Culinary School Graduates Will Require New Skills Post-COVID-19

Culinary school graduates will need to bring to the table not just an eye and taste for good and creative cuisine, but fundamental business skills in order to win in the post-COVID-19 economy.

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May 18, 2020 7 min read

With the economy slowly re-opening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants are having to simultaneously adapt to changing trends in consumer behavior and plan their financial recovery.

Now more than ever, culinary school graduates can enhance their value by developing fundamental business skills in addition to an eye and taste for good and creative cuisine.

Culinary school graduates potentially offer more value to their employers because they bring a wide variety of skills beyond the kitchen, including financial management, customer management, business operations, and more. Meanwhile, many people without a formal culinary education only have experience in a single aspect of the foodservice industry, potentially limiting their career options.

So what are the specific skills that culinary graduates need in the post-COVID19 marketplace? Let’s dive in and find out.

Financial Management

The restaurant and hospitality industry has suffered from the economic shutdowns. Although restaurant jobs will return, food service businesses will be paying closer attention to their finances – especially in lower margin operations.

That’s why financial management skills are critical. Leslie Ferrier, Vice President of HR at Momofuku Restaurant Group, explains that “all your creativity goes out the window if you don’t know how to run the restaurant as a business.”

Business accounting skills, monitoring transactions and paying attention to operating costs are all required to run a profitable restaurant. Aspiring chefs should be aware of new regulations and be ready to make appropriate investments in facility upgrades as demand for better sanitation standards increases.

Chefs with a balance of both culinary and business skills can contribute to maximizing profit as they create great dining experiences – separating themselves from the pack in the eyes of employers.

Two restaurant owners working with laptop

For example, in a down economy, restaurant consumers desire more affordable options and faster service. Online ordering systems can give patrons more convenience and a quicker turnaround for takeout orders. Menus can be redesigned to improve sales and profits, perhaps by limiting options and lowering ingredient costs.

These and other operational changes can enhance the overall experience for patrons and add to the bottom line. A well-rounded culinary education can help ensure that a kitchen produces great food and remains financially solvent.

Visionary & Strategic Thinking

A keen understanding of the big picture is another important skill set that culinary school graduates can bring to the table. Restaurants may have to radically shift traditional models of on-premise eating to become leaner…and those that execute the right changes the quickest will thrive.

According to the National Restaurant Association, some restaurants are adopting a grocery store model and utilizing their supply channels to sell commodity goods to their customers, such as proteins, produce or even cleaning products.

There’s no shortage of strategic decisions like these that need to be made: Should we invest in contactless payment? How do we better operate our online delivery? Do we rethink our brand?

These challenges require visionary individuals with culinary and business skills, and employers will look to hire people who are strong in both.

Customer Relationship Management Skills

Relationship building and networking are vital skills not only for bringing in new business and clients, but to strengthen the customer base you already have.

Regardless of whether you are a restaurant business owner, executive chef, or in any other culinary profession, these soft skills are key. Quality customer service is one the best ways restaurants can distinguish themselves from the competition.

Employers will likely value culinary graduates who understand how to develop ideas for customer engagement and loyalty, and respond to their evolving dining and safety needs in a post-COVID world.

At Escoffier we understand the value of a strong network in career advancement. Our Career Services staff offers job placement assistance for culinary graduates and all of our students participate in required externships where their skills are applied in professional kitchens with some of the top employers in the food industry.

Experiences such as these prepare new culinary graduates for an increasingly competitive job market.

Operations Management: On-Premise & Online

Restaurants that come out of the lockdowns will look to be more efficient and economize costs where they can. Graduates will probably be expected to create great food in the back of house and also have a strong awareness of how operations interlink with the front of the house.

Better run operations mean that restaurants can serve more consumers and do it faster, both of which drive profit.

Culinary graduates may even need to prepare for a restaurant world with non-existent front staft, at least for a while. COVID-19 has highlighted just how fast online ordering has accelerated. With practically every restaurant adopting some form of online food delivery, others have continued to expand into a permanent model of “ghost kitchens” – a delivery-only model where food is solely sold online or through a mobile app.

Close up woman ordering pizza online by internet

Graduates may need to be versatile in managing operations in a wide variety of non-traditional restaurant models. Investing in these management skills now could possibly pay dividends for quick career advancement in the future.

Mitchell Rodriguez, a Sous Chef at Holiday Retirement and graduate of Escoffier’s Online Culinary Arts program, demonstrates how a culinary education that included kitchen management helped him advance in his career. “I’ve gained a better understanding of how to execute a variety of techniques as well as how to manage a kitchen. I went from washing dishes and cleaning a commercial kitchen to managing my own within a two-year span,” he explains.

How to Take Advantage of Culinary School

These are uncertain and fast-changing times…students and culinary institutions need to adapt to deliver a well-rounded education that covers essential business skills.

Foodservice is a competitive industry. If you want to enter the incredible world of culinary or pastry careers, you’ll want to give yourself a leg up for your career. Research indicates that the majority of employers prefer managers with a culinary or pastry arts-related certification and value the technical skills that culinary school provides.1

Escoffier online culinary arts graduate Tiffany Moore“Anybody can say they are a chef. As far as the management portion, that is where Escoffier is really helping me actually run a restaurant, run a café, or run a business. And that’s what I want.”
Tiffany Moore, Online Culinary Arts graduate; Co-Founder & Chef at Event Hall @ Cascade

For culinary grads looking to make a career in the foodservice industry, the types of skills they need will have to match the demands of the times they are living in. Now, more than ever, that includes the business side of culinary school.

If you are looking to expand your education, consider Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, the only U.S. accredited institution offering a fully online diploma or degree in Culinary Arts or a diploma in Pastry Arts with industry externship (accredited by Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training).

Our programs are a great way to learn the business side of the foodservice industry and hone your knowledge of restaurant operations.

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1 Source: Oliver Wyman Culinary Survey March 2017 and Analysis

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