Business Bites Resources: 4 Steps To Cultivating A Better Work Culture

We’ve heard it before, building and maintaining a healthy team is vital to the success of your business. But these days, it seems to be getting harder for businesses to retain their top talent. With compliance costs increasing alongside ever changing labor laws—like the increase of minimum wage or required anti-harassment training—it can be difficult for businesses to find ways to attract top talent without additional budget to do so. At our most recent Business Bites conversation, one of the questions that continued to resonate with our audience was apart from financial compensation, how can business attract top talent?

Our panelists Dorina Yuen, Associate Director of Human Resources at Union Square Hospitality Group, and Oron Franco, Director of Culinary Operations at Westville Restaurant Group both agreed, money matters, but it’s not the most important thing. The culture of your company is what dictates the longevity and retention of your employees. We asked our panelists to share their best practices for fostering a healthy, safe workplace that allows for employees to grow. Below, check out their advice for hiring, staff development, feedback and compliance!

Hire Well From The Start

When Yuen and Franco reflected on what they look for when hiring, they both agreed—it’s what can’t be taught that’s important. While chopping onions and plating to a restaurant’s specifications can all be learned, the intangibles that a potential employee demonstrates during an interview is what truly matters. Both Yuen and Franco agree that these are the things to look for when you’re interviewing someone:

  1. Do they demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit?
  2. Are they ambitious?
  3. Do they take initiative?
  4. Will they go out of their way to find solutions and do the right thing when no one is looking?

It’s all about finding the person that can and will versus someone who can, but won’t.

Invest In Your Employees

The age old saying is true—it’s less costly for your business if you invest in your employees, rather than trying to find new talent elsewhere. Use the resources around your business to create a staff development program that can educate and inspire your employees. For instance, the vendors that you work with can become the perfect resource to provide workshops and skills building opportunities for your staff. The same goes for your managers! You’ve hired them for a reason, most likely because they’re subject matter experts in an area key to your industry, so use their expertise to teach your employees and allow them to grow.

Create A Culture of Feedback

Employees crave recognition in the workplace and developing a culture that promotes feedback is imperative to the well-being of your employees. Feedback should be a two way street. The first step is to schedule quarterly, bi-annual, or annual one-on-one meetings with your employees to discuss their growth within the business and provide them with observations on where they excel, as well as areas for improvement. In addition, it’s important to encourage your employees to provide you with feedback about the business, operations, etc which is valuable to improving the culture of your organization. It shows your employees that you’re open to hearing their thoughts and that you value their opinions.

Take Compliance Seriously

Not only should you invest in being compliant because it’s the law, but taking compliance seriously shows your employees that you care. By investing in compliance measures, your employees will feel safe, which will cultivate a healthy environment to work in. You should also remember that as a chef and restaurateur, it’s impossible to know it all. Consult with experts to stay up to date on the ever-evolving world of compliance.

Building a better culture for your restaurant or food business will help to ensure the longevity of your business. By hiring well from the start, investing in your employees, developing a culture of feedback, and staying up to date on the latest in compliance, you’ll be on your way to building a business that your employees can feel proud to work at. Plus, when they leave for their next opportunity—and they should if they’re talented and deserving—they’ll be great representatives for your business to find the next talent. Remember, your previous employees are a reflection of your business and can be your greatest asset in attracting top talent!

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Ready to get started on the business plan for your restaurant, food truck, food product or other dream culinary concept? Maybe you’re looking to scale a family business or grow an existing concept? Register for ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship course, and you’ll have a solid business plan & pitch ready in just 6 weeks! Click here to learn more.

Business Bites Resources: 3 Tips For Food Safety Success In Your Restaurant

Food safety may not be the first thought in your mind when opening your business, but it is essential to the success of it. Not only is it a requirement by law, but food safety can also be a great asset for any restaurant or food business operation. Whether in service, cooking, agriculture or manufacturing, the systems of food are all governed by science. Think of food safety practices as the management system for that science. Regardless of your role within the business, the entire team—from front of house to back of house and kitchen staff—has a responsibility to the success of a food safety management system.

trevor morones
Trevor Morones with ICC Chef Instructor Jeff Butler

To better understand the importance of food safety management, we spoke with Trevor Morones, ICC Professional Culinary Arts graduate and Founder + CEO of Control Point, a consulting company for food safety.  Below, check out his 3 tips for achieving food safety success from day one!

