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How to Open a Culinary School

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Passionate about cooking and enjoy sharing tips and techniques? Consider opening a culinary school to reap the benefits of that knowledge. One of the advantages of this type of business is that it can be started on a small scale before having to invest a great deal of money in equipment and supplies. Many people are looking to learn how to cook, improve current techniques or may be considering a career change to the culinary arts. There is help available from the federal government for small businesses as well as potential incentives through local governments.

Decide the format for the school. Is the school catering to the busy mom, cooking novices or those who wish to be in the restaurant business? The approach is different depending on the business model decided. Once the business model is decided, write a business plan that includes the types of classes offered. When researching business models, consider the number of teachers needed, how many students are expected and what kind of support staff is needed. Knowing this will help to figure out the types of financing and insurance required.

Research financing and insurance options. Financing can come from federal and local governments, banks, venture capitalists or private parties. Consider creative financing options also: Perhaps there is a local restaurant that is willing to partner with a culinary school. Start your search for insurance by speaking to a company that carries current home or auto policies. Even if this company does not carry the insurance needed, it can offer suggestions on who to contact.

Scout a location and list renovation needs. Make a list of equipment and appliances that will be needed. Take into consideration whether students will be sharing appliances or if they will have their own. Some firms buy restaurant equipment from places that are replacing older appliances or that have gone out of business, reselling these items at a considerable discount. Restaurant supply houses may also give discounts when buying utensils and other supplies in bulk. Consult with such firms for the best deals on food and beverage vendors as well.

Contact local governments and planning departments about securing the proper permits and licenses. Since food is involved, permits will be needed from the local board of health. Make sure your desired location is in the right zone for a school or business. If it is not, speak to the local zoning board about getting the location rezoned. Rezoning may sound like a daunting task, but some municipalities will rezone in certain circumstances.

Advertise whenever and wherever possible. Visit business networking groups, chambers of commerce and other business-building groups. Consider offering free or low cost mini-classes or demonstrations. Plan a website, brochures and business cards and get these built and printed before opening. Do not neglect the power of social media in growing your culinary school.


Visit other cooking schools and speak with teachers and administrators. Find out why they do what they do and the pros and cons of the business they are in. These can provide valuable contacts in the industry.

A partnership with a restaurant can offer students opportunities for internships and work experience.


Elizabeth Sobiski has been writing professionally since 2005. She provides businesses such as Burdick and Lee Galleries, Clearwater Fishing Charters and Read Finder with custom content to keep their digital and print media fresh, informative and directed to their target audience. Sobiski holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Roosevelt University in Chicago.