The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Cooking Class

There may be a a lot of reasons why you are thinking of planning a cooking class right now. Maybe you are a chef and you want to expand your business and create a personal brand. Maybe you are the owner or manager of a restaurant and you want to take advantage of the slow times to add extra revenue to your business. Or, maybe, you have a wedding venue and you want to use those weekends (and weekdays!) when you have no weddings booked. Either way, you’ve come to the right place! We have put together a series of tips that will make planning a cooking class easier and bound for success.

Planning a cooking class, where to start: the objective

Your business objective may slightly differ by a case to case basis but the bottom line is the same. You want to use your cooking expertise or your space to generate extra income. The next question that you need to answer is what you want to teach people to cook. And the answer to this is: pick recipes that you or your restaurant are known for or that are appreciated the most from your menu. If you’re a restaurant owner this is easy to see by looking at your sales figures.

Or, you can build your course around cooking an entire menu: a regional themed lunch or dinner menu, a vegan menu, a special occasion menu. Another important guideline, if the class is built around a whole menu, is to not go overboard with the complexity of the dishes. Remember, you’re a professional, but your class attendees are not, so it will take them maybe twice as long to complete each step. The best way to get around timing is to make a test run of each dish, time it, and then add extra time for explanations and for attendees to complete the steps (up to doubling the total amount of time).

The time and space coordinates

When to schedule a cooking class

Timing is crucial in a cooking class. Few recipes are possible to be prepared in an 1 hour class so we suggest that the minimum amount to dedicate to a class to be two hours. This will give you enough time to explain the methods, techniques and recipes, and students will be able to practice them without a rush. A whole menu may take up to 5 hours to prepare. Anything longer than 5 hours would be an information overload and an unnecessary fatigue for your attendees. If your class is aimed at professional cooks, you could stretch it to a whole day, but for amateur chefs, 5 hours is about as much as they can take.

The moment of the day and the days of the week are also important. You want to take full advantage of your venue at the times when it sits unused, but you also need people to be able to attend your class. Saturday and Sunday mornings, as well as some weekday evenings when your restaurant/venue normally have minimum bookings, are the best for amateur classes. If you want to host classes aimed at cooks, weekdays during the day are the best (since they already work in the field, for them it will be professional development, so, also, work).

The venue

As for the venue, if you already have one with a professional kitchen, you may think the problem is solved. But take care of the following aspects:

  • is your kitchen large enough to accommodate several work stations?
  • how many people does it fit at the same time?
  • do you have enough stove fires, oven space, easy access to running water, a way to dispose of trash?
  • can you rearrange elements of the kitchen to facilitate several inexperienced cooks moving around?

If you’re an independent chef and you want to host cooking classes, you have two possibilities. You either rent a venue (restaurant kitchen) or you set up a professional kitchen at home or in a space you set up especially for this. If your situation is like in the second case, you’re probably on your way to setting up a cooking school business. We recommend that you teach your first cooking classes in rented venues before venturing into a full blown cooking school business, to see whether it’s something you want to do on long term.

Last but not least when it comes to the venue, check with your local public health authority if you need any permits for hosting several people in the kitchen. In some countries a permit is required even if we’re talking about a commercial/professional kitchen.

Cooking class logistics

After you have determined what is the dish/menu that you will teach during the class, the next step is to prepare the logistics. Here’s a list of what you will need to take into account:

  • how you will set up work stations. If you have very limited space, you might want to consider a demonstration-only class, in which you (the instructor) are the only one actually cooking, and your attendees are watching, taking notes, photos, and videos. Ideally, each attendee should have enough space to execute each step of the recipe(s).
  • basic elements: heat source (stove/oven), kitchen counter space, fridge/freezer space
  • tools: mixers, food processors, knives, spoons, forks, bowls and plates, pots and pans etc.
  • trash cans and paper towels
  • class hand-outs: before the class, when you do the test run of the cooking process for each of the recipes, take accurate photos of each step, and write down explanations. Create a booklet that you will print in several copies and hand out to each participant.

Budgeting a cooking class

Your goal will of course be to have costs that are lower than the total amount you make through ticket sales. This may or may not be possible to reach from your very first class especially if you need to buy extra tools. Take into account logistic expenses, the necessary ingredients, the rent for the venue if you don’t own one. Moreover, don’t forget about the costs of marketing your class. If you’re the restaurant/venue owner, you might need to pay your employed chef some extra hours to teach the class, or hire an external chef. To make sure you keep an eye on all costs, use an event budget template, like the one that we created for you and that you can download for free here.

Assess the capacity of your venue and see what is the maximum number of attendees you can accommodate. Then, calculate the admission price for the class.

Marketing your cooking class

The marketing process for your class starts early on, when you conceive the class structure and pricing. Promotional efforts should start at least a month in advance. The first thing you need to do is to set up an event page on which you can sell admissions to the class. You don’t need to set up a new website from scratch. The best solution is to set up the event page on an online event management platform. If you choose Metooo as your platform, you can create a beautiful event page with an incorporated ticketing system.  Then, if you already have a business website, you can embed the ticket on your website.

If you’re a restaurant owner, your most affectionate clients are your first potential attendees, so make sure you advertise the class locally too. Moreover, if you’re the owner of a wedding venue, you can promote the cooking class as a bachelorette party / hen party activity (make sure to create a group ticket with a slightly discounted rate). If you already have a client base from your main business, and they opted in to receive marketing emails, create an attractive email invitation and send it to your list. When your event page is set on Metooo, you can do this very easily: you can both design a stunning invitation, and send it to your lists that can be imported from Gmail and MailChimp.

Moreover, promote your cooking class on all the relevant social media with targeted ad campaigns (Facebook, Instagram, even Pinterest, is where cuisine enthusiasts love to hang around). You can also propose the publication of posts about the class on cooking blogs and even on lifestyle blogs and regional news sites.

On the day of the class

A few hours before the class starts (or even the evening before, if the class is in the morning) prepare all the necessary tools and the work stations. You want your attendees to find everything in place and to be able to dive into the class right way. During the class, have someone take high quality photos and videos of the process and of the final results. Remember to also photograph the results of your students, not only yours. You will then use all these materials to promote your next class, and what better way is there for showing an instructor’s quality than the results of his/her students work?

Moreover, let the attendees take as many photos and videos as they wish, during and after the class. And if you are using Metooo as your event platform, each attendee will be able to post their photos on the wall of the event website, through the Storytelling feature. The wall has its own URL and you’ll be able to use it to promote the future editions of the class.

These was our guide to planning a cooking class. And before we conclude this post, one last remark: apart from very precise planning and intense marketing, the key to a successful cooking class is in its content. Make sure you teach the making of a dish/meal on which your skills and expertise are at top level (and if they’re not, practice as many times as you need until they are). And last but not least, have fun! If it’s meant to be, perhaps cooking courses can become your next business!

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