The Foundation of Food Safety Starts With The Team

For years, many restaurants and businesses have kept covert codes to warn about the presence of an inspector, frantically leaping into action upon their arrival. Wouldn’t it be better to develop a team with excellent standards from the start? To do this, it’s important to generate a culture of integrity and discipline, starting from the top. This will contribute greatly to the culture of the team.

By giving your team the proper tools, training and understanding of the science of food safety, you’ll leave your team feeling confident, supported and empowered to do what’s best. The best part—there are many tools available, such as books, forums, webinars or demonstrations, to provide food safety knowledge to your organization.

Preventative Maintenance Allows Your Team To Be Ahead of The Game

The overall goal of a preventative maintenance program for your business is to maintain your environment at an optimal level and minimize risks and equipment failure. Basically, by staying ahead of processes and procedures, you can mitigate problems before they happen. Most food safety issues happen by virtue of negligence that good planning and anticipating problems can easily cure.

Food safety does not have to be daunting—by engaging in preventative maintenance, your equipment, operation and team will all be protected. Remember, the cost of incompliance supersedes the cost of compliance, such as loss of customer trust, insurance and legal fees, PR damage, etc.

Food Safety Is Not One Size Fits All

Creating food safety practices is not the same for every restaurant or food business. Every program and implemented food safety practices should be specific to how an individual organization operates. Gone are the days of simply copying a method from another program or using someone else’s manual.

Food safety can indeed generate value for your restaurant or food business, whether it’s through customer loyalty or brand awareness. There are always opportunities to educate your team, prevent problems before they happen, and design a clear program that works for your business. And remember, when in doubt; always seek guidance from an expert like Control Point!

MEET THE EXPERT: TREVOR MORONES

Control Point founder, Trevor J. Morones, is a graduate of the International Culinary Center and a classically culinary trained expert butcher. As a craft butcher, he understands first-hand the desire to focus on the craft and create the best product possible, creating throngs of satisfied customers and fulfilling on brand promises of quality, efficiency, and unique value.

As a Lead HACCP Instructor, GFSI auditor in training, and Serv Safe Instructor, Trevor brings his brilliant engineering mind and spirit to craft training and solutions to minimize the amount of time spent with red tape and regulations—eliminating costly mistakes and fines while creating cultures of operational excellence.

In working with high volume manufacturing facilities and highly acclaimed restaurants such as B&B Hospitality Group, Good Uncle, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Trevor has perfected the balance between productivity and compliance. Control Point was created to guide Chefs, Restaurant Groups, and Food Manufacturers through their food safety concerns and processes with a high level of excellence.

Control Point is all about results. Trevor’s training and implementation practices have proven to increase company growth, domestically and internationally, by 66%. Trevor holds positions on many committees critical to the support of food industry safety and excellence.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Ready to get started on the business plan for your restaurant, food truck, food product or other dream culinary concept? Maybe you’re looking to scale a family business or grow an existing concept? Register for ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship course, and you’ll have a solid business plan & pitch ready in just 6 weeks! Click here to learn more.

Business Bites Resources: 5 Entrepreneurship Myths Debunked

Many aspiring entrepreneurs may believe that there is a list of strengths, characteristics or traits out there that will make them successful in their endeavors. But the truth is, entrepreneurs by definition are mold-breakers. There are a lot of myths out there about entrepreneurship which can make taking the step to start your business very intimidating.

On the first day of our Culinary Entrepreneurship program, students begin by discussing the idea of entrepreneurship and many of the myths surrounding it are debunked. It’s the first step in becoming an entrepreneur—letting go of everything you believe about entrepreneurship. This opens the door for students to discuss their initial ideas, which in our most recent class have included concepts for new and existing restaurants, cafés, bakeries, food products, cocktail bars and more. Over the next six weeks, their ideas will evolve and change as they learn how to turn their concepts into reality. They’ll also gain the tools and confidence to leave these 5 myths of entrepreneurship behind!

MYTH #1: ENTREPRENEURS ARE BORN, NOT MADE

Virtually all entrepreneurial skills can be learned.

