My wife and I both love to cook and, if I may say so, we’re not too shabby at it. But we can always learn more. So, when we moved to a new city last year, we started looking for a place to boost our cooking skills, and that’s when we stumbled upon a local cooking school with a business model I’d never seen before.
(Disclaimer: maybe it’s not unique. I’ve just never seen it before but I think it’s brilliant, and something a lot of businesses may be able to borrow. And if you own a restaurant, and no one else is doing this in your city, you should seriously consider it!)
It’s called Schoolhaus Culinary Arts and it shares a building with a restaurant and a catering company, which is a smart way to double-up on your space and infrastructure for a related service.
You go to their website and look at their upcoming classes. Every day of the week is a class on something — from a type of food (i.e. bread) to a regional cuisine (i.e. Moroccan) to a specific type of cooking (i.e. cooking with beer). There’s something on offer just every single day.
You sign up for the class, pre-pay, and then show up on your selected day. The room is smaller than I thought it would be but it holds about 16 students, with enough equipment and counterspace for everyone. You tie on an apron, sign a waiver, and then the chef instructor leads you through some basic skills you need to know and tells you the order that you’ll be cooking the food in. Then the class is unleashed to begin. Everyone has their own place — including a knife and cutting board — at a table for 4 people. And you work with that group of 3 other people to prepare the dishes. Some dishes you eat as you finish them, others you save until the end.
Throughout the evening the chef instructors circulate through the room to give you tips and advice; oh, and there’s beer and wine for purchase too. Classes are 3 hours long, and at the end of the night the tables are pushed together and you share the food with everyone else in the class.
It’s a great time!
Janelle and I went to one class about Spanish Tapas, and later went back to Global Street Food. (We would have gone to more but our schedules haven’t allowed it, plus the classes sell out very fast so you have to book early — which is a lesson I’ve learned!) Not every recipe is a winner but you’ll end up with some things you love, other things you don’t, but it’s really the experience that is the highlight — as you make new friends and learn new skills and try recipes you’d never normally try. It’s very social.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT BUSINESS MODEL
It’s a great business model. It converts an empty space into a revenue-generating space. At about $75 per person plus drinks, it’s not out of the question to have people drop an average of $100 per person per night, so you’re looking at $1600 for a full class (and these classes sell out). You’ll need to buy the ingredients, supply the recipes and equipment, and pay for a couple of instructors and a clean-up person. But essentially you are guiding a sitting of people through the process of cooking their own meal.
It’s popular, which makes it a consistent money-maker.
Will the same business model work for you? Can you build separate brand in your business where you teach them to do what you do? Some businesses naturally do that already (I see that all the time in the real estate space that I work in) but I think this is a new concept to restaurants.
Maybe you own a restaurant and you’re busy in the evenings… but what about weekends? Can you offer a weekend cooking class? Or maybe you’re in the commercial district and you have a heavy lunch crowd but you close down for suppers… can you add a teaching segment? Or maybe you own a large building that is too big for your current restaurant, can you partition it off and run a culinary arts school on one side? Look at your potential clientele and figure out what works for them — you might do a 3 hour session like the one I’ve been to, or maybe you cut it back to a one-hour session that people can prep and then bring home. The details can be tweaked.
And, this extends beyond restaurants. Grocery stores could do this too. Or what about an accountancy that teaches people bookkeeping or business strategy? What about a daycare that teaches parents parenting skills? What about a garden center that teaches people gardening?
I think the sky’s the limit here. Sure, you’ll have to tweak the model a little for your industry and client-base but it’s very powerful.