Guest post by Ken Burgin of Profitable Hospitality
Short of young staff? Hospitality is a very popular subject in high schools, and there are many students looking for opportunities. First make friends, and then you can ask for a favour.
Here's how to make the right connections:
• Offer to be a guest speaker for students. Think of it as a Q&A session rather than a speech - less nerve-wracking. Take one of your young staff along, or send the chef along to help a teacher with the dessert class, meat preparation or knife skills. Or your sharp barista to give the finer points on speedy latte production. Watch some Jamie Oliver videos on YouTube for tips on how to run an engaging demo.
• Get to know the careers counsellor. She works with every student on career and training plans and is keen to meet local business operators who have genuine opportunities. Once they know you are honest and fair, they can often give you the 'inside running' on the best students.
• Sponsor an award for School Speech Day. There are usually 'Best Student' awards for most subjects. Why not sponsor one with a gift voucher for the local kitchen supply shop? Knives and kit are always needed. Add some fun with a restaurant voucher for them to come and visit with their family. This is a lot more exciting for students than the dusty History Prize! If the school is hesitant about private sponsorship, organise it through the local Chamber of Commerce, which should be involved anyway.
• Sponsor a school activity. The sponsorship may not be money, but it could be celebration coffee vouchers at the café. You may also hear of kitchen equipment that the school needs. Sometimes they're well-equipped with heavy stoves and refrigeration, but missing out on utensils or a food processor. The parent association is another group looking for support, and your donation of a dinner prize for the raffle or will be very popular.
• Create a food or coffee event for the school. Put on a cooking show or barista competition, and make it more than just fancy pans and flames. Focus on nutrition, food safety and safe work methods to help teachers cover those essential parts of the curriculum.
• Help students with an assessment event. Find out what dishes students must master for their assessment, and bring your insights to their preparation. Include a discussion of how you manage temperature, storage and quality. Recruit some student assistants and leave them with a souvenir for helping - a fun certificate or the restaurant's postcard, cap or t-shirt.
• Be aware of a school's strong emphasis on work safety - it's part of modern training. You may even be asked to obtain a 'child protection' clearance if you will be working with students over a period. Don't be offended - schools are required to be vigilant.
Is this worth the effort? We all prefer to do business with someone we know and trust, and relationships grow over time. As you build the relationship with principals, teachers and students, you become the natural recommendation to their best students. Here's cheers to your unfair advantage!
Ken Burgin works with food service operators worldwide to help make their businesses more popular and profitable. He is a former restaurant and cafe owner in Sydney, and the founder of ProfitableHospitality.com, a resource site for the latest information on food & beverage marketing, management and cost-control. He also presents the weekly podcast Profitable Hospitality on marketing and management.
He likes finding out the 'why' of business success, and the 'why not' of business problems. He enjoys a long walk in the morning (for podcast listening), sharing photos on Instagram, and finding great bakeries.