MYTH #2: ENTREPRENEURS MUST HAVE INNOVATIVE IDEAS

Most successful businesses are evolutions of existing ideas.

MYTH #3: ENTREPRENEURS HAVE TO BE ABLE TO DO EVERYTHING THEMSELVES

A good entrepreneur plays to his or her strengths but also solicits the right help.

MYTH #4: ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS REALLY RISKY

Deep and nimble planning help to reduce risk.

MYTH #5: ENTREPRENEURS HAVE TO BE LUCKY

You work to make your own luck through constant learning, constant effort and constant networking.

Ready to get started on the business plan for your restaurant, food truck, food product or other dream culinary concept? Maybe you’re looking to scale a family business or grow an existing concept? Register for ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship course, and you’ll have a solid business plan & pitch ready in just 6 weeks! Click here to learn more.
ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

business bites

Business Bites: Cultivating & Retaining Top Talent

The BUSINESS BITES SERIES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels and networking events designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry. Each event is designed to provide education, information and the opportunity to connect with industry experts in a collaborative setting.

BUSINESS BITES: CULTIVATING & RETAINING TOP TALENT

Harnessing HR Tools to Build Your Workforce

Thursday, November 7th | 6:30-8:00pm
International Culinary Center
462 Broadway, 2nd Floor Theater

Building and maintaining a healthy team is vital to the success of your business. Whether you run a kitchen, own a bakery or are looking to open a restaurant, it’s important to learn the key steps to managing and motivating your staff to success. It all starts with great leadership which encourages quality work and staff retention. But with labor laws continuing to change and minimum wage increasing, business owners are being forced to adapt their staffing models to account for these necessary protections for their employees.

So how can businesses, small & large, retain employees and build successful teams?

Join us for an informative discussion with experts in Human Resources & Restaurant Group operations on the importance of selection and hiring, training and retraining, and lastly, engagement and retention. Our panelists will share tools for retaining your staff, providing 401k & insurance incentives and more. We’ll talk about the impact of increased minimum wage on restaurant operations and new no-tip restaurant models. Plus, we’ll discuss how new technology, like apps for kitchen workers, could change the hiring landscape. You’ll also have ample time for networking and the opportunity to learn how ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program can take you from concept to business plan & pitch in just 6-weeks!

MODERATOR

Alek Marfisi
Alek Marfisi – Owner, Upwind Strategies & ICC Entrepreneurship Instructor

Alek Marfisi is a native New Yorker with a passion for building things and helping people. After working advising small businesses for five years, Alek launched Upwind Strategies in 2015 with the mission of providing deeper and more relatable services to small businesses: the anti-business-school services firm. He previously worked with the NYS Small Business Development Center where he dove into the exciting intricacies of making entrepreneurial projects a reality. Since then, Alek has logged more than 11,000 hours working with small businesses and has been recognized as one of the top drivers of economic development in the country.

PANELISTS

Jackie McMann-Oliveri,
Jackie McMann-Oliveri, PHR
Director, Talent & Culture
Bold Food – Gato NYC – Shark Las Vegas – Bobby’s Burger Palace

Director of Talent and Culture at Bobby Flay Restaurants accustomed to hiring, training, supporting and retaining World Class Talent in the Wonderful World of Hospitality! 20 plus years in HR, a lifetime in Restaurants …Passions include leadership and talent management with a belief that as leaders we should always be selecting and hiring amazing people, giving them the support, tools and opportunities to succeed and partnering on accountability for all.

Most recently served as HR Director for The Meatball Shop and is a founding member of HR Professionals in Hospitality, a lecturer at The International Culinary Center Culinary Entrepreneurship program and lives and breathes an open-door policy. She does what she loves and loves what she does. Loves to garden and cook and spend time with family, friends and Chihuahuas named Latte & Mocha!

chef oron franco
Oron Franco
Director of Culinary Operations
Westville Resturant Group

Chef and entrepreneur, Oron Franco, combines his passion for food and business with over a decade of building and leading companies in hospitality, food service and FoodTech.

He graduated with honors from International Culinary Center and build his career in NYC working with renowned chefs like Michael Anthony and establishments Gramercy Tavern, JP Morgan Chase Fina Dining and several more.

