A great cost-effective marketing tool and opportunity to drive up profits is to offer cooking classes during off-hours or held in the private room (if available) at your restaurant operation. Depending on the size of your operation, you can either offer cooking demonstrations or actual hands-on classes.
The key to the success of these classes is to ensure that you have a fun, knowledgeable and engaging chef/bartender to teach. Your customers should learn something relevant during the class and have a good time.
The idea of the cooking classes is to not only bring customers to your restaurant, but also to offer an entertaining experience. For each class, make sure that your guests are provided with a full meal, and if possible, have a bar available. Alcohol will help loosen up your guests and amp up the camaraderie of the class.
Market your classes by promoting them as a fun night out with friends or family. The classes also make great gifts to give to friends, parents and family members, or private classes for bridal showers, bachelor parties or other celebrations.
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, suggests the following ideas for classes to offer at your restaurant:
Take advantage of the growing interest in mixology today by offering mixology classes taught by your bartenders. Include lessons on how to set up a bar, how to mix popular cocktails, and teach guests hands-on techniques like shaking, stirring and garnishing. Other ideas include a class on spirits, scotch tasting, wine tasting, or how to brew craft beer. Offer small hors d’oeuvres pairings with each cocktail, wine or beer from your menu, so guests can get a sample of the type of food you serve in your restaurant as well.
Now that nose-to-tail eating has become the mainstream, there is a growing interest from home cooks on how to cut and eat an entire animal themselves. Offer a demonstration class on how to professionally butcher different cuts of meat and fish, and include demos on how to cook the more bizarre parts of the animal. For an added bonus, offer a sausage making demonstration as well. If you are not able to use up all the meat that you have cut up in the class, sell it to the class attendees for a discounted price.
One of the most important skills to becoming a decent home cook is learning the fundamental techniques of chopping, cutting and sharpening knives. Have your chefs teach basic skills like how to de-bone a chicken, cut meat and filet a fish, as well as classic vegetable cuts like how to dice an onion, julienne a carrot or turn a potato. If possible, work with a supplier of knives to sell or include a set of knives for each person attending the class.
Bread or pastry making class
If your restaurant operation specializes in sandwiches or desserts, consider offering a class on how to bake bread and pastries. Baking bread is a skill that requires some training, so there is some demand for it within aspiring home chefs. Create a series of classes that include the basics of baking bread including ingredients, use of yeast, the rising process, mixing and kneading dough properly, and baking bread, as well as classes on puff pastry, pizza dough, focaccia, pie crusts… The possibilities are endless.
Date night or singles class
Couples are always looking for fun things to do, and singles are always looking for opportunities to meet other single people. Interactive cooking classes are the ideal environment to host date nights or singles nights, where guests can enjoy a few cocktails and work together to make a fun meal.