisines, the nutritional aspects of food and, of course, the art, finesse and craft of cooking.

Even if you’re primarily interested in cooking above all else, it’s important for chefs to have a strong sense of the industry they’re getting themselves into. Whether you want to hone your craft, get into culinary entrepreneurship or both, the August Escoffier school of culinary arts in Austin provides a uniquely well-rounded program that you won’t find anywhere else.