He currently holds a roll as the Director of Culinary Operations at Westville and is the co-founder of Prime 6 – Premium Sustainable Charcoal.

He founded “Impact on a Plate” initiative, an organization with a mission to promote sustainability and positive change in the food and hospitality industry.

He lives in New York with his wife and two children.

Business Bites Resources: 4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Secure Investors

One of the biggest challenges for restaurants and food business owners seeking growth is securing investors. So, how do you convince a total stranger to believe that your idea will sell? Well, it all starts with a great pitch and a solid business plan to back it up!

During our most recent Business Bites panel—Perfecting Your Pitch—we learned from industry experts Paul Daitz (Executive Chairman, BCMS), April Wachtel (Founder/CEO, Swig + Swallow) and Evan Madden-Peister (Consultant and Strategist, 13 Ventures) on how to secure capital to get your business up and running.

Their first piece of advice? Pitching your business is almost never like what you see on the popular TV show Shark Tank! Typically, it’s meeting in an office space or discussing your business over the phone. So, if your only reference on how to find investors is from the “sharks” on the show, we recommend you read what we learned from ICC’s very own investment-experts below!

The Environment of Pitching Has Changed

Like we said, pitching does not frequently happen in face-to-face scenarios anymore. With technology continuing to change the way that business is done, most pitch meetings occur over the phone via a call or video chat. While this does open the door for a wide range of investors from around the world, it can also hinder the quality of investors. Our investment experts recommend always trying to arrange an in-person meeting, when possible.

Don't Discount Early Investors

Early investors, like seed capitalists and angel investors, can be the success to your food business. These early investors are the ones that will help to get your business off the ground as they believe in your initial idea. They likely will not be large corporations or investment companies, but any investor, even if it’s a family member or small company, that you can secure at an early stage is important.

Know Your Audience

Investors are people too—they want to know whether the idea is useable for them, if the idea is unique to the market and others who may have invested in your company. Yes, the return on investment will be very important to the investor, but there are so many other factors that play into whether or not they will invest.

It’s also important to note that each investor will want different things. If you are bringing the same pitch deck to every investor, it probably will not work out for you in the long run. You should research your investors and know what they have invested in previously, but you do not need to know their whole life story. You must find a balance that will help you win their business in the end.

Clarity Is Key For Your Pitch Deck

There are certain points that all investors want to see covered in a stellar pitch deck including, who your company is, why this investment will matter to them in the long run and how it will ultimately benefit them. For a first meeting, it’s important that your deck hits on all of these points. You’ll want to leave 20 minutes of time for questions—that will most likely leave you with 40 minutes to present your pitch if the meeting is an hour long. A good pace to keep in mind is 3 minutes to present each slide, which will allow you to give enough substantive information without going into excessive detail.

One aspect of pitching that all of our experts agree on: clarity is key! At the end of the day, your pitch should begin and end with a presentation that looks put together and professional. If it’s difficult to follow, investors will be less likely to take away the main goal of your pitch.

Ready to get started on the business plan for your restaurant, food truck, food product or other dream culinary concept? Register for ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship course starting September 14th, and you’ll have a solid business plan & pitch ready in just 6 weeks! Click here to learn more.
ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Business Bites Resources: 6 Steps To Building Your Brand

Building a brand is key to the success of a food business—even for small brands just starting out. A strong brand identity will help differentiate you from the competition, creating an experience that encourages customer engagement and effectively communicates your company message to consumers.

To learn more about how to create a brand identity & strategy, ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program invited Alex Ostroff, Founder and Creative Director of Saint Urbain, for a Business Bites workshop open to students & alumni. With clients like Black Seed Bagels, Chip, and Seamore’s, the Saint Urbain team are behind some of NYC’s most unique and memorable food brands.

During the workshop, Ostroff gave us the inside scoop into how brand building begins for a successful restaurant concept: it’s all about creating a name, symbol and design that sets your business apart from the rest. But, there’s a lot that goes into taking that from concept to activation in order to build a lasting brand.

Below, see what Ostroff recommends as his 6 steps to building your food business brand!

Develop Your Brand Identity

Start by thinking about your brand from a high-level perspective. Recognize your competitors and what it is that you like or dislike about what they do. Understand who your customer is, and what their needs are. These will inform your goals for the brand.

