Tales From The Back Of House: What Working In Kitchens Has Taught Me About Business


The restaurant business is a unique beast.

Creative, demanding, and both physically and mentally draining, the grime and glory of kitchen work has presented a multitude of life lessons to me. What’s more, selling food for a living in previous years has taught me more about business than I ever would have imagined.

Start With A Loose Recipe

As every great chef knows recipes are the gateway to success but they are not always set in stone. It’s important to have the foundational knowledge corollary to recipes but to not limit yourself to following them to a tee. There’s room to improvise and improve. Improvise your own unique spins on recipes and business concepts alike.

Just as recipes are crucially helpful, business plans are steps in the correct direction that can be approached with fluidity. Not everything always goes as planned. Sometimes it’s necessary to change up certain elements of a business. That change may be as simple as refining business plans and strategies that are already set in motion or as complex as a total overhaul from the ground up.

Source Interesting, Modern Ingredients

Think of some of the best restaurants with a contemporary approach. They likely have an exciting menu that features a multitude of captivating ingredients. Oftentimes what captures the tastebuds of restaurant customers are new flavor profiles they haven’t experienced much of.

The same can be said about contemporary business mindsets. In a business sense, those ingredients equate to arming yourself with helpful modern advancements. For example, technology is changing the way we do business in a multitude of ways and is an integral part of the majority of successful businesses.

Additionally, up-to-date tech such as cloud-based services, web analytics, and predictive analytics are all powerful tools for businesses to cling onto.

Stress is Unavoidable, Yet Manageable

There will always be moments of panic, stress, and anxiety within restaurant work. The same can be said about most forms of business. It’s important to not bury stressors, rather, approach stress head-on.

During peak hours at a restaurant, chefs will frequently experience a surplus of food orders all coming in at the same time. They don’t let a mountain of tickets pile up–good chefs start firing the food and plating the orders as soon as tickets print off.

Similarly, don’t let those stressful emails or business calls clog your inbox or thought space. Reply to stressful situations as quickly as possible–this will typically alleviate the stress rather than accentuating it!

Offering Incentives Skyrockets Output

Incentives to both customers and employees are an important part of all business endeavors. This is highly relevant to the restaurant workforce. Long work days with minimal breaks are a reality for most people working in kitchens.

In addition to working as a chef at many restaurants, I’ve also worked at four coffeehouses as a barista. Everything from highly localized coffee shops to the corporate giants of coffee.

Soon after I started working at a Starbucks as a barista they began to offer unique incentives for employees such as great insurance, the inclusion of tips from credit card transactions, and even tuition reimbursement for Arizona State University students.

With these incentives employee retention was great, especially for a corporate coffeehouse job. It allowed workers to plan for their futures in a multitude of ways. Giving employees career-driven incentives allows them to grow with the company and equates to elevated happiness and employee longevity.

Heightened Creativity Brings Great Rewards

While working at an upscale, high volume restaurant as a sushi chef, I quickly learned that taking an inventive approach and focusing on the unique desires of customers’ ranging pallets was as effective as it was rewarding.

The more creative yet refined I made my dishes, the better I was tipped by my sushi bar guests. Guests also appreciated the direct attention to detail regarding their food, left happy, and returned regularly.

They felt as though they were getting extra-special food, designed with them specifically in mind, because they were! This was a powerful realization for me to have and it equated to accelerated levels of success for both the restaurant and my wallet.

On that note, ask yourself: what makes your business stand out as highly creative, unique, and refined? The more creative your approach the greater the rewards in your business niche.

Presentation is Powerful

Just as an extra level of creativity was hugely crucial to my success as a sushi chef, presentation was equally important. This meant creating food that was as visually stimulating as it was delicious. The same can be said about many elements of a successful business.

How is your business displayed to consumers? Does your website match your product? Is it outdated or lacking? Is any part of your business lacking for that matter?

The way your business is presented to the world says an immense amount about it as a whole. Keeping all of these key concepts in mind will skyrocket your visibility and success.

Remember to look for the unexpected connections: jobs such as a professional chef and a businessperson have many intersections. Lessons transferred from the working class to business planning world are oftentimes transitional and corollary–you just have to keep your eyes and your mind open to these types of crossover!


Robert Parmer
Robert Parmer
ROBERT Parmer is a student of Boise State University, ex-chef and barista, and adamant writer. He stepped away from the kitchen life three years ago to pursue freelance writing endeavors, and enjoys writing about business, health/wellness, and cats.

CHECK FOR TICKETS / JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE