Should Business Studies Be Taught on Hospitality and Catering Courses?

Business is at the heart of being a chef. Chef training has always been about teaching young chefs to cook. That makes perfect sense – it’s the job. However, there is always more to any job than a craft. Indeed, if it were not for business there would be no chefs.

So, why do chefs need to learn business early? For a very good reason: hospitality is a service industry. In order for a wage to be paid there must be a customer who has paid something for the service.

But, how does that effect the chef? It’s a good question but one that needs to be understood very early on. The ingredients that chefs cook with cost money. As do uniforms, equipment, cleaning chemicals, knives and, to a certain degree, holidays.

One chef on a mission to promote this highly important topic is current MasterChef: The Professionals contestant Philli Armitige-Mattin.  Philli runs her own food consultancy business and is currently working with a company in Sanfancisco called Galley Solutions who have produced an app to help chefs cost-out menus, reduce their bottom-line spend and simplify production.

Philli said

The fact that hospitality and catering courses don’t teach business studies in the syllabus is a real problem for the industry.  All chefs and hospitality professionals should be taught a basic knowledge of business studies, to enable them to increase margins and create a profitable business.  Galley solutions helps chefs to future-proof their business by simplifying operations and maximizing margins.  I would like to see business studies modules taught as standard in any level three qualification and above as it is vital that chefs are armed with the tools to one day successfully and competently work for themselves, running a business and doing what they love”.

Philli has done extensive work on this subject and has created a free course on how to cost a menu on her website  This is targeted towards any chef wanting to acquire a basic understanding of menu costing.  The course is free and comes with free downloadable costing templates on which to practice.

Please click here for more information.

If a chef has a basic understanding of the costs that a business is burdened with then it makes it easier for him or her to make decisions about the cost to put on a certain dish. That decision is normally left to a head chef. They assume that mantle of responsibility when they take on the job. But, it’s amazing to consider that many head chefs have no business training before they actually need it.

The Chefs’ Forum undertook some market research on behalf of UWL some years back to prove the need to include business studies in hospitality courses.  A questionnaire was sent out to over 5500 Chefs’ Forum members and the overwhelming majority concorded that business studies should be included in the curriculum as a matter of urgency.

Dr Charalampos (Babis) Giousmpasoglou, Principal Academic in HRM and Hospitality and Tourism at Bournemouth University headed up the research undertaken by The Chefs’ Forum when he was previously based at University of West London.  He said

“My long-term engagement with chef-related education and training has shown that the key competencies for a successful career in commercial kitchens go through management education, that is currently insufficient in most culinary arts curricula. My latest study shows that management and leadership skills are essential for young chefs to survive and meet the current and future industry needs”

A lack of business skills can have serious repercussions, not only for existing businesses but also future ones. A chef with a good head for business – or profit and loss in its purer form – stands a much better chance of opening a successful restaurant than someone who may be a fine cook but doesn’t have a clue how to keep a handle on spending. And that’s what it boils down to.

Money makes the world go round. If colleges taught business at the same time as teaching culinary skills, then the chefs entering the industry would be better equipped to succeed later. However, there is much more to this. By teaching business young chefs are also better placed to open their own businesses and become future employers.

Today, hospitality is in crisis. Business after business is closing. There has never been a better time to teach business to chefs than now. What the industry needs are the leaders of the future. By teaching business today the next generation of chefs will be much more aware that accolades are one thing but a healthy bottom line is the be all and end all. Successful restaurants are not always the ones with Michelin stars. Successful restaurants are the ones that stay open because they are well run businesses. They tick along like clockwork because their costs are under control and they spend less than they take.

Too many independent restaurants fail because their wage bills are too high, their menus too long and because of poor business acumen spend too much money buying in ingredients. Business is brutal when you don’t know about it. When you do know about it, it can be a real force for good.

In conclusion, it is worth considering this: a bank will lend money to a business for one fundamental reason and one only: they believe the money will be paid back. The business, and its financial history, must demonstrate this trustworthiness in its books. Teach that lesson young and hospitality will have a bright future.