Brainstorm Keywords

This is where you want to brainstorm keywords to describe your brand. Are you a modern, fun and hip gastro-pub? Are you a traditional, homey and wholesome café? These keywords will help to guide the overall vision and feel of your business.

Research and Narrow Down

Dive deeper into what your competitors are doing—what is it that you have to do to gain their market-share? Identify the opportunities that you have and what gap you’re filling in the marketplace. Then, identify any challenges that you will have to overcome. Narrow your research into visual possibilities and specific strategies that you can incorporate into your business.

Pick a Strategy

Now that you’ve done your research, figure out which of the strategies will work for your business. Your strategy will inform how you’ll go after your target market and will inform your long-term goals for your brand. Turn this into a solution for your brand. Create the identity of your food business based on your unique point of view and the need you’re filling for your target market.

Design is Key

Once you’ve selected your brand strategy, design or enlist the help of a graphic designer to create a comprehensive visual language that will communicate your brand look and feel. Do you want muted colors to play off of the space that your food business is in? Does your brand have loud colors to accentuate your flavorful food? Remember—customers eat with their eyes first, so not only do you want your food to look beautiful, you want your concept, and the elements that go along with it, to look beautiful too.

Time to Activate

Expand your design to craft your brand experience! Start with your logo and color palette, then create visuals to go with your brand. Will you be selling coffee and in need of to-go cups with your logo on them? How about the take-out bags for food, menu design and other key items that you want to create? Everything should go together and give a cohesive look to the business. You’ll want to play to your strengths to create a fun and memorable brand experience that will encourage your customers to return time and again!

Ready to get started on the business plan for your restaurant, food truck, food product or other dream culinary concept? Register for ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship course starting September 14th, and you’ll have a solid business plan & pitch ready in just 6 weeks! Click here to learn more.
ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Business Bites: Perfecting Your Pitch

The BUSINESS BITES SERIES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels and networking events designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry. Each event is designed to provide education, information and the opportunity to connect with industry experts in a collaborative setting.

BUSINESS BITES: PERFECTING YOUR PITCH

How To Leave Your Investors Hungry For More

Thursday, August 1st | 6:30-8:00pm
International Culinary Center
462 Broadway, 2nd Floor Theater

One of the biggest challenges for restaurants and food business owners seeking growth is securing investors. So, how do you convince a total stranger to believe that your idea will sell? Well, it all starts with a great pitch and a solid business plan to back it up! From coffee shops to elevators, networking events and more, entrepreneurs must be ready to share their pitch at a moment’s notice. That means delivering your unique sales proposition and brand story in a short amount of time that gets them hooked.

But, where do you start when your pitch has to be succinct and well-delivered to make a lasting impact?

Join us for an informative discussion with experts who have experience as small business owners, investors, business coaches and more to learn the secrets to crafting a great pitch for your restaurant or food business! Whether you’re in the start-up phase, or looking to grow your existing business, you’ll learn what every good pitch should include, how to avoid common mistakes when pitching and what to do to make your pitch stand out. Our panel will share their experiences on where to find investors and insider tips on what they really want to hear. Plus, learn the 5 major stages of start-up funding to develop your financial acumen and get you on the road to success. You’ll also have ample time for networking and the opportunity to learn how ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program can take you from concept to business plan & pitch in just 6-weeks this September!

MODERATOR

Alek Marfisi
Alek Marfisi – Owner, Upwind Strategies & ICC Entrepreneurship Instructor

Alek Marfisi is a native New Yorker with a passion for building things and helping people. After working advising small businesses for five years, Alek launched Upwind Strategies in 2015 with the mission of providing deeper and more relatable services to small businesses: the anti-business-school services firm. He previously worked with the NYS Small Business Development Center where he dove into the exciting intricacies of making entrepreneurial projects a reality. Since then, Alek has logged more than 11,000 hours working with small businesses and has been recognized as one of the top drivers of economic development in the country.

