When I was growing up I used to have to spend 1 hour a week every week during the school year and summer going to a piano teacher's house or studio to get piano lessons. This was then followed up by 30 - 60 min of home practice every night for maybe 3-4 nights a week and was rigorously enforced. This was not by any means unusual - many parents pay a reasonable amount of money to hire and retain a music instructor for their kids to learn an instrument of their choosing despite the fact that most people do not need this training for any capacity other than pleasure. I believe most people, like myself, fall out of practice and forget the skill entirely at some point into adulthood.
So I was thinking about the money my parents wasted teaching me a skill with no practical value to my life and wondering about what were the other options available to for private tutoring in some skill. There are many tutoring services out there but most are focused on reinforcing the school subjects such as maths, reading / writing, and science. Obviously some children benefit from additional help but let's assume that a typical child is already getting enough of those subjects at school. Thinking about this subject lead me to my previous post on Educating Hypothetical Children where one of the items I discuss is culinary and nutritional education. This lead me to wonder - does there exist businesses or private individuals who provide 1-1 or small group, recurring cooking / nutritional education that looks like the private music lesson industry?
Concretely, this is what I'm envisioning
- 1-1 or small group instruction once a week or every two weeks with a target age group of 10-18 years of age.
- Professional kitchen that would service a small to medium sized restaurant along with associated food storage
- Exterior garden or greenhouse for growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
- Collection of cooking equipment along with books on cooking / nutrition
- Parents fees would include instructor costs and food costs. Food make during lesson would be taken home in containers brought by parents. This provides a convenient meal along with lesson.
- Space and staff for corporate events / late night or couples classes / other popular 1-off or semi recurring classes with the intention that this drums up interest for the main recurring revenue source.
Existing Business Models [a.k.a. Related Work]
I first did a quick search to see what types of culinary education services are out there today. The most common types are culinary schools for professionals who want to pursue a career in the culinary arts. There are lots of these all over the country the goal of which is to provide some degree or formal verification of cooking schools for employment purposes. Obviously different. There are online cooking schools that will teach you how to cook through instructional videos and tasks such as ROUXBE or America's Test Kitchen which cater towards a self-starter / adult audience. I think the fact that these exist indicates there is a demand for this type of education for children as people are willing to pay for the education in adulthood.
There are local cooking schools either as not for profit or for profit which turn single cooking lessons specializing in one subject into a group entertainment event. In my local area of Pittsburgh there are a few of these such as Gaynor's School of Cooking, Chop, WOK and Talk! (specializing in asian food), and Children's Table (no working website). I haven't been to any of these so I'm going to paint them with a broad brush but they appear to be mostly about entertainment rather than education. There are lots of places that offer some educational classes along side their main business of selling kitchen equipment retail such as William's Sonoma, Sur La Table, or Pittsburgh's Crate Cook. These are like the previous companies whose events are mostly about entertainment, and in this additional case - advertising, demonstration, and building brand loyalty.
There are probably more business models out there but this was a quick survey I could complete in a few hours of research.
There are three concerns I can think of for this type of business
- Finding a talent pool of skilled chefs and convincing them to give up working in a real kitchen to teach children / young adults.
- Initial investment of kitchen equipment, food stock, and commercial real estate requires picking the right location and higher upfront costs than private musical instruction (which was the reference model)
- Insurance to cover accidental injury.
Obviously (1) would be easier to do if it paid more to teach young adults to cook rather than working in a professional kitchen. Fortunately - it appears that would be the case. My initial diving into the pay scale for cooks indicates that the average private piano teacher makes $37 per hour or something around 70-80K per year for someone with 5-10 years of experience [source]. Meanwhile a private / personal chef makes on average 60K per year [source]. A line cook at a restaurant makes even less - pulling $11-15 per hour [source] while a sous chef makes 40-50K salary [source]. Head Chefs make just a bit more than Sous chef, with Execute Chef at Hotel making around the same as the average Piano Teacher [source]. Based on this I think it wouldn't be too difficult to pull top talent away from the restaurant industry on pay alone.
The investment costs are large but not larger than any other restaurant's opening costs. I would expect something from 100-500K based off what I've been able to read online but its highly location dependent as well as how quality you want the interior to be. Personally I would locate this close to a Whole Foods so there is close access to a grocer and also proven market for people who care about food. I don't know anything about commercial insurance and I have no idea how to find out about such a contract. I would expect this to be the most cost prohibitive part of the venture although with proper procedures I think the risk of injury would be low.
I would expect that there is a market out there for $100-150 per lesson private coaching of children if it was implemented as a long term cooking / nutrition education and skill building. Beginner lessons would be basic recipes and the most advanced tier would be creative cooking where students would improvise or design their own recipes from a set of ingredients. There is also a ton of room for variety just like in music w/ pastry & desert, foreign cuisine, baking and tons of other specialties. I wouldn't expect this to be an insanely profitable business or even highly scalable - but I think it would make a good lifestyle business.