So you want to start your own restaurant consulting business. It might seem like a far-off dream, however, with a solid plan, you can make that dream a reality. Here are 10 expert tips for starting your own consultant business:
1. Get Hospitality Education
If your goal is to get into the hospitality industry, get a degree in hospitality, management or culinary arts. An academic background will set the foundation for understanding the hospitality industry and the specific needs of a restaurant. Your educational background will provide technical, bureaucratic, and business information related to hospitality. Through your degree, gain knowledge in:
- Food service essentials, including food safety procedures and presentation standards.
- Financial competency, including the fundamentals of accounting and financial management.
- Interpersonal skills, including conflict resolution and staff management.
- Marketing tactics, including customer data analysis.
2. Gain Hands-on Experience
An academic background in management and hospitality will provide all of the necessary technical knowledge to work as a consultant, but real life experience will prepare you for all of the day-to-day details of running a restaurant while acclimating you to the fast restaurant pace. You will learn how to manage people, staff employees, train staff, design a menu and much more through first-hand experience. You’ll mitigate and resolve issues that arise in real time.
To become the best consultant, try to work in many different types of restaurants, working as many positions as possible. This way, you will understand the business from different perspectives and on many levels. Working with notable chefs and restaurant groups is also a wonderful resource for you when you build your consulting business. These contacts will provide challenging and successful environments to sharpen your skills and your employers can provide you references and reviews that will help you grow your business.
3. Build Your Network
Restaurants are in the business of people, and it requires a lot of hands to open and run the business successfully. If you want to become an effective consultant, create a strong network of people to facilitate the process of opening and operating a restaurant. Having contacts within the city council, health and fire departments, and food industry will help to expedite many of the procedures that will be a part of your job. These contacts will be essential for executing your work properly. Building networks through your academic institution and restaurant experience is the smartest way to grow your community organically.
Furthermore, your value as a consultant will increase with the number of strong contacts you have in the industry. Your network will also be an incredible resource for word of mouth exposure that will help to expand your business.
4. Document Your Work
As you gain experience in the restaurant industry and carry out tasks that are noteworthy, keep track of your work so that you can include them in your resume and your website. Anything from executing a big event to implementing change that facilitates a restaurant operation, are worth documenting. Take photos of any restaurant-related work you do, any concepts you come with and any contributions you have made. The photos, reviews, and content will be useful when designing your website and marketing your business.
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5. Understand the Laws
Every state, county and city has different laws pertaining to restaurants. There are different restaurant licenses and permits required for each area and different authorities that you will need to contact. Therefore, when you decide to grow your consulting business, become well versed in the specific hospitality laws in that area. This will help you consult with knowledge regarding the areas specific rules and standards. Knowing all the building, health and safety codes will make you a great asset to a restaurant owner who might not have that kind of knowledge.
6. Build Your Website
Business professionals have effective, informative and eye-catching websites. Therefore, if you want to start your consulting business, invest time and energy to create a website that will attract potential customers. Your website should include:
- About Us: A brief and effective elevator pitch that tells potential customers who you are and why you are qualified for the position.
- Services: A list of the services you offer and a range of the costs for each
- A portfolio of your work: A page dedicated to displaying the restaurants you have worked for and the contributions you made
- Contact information: A contact form with links to your social media channels
- Blog: You might want to consider including a blog in your website for marketing and SEO purposes. Not sure where to start? Write about your experiences, provide informational resources, or interview restaurateurs or fellow consultants about best practices.
7. Invest in Marketing
Although word of mouth is the best way to promote your restaurant consulting business, there are ways to improve your digital marketing to show up more often in online searches. Writing informative and original blog posts, maintaining your social media channels, and opening Yelp and Google My Business pages will increase your website’s visibility online. There are effective ways to promote your business without breaking the bank. If you feel like you can learn more, don’t hesitate to take some marketing and SEO courses, so that you can take small steps to market your business.
8. Start Small
To get your big break, you need to have your first consulting experience. In the beginning, you might want to offer to work for discounted prices just to get your foot in the door and build your resume. When starting your consulting business, you have to start somewhere, so stay open to opportunities big or small and build good relationships. Take on a task that you can manage and succeed in, so that you ensure good reviews and customer satisfaction.
9. Collect Reviews and References
In order to build your brand and gain credibility, encourage your customers, employers and anyone you have worked with to review your company online. Make sure you’re responding to any negative reviews and don’t be shy to ask happy customers to be your references. You can create case studies of your best clients and your best work as a resource for potential customers.
10. Continue Your Education
The hospitality industry is continuously shifting due to changes in consumer trends, technological advances and hospitality laws. If your menus are stale, it’s often worth the investment to hire a food consultant to refresh your kitchen or beverage consultant to take your bar menu up a notch. You can also stay up to date with the industry by: