Many chefs have asked us how to host a successful cooking class, so I want to share our practical tips for success. This post will walk you through:
- 5 reasons to host a cooking class
- 9 types of cooking class themes to try
- 9 types of profitable cooking classes customers
- The best time of the year to host a cooking class
- 9 requirements for a cooking class venue
- 6 cooking class venue options to book
- How to schedule your cooking class
- How to advertise your cooking class
Let’s start with a fundamental question:
Why you should host a cooking class
A cooking class brings people together, teaches them how to cook, builds your brand, sells related products, and helps you build a wealth ladder.
Bring people together
Rule #1: A cooking class is about the people, not the food. This makes your cooking class primarily a networking event, not an educational event.
Strangers come together to learn cooking skills from you, make friends, and have a good time.
A cooking class also teaches you critical skills, such as:
- How to plan and host an event
- How to map out different food recipes
- How to structure an enjoyable learning experience
These skills help you expand your brand and create more memorable experiences.
Build your brand
The more cooking classes you host, the faster your brand grows. Past a certain point, your brand becomes your edge over your competitors. Any chef can cook, but not all have a strong enough brand to convert new customers into superfans at a higher profit margin.
Teaching is a powerful skill, and people are willing to pay big money to learn cooking skills. Becoming a great teacher or chef instructor helps you augment your food-based business with extra income.
The more classes you host, the better you get at imparting knowledge about recipes, ingredients, wine pairings, and cooking equipment – and the easier it gets to sell these things later on.
Cooking classes present an opportunity to sell related products. For example, you can sell well-paired wines, aprons, cookbooks, crockery sets, t-shirts, and even tickets to your next cooking class.
Build a wealth ladder
As more and more people learn about your cooking classes, they’ll attend more events, invite their friends, buy your merchandise, book you for a private cooking class, hire you for corporate events, and so on.
View each cooking event as a flywheel that helps you sell other products. This will help you set and manage your expectations.
9 types of customers for cooking classes
Based on our attendance register, we’ve honed in on the following types of people who pay for cooking classes:
- Foodies who enjoy cooking
- Companies wanting a team building event
- People who live alone and are tired of takeout
- Pregnant women who want to eat healthier for two
- Professional chefs who want to get better at cooking
- Couples who want a fun, romantic activity to do together
- Moms who want to prepare healthier meals for their families
- Culinary students who want extra training outside the classroom
- Busy professionals who want to learn how to cook quick meals easily
Each of these specific audiences provides a potential cooking class theme to host. Your cooking class(es) will likely have a mix of the above groups, and you might even get some unexpected attendees who have their reasons for wanting to learn how to cook.
Note: Most people think that cooking is a long, complicated process. This is why they avoid the kitchen and reach for delivery apps instead. Much of your food content plan (more on that later) should address this misconception to drive more signups.
9 types of cooking classes to host
What type of cooking class should you host? The right theme attracts people who are specifically interested in that cooking style and who are hoping to meet others like them.
Remember: Cooking classes are about networking, not food.
A cooking class that teaches people how to cook ten wildly different dishes will attract no one. It’ll be harder to sell merchandise since not all attendees have the same interest.
Conversely, a class that promises to teach you ten plant-based dishes or ten meaty dishes will attract a lot more enthusiastic attendees. You can sell more vegan recipe books or discount coupons for grills, respectively.
Food is diverse, so you have a wide range of themes to choose from. Here are seven cooking themes to try:
- Frying cooking classes
- Pastry cooking classes (chocolate, cakes, etc.)
- Plant-based cooking classes
- Meat-based cooking classes
- Grilling classes using coal, gas, etc.
- Cultural cooking classes (Italian, Greek, Mexican, etc.)
- Spices and rubs (teaching you to master different spices and their applications)
You can go even deeper and offer cooking classes for people with specific conditions. For example, people with hypertension, diabetes, indigestion, or ulcers all have special diets and would benefit from learning how to manage those conditions through food.
You can also do age-based cooking classes, such as cooking classes for children or cooking classes for elders. Your creativity is limited only by your imagination.
Best time to host a cooking class
The best time to host a cooking class is during the warmer months of your country’s climate, towards month-end when people have money.
Theoretically, you can host a cooking class at any time of the year, but certain periods will make it harder to get signups.
For example, January is usually a tight month for most people, and their budgets may not include space for a cooking class. Likewise, December is busy with everyone planning their holidays.
Winter is also challenging to host cooking classes as most people are reluctant to leave their houses.
Stick to summer months and month-end weekends for maximum attendance and profits.
Cooking class venues: 9 essential requirements
A cooking class is a physical get-together, so you want to book a space that’s close enough to your target audience and affordable enough for your budget. Your most critical requirements for any venue are:
- Pest control
- Cleaning utensils
- Crockery and cutlery
- Energy (gas or electricity)
- A sufficient number of cookers, ovens, or grills
- A gracious host or point of contact that’s easy to work with
Depending on how many students attend your cooking class, they’ll need space to move around and store their ingredients, utensils, and recipe books or lists. Cramped spaces limit movement and may run afoul of social distancing directives in your area.
Your students and staff need to sit and work or eat. The more chairs and tables the venue has, the more comfortably everyone can enjoy the event. Ensure enough chairs, tables, couches, and bean bags.
Ventilation reduces strong odors from the food, smoke from the cookers or grills, and sweat from yourself and your participants. People enjoy your classes more when they can breathe easier.
Kitchen pest control keeps flies, mice, cockroaches, and other disease carriers away. Nobody’s trying to cook creamy pasta while tap-dancing on cockroaches.
Check that there’s enough pest-control equipment and chemicals and that there aren’t any cracks or holes that pests can get through.
Cleaning tools help your students clean up as they go and help you clean up after the event. Check if the venue has a cleaning crew and pay whatever the fee is to save time.
Crockery and cutlery
You’ll need enough pots, pans, spoons, spatulas, forks, cups, bowls, and plates – and it’s better to have more than you need. Check with the venue beforehand, and bring extra crockery and cutlery if needed.
Energy: gas or electricity
Gas ovens cook food faster, and gas is relatively cheap. Electricity is easier to use, but it might be unreliable if you live in a country that suffers from load-shedding. Our advice is to go with gas.
The more cookers, grills, and ovens you have, the more you can divide your participants into small groups and the more recipes you can try.
Two attendees per cooking station is a good number – use three if you’re short of equipment. More than that, and people won’t participate enough.
Your venue manager should do quality checks, offer transparent pricing, and help you make informed decisions. Most of all, they should be easy to work with.
Before booking a venue, get references from previous chefs, check their reviews online, and ask a million questions. It’ll save you headaches down the line.
6 types of venues to host a cooking class
Consider these six venue options for your next cooking class:
- Cooking studios
- Culinary schools
- Local restaurants
- Hotels and lodges
- Local school cafeterias
- Parks and recreational areas
These venues are specifically designed to host cooking classes and product launches, so they come with most of your requirements sorted. A quick google search for cooking studios should yield several options, especially if you live in a metropolitan area.
A cooking school comes equipped with aprons, equipment, cleaning staff, and even instructors you can hire. Many also have space earmarked for rentals.
You might even snag a long-term gig as an adjunct staff member or in-house instructor with the culinary school.
A restaurant is a cooking studio by another name. Mine your networks for restaurant owners who are willing to rent out their kitchens during their off-days (e.g., Sundays and Mondays) or off-season. You get space, equipment, seating, and a bar for drinks.
Hotels and lodges
Hotels and lodges make for excellent venues since they cater to large numbers of people at a time. While you might have a harder time booking busier spots, you can easily get an out-of-town lodge or one that’s operating during their off-peak season.
Like hotels and lodges, primary and high schools need to cater to many people at once, so they have the necessary equipment and seating. It’s easier to book a school for a cooking class during the holiday season, for example, or on weekends.
Parks and recreational areas
Local parks are great for meat-based or grill-based cooking classes. You can also use your local golf course or the grilling area at an apartment complex.
These places have built-in ventilation (the open sky) and seating (benches). However, they may not be strong on pest control (since they’re outdoors) or cooking surfaces for everyone.
You can solve these challenges by bringing pest control stations and hiring tables from a catering or event management company.
How long should your cooking class take?
Keep your cooking classes under two hours. The whole point of a cooking class is to learn how to cook specific dishes quickly and easily. A long class contradicts that expectation.
Here’s how to structure your cooking class schedule:
- 20 minutes for arrivals, intros, and welcome drinks
- 20-30 minutes for food prep
- 20-30 minutes for cooking
- 20-30 minutes for eating
- A few minutes for pics
How to plan and advertise a cooking class
Hosting a cooking class can be stressful, but advance preparation negates much of that stress. Here’s a step by step guide of how to plan your next cooking class:
- Gauge demand and interest
- Secure a venue and date
- Advertise your class
- Host your class
- Analyze results
Gauge demand and interest
The first step is to gauge demand and interest in your cooking class. This tells you whether it’s worth your time and money to invest in one.