PANELISTS

paul daitz
Paul Daitz, Executive Chairman of BCMS

A veteran of the global M&A market, Paul joined BCMS as its Executive Chairman in 2013. Paul spent seventeen years at Goldman, Sachs & Co., most recently as a senior member of the Global M&A Group. Based at the London office, he served as Chief Operating Officer of the Investment Banking Division in Europe and as a senior member of the M&A team. After Goldman Sachs, Paul was Senior Managing Director at Macquarie Capital (USA) Inc., and the Head of the Telecommunications, Media, Entertainment & Technology Group for North America. He was responsible for the firm’s mergers & acquisitions, financial advisory and principal investing activities across these industries.

APRIL WACHTEL
April Wachtel – Founder/CEO, Swig + Swallow

April Wachtel is a passionate educator, an experienced mixologist, a cocktail and spirits instructor, and founder of Swig + Swallow, the cocktail mixer company. She is a 22 year veteran in the beverage and hospitality industry, working in every role from busser to bartender to beverage director, to brand ambassador to beverage consultant. April has appeared on The Today Show, and Fox & Friends, as well as The Pitch Podcast, The Travel Bite, Tech Bites, The Main Course, Sharp & Hot, and more.

Evan Madden-Peister
Evan Madden-Peister, Strategy Designer at Business Models Inc.

Evan is a strategy designer and provacateur, with an entrepreneurial spirit and analytical impulses. He draws stories from different business contexts, and from the world/life at large, to shift perspectives and draw creative parallels for the participants. A career grounded in entrepreneurship as a member of the founding teams at Birch Coffee and Delhicioso, as well as consulting for multiple startups and coaching at the Starta Accelerator, has given Evan a bias towards creation. That foundation has also driven home the reality that change can happen fast, and that in order for large organizations to thrive they need to stay adaptive to the needs of their customers. This means embracing and putting into action a more agile method of thinking and doing—as a Strategy Designer at Business Models Inc. he helps his clients do exactly that.

Business Bites Resources: 4 Tips For Finding A Restaurant Space

By Stephani Robson

Stephani Robson is a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and teaches in the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at the International Culinary Center.

Site selection is about much more than finding the right size of space in the right neighborhood for your food business. Have you ever considered that doors have to be a certain width to fit industrial kitchen equipment? What about the visibility that your restaurant will garner, or lose, depending on where the front door is?

There are so many different elements that go into choosing the perfect location. That’s why we sat down with Culinary Entrepreneurship instructor and Senior Lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Stephani Robson, to learn how to get it right when choosing a location for your restaurant or food business. With over 30 years of experience designing restaurants and teaching restaurant design, Robson’s advice is some of the best in the business! When looking for a site, Robson shares, “a broker can be really helpful, but remember that the broker is working for the landlord, not for you.” Brokers get paid only when the space is leased, so they have a real incentive to get you to commit. Her first tip: Always do your homework first, and be sure to get everything in writing so your lawyer can review it before you sign a lease.

Here are the 4 things she recommends checking with your broker as you look for spaces!

Rent

Ask about the rent and how it is structured— the rent you pay should not exceed 6% of your total sales.  If the rent you are quoted includes all property taxes, insurance, and common-area maintenance, that “all-in” rent should not exceed 10% of your sales.   Be sure to find out whether rents being quoted are “all-in” (including “CAM” charges, building insurance and your share of the property taxes) or “triple net.” If these aren’t included, you will have to pay another 10-20% a month to cover these additional occupancy costs.

Rents vary widely depending on city and neighborhood, so get a feel for local rents by talking to a broker well before you complete your business plan.  If your restaurant concept cannot easily generate the sales to cover the rent quoted using this 6% thumb-rule, do not sign the lease, no matter how appealing the space looks!

Street Level Matters

For restaurants, you really do need to be at street level. Spaces on second floors of buildings or above are also rarely successful for any kind of food business. However, a bar can sometimes work in a basement space that has direct access from the street— otherwise, save basements for storage and food prep! If a street level space you are looking at includes a basement, ask if there is any additional charge for the basement, or if you need to share that space with other building tenants. It’s not unusual to have to share the stairs to the basement with others which can make operations difficult if you need to use those stairs frequently.

Avoid Kitchen Upgrades

Find out if the space already has a grease trap or kitchen ventilation.  Adding these can be really expensive — as in thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.  But if these are already in place, you’ll probably need to give them a really good professional cleaning before use.  While you might be able to clean the grease trap yourself (although it’s a messy task!), you’ll need to spend a few hundred dollars or more having the hood and its associated duct-work professionally cleaned.  At the same time, have the ventilation and fire protection systems checked by an engineer.  That will cost you another couple of hundred, but will be money well spent.

