If you enjoy preparing food, are creative and work hard, you may succeed in the food business, but these qualities are often not enough to hack it in the world of food service. In fact, many food businesses have failed not because the product was bad, but because the owner did not have enough planning, organizing, managing or marketing skills.
"Sometimes, being a good cook is not needed to be in the food business," says Nancy Reyes-Lumen, a member of the Reyes clan running The Aristocrat chain of restaurants. "It's more important to understand food and the trends, as well as the psyche of the market to be served."
Lumen says no one would dare start a food business without knowing anything about preparing and cooking good food. "But to be good in the business, the skills training you have to acquire is in managing it--not in additional culinary education. Some cooks may cook well but not manage well. Some manage well but don't know a thing or have a single sense about food."
Those are precisely the reasons most culinary and baking schools don't confine themselves to teaching how to prepare and cook food. Schools like the Center for Culinary Arts, Center for Asian Culinary Studies, and the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management have integrated the management side of the food business into their curriculum to provide their students with a well-rounded education.
Another school, the government-run Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC), provides programs, products, and services that aim to improve students' livelihood and entrepreneurial skills. Its training modules and programs cater to those who want to start their particular food business or need help in managing and operating it.
Of course, many fast-food outlet or restaurant operators need other culinary skills to grow their businesses, and if so, they'll have to go back to school for it. And because the competition in the food business is getting more vicious by the day, many food operators, owners and managers are under pressure to train staff and get them up to scratch.
Cultivating customer loyalty
Advertising alone--granting you have the money--won't guarantee customer loyalty. Your cooks, food handlers, servers and waiters must know their stuff and be always on their toes to keep customers coming back and the cash registers ringing.
Indeed, the way your employees perform determines the way your customers are treated, according to The Prep Kitchen, a culinary studio offering lifestyle culinary classes, institutional services (for the food and beverage industry), and customized programs and services such as menu and recipe research and development, food safety, kitchen training and cost preparation. "Training is marketing," says Cris Abiva, a studio partner. "It's the one thing you can always do better than the competition."
Abiva says poor service is the main reason many food establishments fail. It doesn't matter how good or inexpensive your food is or how large your portions are; if your service is bad, the customer won't be back. "A food business will be profitable if managed properly," she says. "You must know not only how to perform their tasks properly but also how to handle customers."
Nepotism is also a problem. "There is too much sense of barkada and the ate/kuya syndrome [in our culture]," says Abiva. "We Filipinos often hire staff because he or she is a relative or a family friend, and not necessarily because they are qualified."