You can float the idea of a cooking class to your contacts or on social media. Provide an email address or phone number for people to register their interest or put down a deposit.
You can always refund payments if the class never happens, but you can’t get your money back after booking venues, hiring assistants, and buying ingredients.
Assume that half the people who register their interest won’t show up and that the other half won’t pay until the last minute. This sets your expectations for attendance numbers and profit margins.
The more specific your cooking theme, the greater the interest you’ll register, and the more likely people will pay in advance.
Secure a venue and date
Once you’ve determined sufficient interest, secure a venue next – and always have a backup option. Your chosen venue might cancel your booking last-minute, lack a specific feature or equipment, or close down. A backup venue protects your event and minimizes brand damage.
Advertise your cooking class
With a venue secured, it’s time to spread the word through content and ads. Post the upcoming class on your social media channels and to your mobile contacts.
Talk about who it’s for, what they’ll learn, how it’ll help them, and what they can expect. The more details you provide, the better.
You can also partner with local restaurants and chefs to spread the word and sell more tickets. If you’ve got a neighborhood association or work group, let them know as well.
Then, run ads to scale your reach. You can drive traffic to a landing page on your website (build one with WordPress), a temporary landing page (built with Unbounce or Leadpages), or an event page (e.g., on Computicket or Webtickets).
Ensure your landing page is payments enabled and linked to PayPal, PayFast, Stripe, or whatever payment method you prefer. If that’s not possible, add your payment details to your ads and content and provide an email address for people to send proof of payment.
Next, design great posters with Canva or hire a designer to create them for you. This is not the time to scrimp and save – first impressions matter.
Then, run ads on Facebook and Instagram, or hire a digital marketer or social media manager to help you with your campaign.
Host your cooking class
On the big day, arrive early (i.e., 3-4 hours early) to set up and do any last-minute checks. We highly recommend getting an assistant for your cooking class, as it’ll free you up to oversee the event rather than doing endless admin.
As your guests arrive, welcome them with a drink and settle them in. Do intros and allow them to make small talk with each other – this builds rapport among everyone.
Next, divide them into pairs or small groups and assign them a recipe and cooking station. As they cook, assess their progress. This might involve advising on amounts, explaining how ingredients, and tasting finished food.
At the end, gather all the dishes on a central table and let everyone take photos. User-generated content generates FOMO, provides a memento of the event, and increases your brand’s reach.
Food photography depends heavily on good lighting, so add this to your checklist when searching for venues.
Finally, dig in. This is the best part of attending a cooking class, and the part people will remember most fondly.
Analyze your results
Beyond the food, finances, and friendships, cooking classes provide you with information that informs your future events and brand strategy. After your cooking class, try to answer the following questions:
- How many people showed up vs. the number of registrations? This lets you adjust your expectations in future.
- How difficult were the recipes for your attendees? You can dial the challenge up or down accordingly.
- Which dishes did your attendees enjoy cooking and eating? This gives you ideas to focus on in your next cooking class.
- What types of attendees showed up? You might uncover entirely new audiences.
The more you know about each event, the fewer mistakes you’ll make in the future and the higher your success rate becomes.
A note on virtual cooking classes
You might be wondering whether to host an in-person cooking class or a live online cooking class. Naturally, they each have their pros and cons.
In-person cooking classes have several advantages, such as being able to:
- Gauge each guest’s skill level
- Provide an in-person cooking demo
- Run a cooking competition
- Standardize the ingredient kit for all attendees
- Help guests master the right technique, knife skills, etc. to create a delicious meal
- Allow your attendees to taste delicious dishes
However, you’re limited by the amount of space you have, and there are many upfront costs to pay.
An online class or virtual event has its own advantages, such as:
- Not paying for space, pest control, cooking equipment, ingredient kits, etc.
- Allowing you to serve many more attendees per class
- Allowing attendees to cook with their families from the comfort of their homes
- Virtually zero transportation costs for all
But there are also cons to hosting a virtual cooking class. With a virtual class, you can’t gauge each guest’s skill level accurately, there’s limited engagement between attendees, and the ingredients and cooking equipment used may vary.
A Zoom cooking class and a live cooking lesson both impart culinary education through a professional chef. Pick the format that works best for you based on available time, money, and resources.
A cooking class requires thoughtful planning to ensure success. Gauging interest first lets you plan your event correctly and profitably.
Finding the right venue and providing a great experience ensures repeat attendance for future classes. Gathering data improves future planning and sets the right expectations.