Pay Attention to Doorways

Double check the width of all doorways before you buy any equipment.  Many restaurant owners have found that they can’t get that new freezer or oven into their building! Sometimes, you can make a tight squeeze work by taking off the equipment’s legs or doors, or by removing the building’s door and its jamb (that’s the trim around the doorway), but try to avoid this kind of hassle by measuring carefully before you shop for your kitchen equipment and restaurant space.

Ready to get started on the business plan for your restaurant, food truck, food product or other dream culinary concept? Register for ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship course starting September 14th, and you’ll have a solid business plan & pitch ready in just 6 weeks! Click here to learn more.
ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Stephani RobsonStephani Robson has over thirty years of experience designing restaurants and teaching restaurant development and design.  She is a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and teaches in the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at the International Culinary Center.  Stephani holds a PhD in environmental psychology from Cornell and does research on how the design of restaurants affects guests and operators.

Business Bites Resources: Best Practices for Building Client Relations

Jacques Torres, Ron Ben-Israel and Jurgen DavidThe age old saying remains true—the customer really is always right. The success of your business relies on good customer experience. So, what does it take to make your clients happy? During our Pastry Plus conference this spring, Jacques Torres—ICC Dean of Pastry Arts, and Ron Ben-Israel—ICC Guest Master Pastry Chef, shared their experiences running some of the most successful businesses in pastry today. From custom designed wedding cakes to innovating new chocolate product lines, these chefs understand the importance of building client relations for continued business.

Their first tip for food business owners—start fostering long, healthy relationships from the moment your customers walk through the door. In this article, we share these experts best practices for building client relations to last a lifetime!

Listen To Your Customers

jacques torresInspiration for new products can come from even the littlest customers. This is the truth for one of Jacques Torres Chocolate’s most popular products, chocolate covered cheerios. One day, while at his shop, Jacques Torres noticed parents in the store giving their children Cheerios since it was all they would eat. That week, he went to the grocery store and bought a giant box of Cheerios to cover in chocolate (after all, he is “Mr. Chocolate!”).

Not thinking anything of it, he put a bowl of them out for customers to try. People would politely take one, then come back and take handfuls of the chocolate covered cereal to go. He knew he had a hit and had to act upon it.

Looking back on it now, he shares that, “In your career, you’re going to want to do things that you want to do, and there’s nothing wrong with that…But, after-all, your customers will be the one eating your products.”

Accept the Blame

ron ben israelIt’s easy to think that—especially in the custom cake business—your customers will only be one time purchasers that you won’t see again. But, it’s important to remember that everyone can become a repeat customer. That’s why when a recent Mother of the Bride complained that the wedding cake for her daughter was incorrect, Ron Ben-Israel found a way to fix the situation immediately.

After much investigation, he found out that the wedding cake sent to the venue was indeed the correct cake. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. However, instead of telling the mother that he was correct, he accepted responsibility for the situation and sent a personalized cake to the client. By going the extra mile to right the circumstances, the unhappy client became a repeat customer. Now, he is creating custom cakes for their whole family!

Respond To Feedback

panelistsIn this day and age, you can’t hide from a bad review or comment. Whether it’s a Yelp or Google review, a comment on Instagram or a direct message on Twitter, entrepreneurs are constantly receiving feedback—both good and bad about their businesses. Almost 20 years ago when Torres started his chocolate business, this wasn’t the case. He would receive feedback from his customers in person, without the potential of it escalating on social media.

Now that his business has grown to over 100 employees, it would be easy for Torres to ignore customer’s complaints and let someone on his team handle it. But, to this day, Torres still calls his customers personally to address concerns and find solutions that make them feel heard. Ultimately, what makes his business stand out is the way he works with his customers to provide a personalized experience—one that foster’s customer loyalty.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

panelists

Understanding Your Business Foodprint

This month, in celebration of Earth Day in April, and as a part of our Understanding Your ‘Foodprint’ series, our latest installment of Business Bites: Reaping the Benefits of Going Green discussed ethical choices to reduce your bottom line, while positively impacting the environment, with a panel of experts from chefs and restaurateurs to CEO’s of environmental organizations and consultants for food business owners.

Below, check out what we learned from our panelists about taking the steps to change your business practices to become more sustainable, and move towards a zero waste model!

LEARN FROM OTHERS

Our moderator Alek Marfisi, Owner of Upwind Strategies and instructor in ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program, was joined by Christina Mitchell Grace, CEO of Foodprint Group; John Oppermann, Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative; Naama Tamir, Co-Founder of Lighthouse Lighthouse Outpost; and Michael Chernow, Co-Founder of The Meatball Shop & Founder of Seamore’s. While their respective businesses interact with sustainable practices on varying levels, they are all passionately advocating for others in the food industry to make choices that will lessen our impact on the environment. Not only did our audience learn a lot from our panelists, but the panelists shared many helpful tips with each other, furthering the idea that a supportive community is important to fostering change.

TACKLE ONE THING

In today’s world, sustainability should be a driving factor for businesses. The word itself is defined by the avoidance of resource depletion in order to maintain an ecological balance. It is essentially what business owners should be doing every day. But often times, business owners are overwhelmed by the idea of just running their business, let alone trying to minimize their environmental impact. So our main piece of advice for getting started, just do one thing first!

Waste Diversion

Naama, whose restaurant Lighthouse Brooklyn is focused on sustainability in every aspect, created a waste system with multiple different streams. By diverting the streams to the appropriate places, like composting and creating bio-diesel with the organic waste or donating oyster shells to the Billion Oyster Project, her restaurant can make a significant impact on what ends up in landfills. Her restaurant even takes it a step further by partnering with companies to use empty wine bottles for candles and uses the corks to make tops for food jars. Lighthouse Brooklyn is a great example of how everything can serve multiple purposes and that it is possible to become zero waste in the food space.

Organize Your Space & Educate Your Team

While becoming a zero waste restaurant or food business is completely doable, it can be challenging to get there without the right tools—that’s where Christina Mitchell Grace comes in. Her company, Food Print Group, helps food and hospitality organizations design zero waste into their buildings, kitchens and front of house processes. Becoming zero waste starts from the beginning of the source, so by creating an efficient kitchen and work space, training your staff and educating your customers, it will automatically become simpler to divert waste from landfills and source separate your organics from trash.

Use Sustainably Sourced Ingredients

Others, like Michael Chernow, tackle sustainability through ingredient sourcing. The fish at his restaurant Seamore’s is 100% sustainable, sourced as close to home as possible and offered at an accessible price point. Seamore’s whole philosophy is founded on the idea introducing underutilized, undervalued local species of fish to their customers in healthy and tasty ways. By doing so, they’re working to protect our oceans from becoming depleted and educating others to keep our oceans healthy for future generations.

If seafood is not a key focus of your menu, focusing on local ingredients can be. By using ingredients that don’t have to travel far, it can cut carbon footprints by reducing long-distance transportation and will put your dollars into your local economy.

Advocate With Your Dollars

To bring the conversation together, John Oppermann discussed how Earth Day Initiative educates businesses on energy efficiency and building brand awareness around your sustainability practices. While it may be too costly to install solar panels, or even unrealistic if your building doesn’t allow it, you can actually purchase renewable energy through regular energy providers. By voting with your dollars, you’re letting your local city officials know that clean energy is important and making your voice heard in a simple way.

THE ULTIMATE GOAL: ZERO WASTE

There are big questions that need to be addressed to strategize for a future that minimizes, or hopefully eliminates, the 24,000 tons of wasted materials produced in NYC each day. Questions like, “what if every building had a compost program,” or “what if all single use coffee cups were replaced with reusable mugs?” But, one of the first steps that businesses can take to reduce this massive amount of waste is to assess opportunities for waste reduction through source separation. A surprising amount of “trash” is actually organic waste that can be composted or recycled, which will eventually get you to the ultimate zero waste goal. Taking an audit of your waste will help you identify this.

Even though zero waste is the ultimate goal, there are smaller practices that you can put into place to help you integrate sustainability into your business. Practices like buying local, using the entire ingredient, and buying in bulk are simple changes that can be made quickly. If you want even more resources to go green, check out our Business Bites Resources article here.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.