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So you want to open your own café or food business?

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People go into business for a variety of reasons. Some want to provide employment for themselves, while others are motivated by the challenge of being their own boss. The hospitality industry is an attractive investment as it can have comparatively low start-up costs. It is also enticing because eating and drinking is something that we do every day and therefor it makes everyone an expert!

This is about YOU

When you set up a place that is open to the public for eating or drinking, you put yourself on show. This can be very disconcerting at first.

Hospitality businesses are not the same as a business where you can anonymously hide in an office at the end of a telephone network or behind a computer screen.

This business says something about you. How you design the interior, the staff that you hire, and the food that is available is in part a reflection of your personality and sensibilities. On this level, to establish a business can be a very creative thing and enormously stimulating and satisfying. But offering a service in the public domain also lays you open to criticism.

Complaining customers can make you angry and over time, bitter. On-line reviews often written by some nameless diner can be the most difficult to accept. You have been judged. 

What makes a good host?

People are attracted to hospitality because of the concept of host. Being a host fulfils something innately human in all of us.

I am a good host, I like to entertain…

I take pleasure in cooking for others…

I enjoy the whole experience, the cooking, the conviviality, the shared table…

Being a good host is about the willingness to share. Understanding this urge within yourself can be a great motivational force. For many in this industry, this is the key reason why they are here.

It is something simple and curious to get pleasure from making other people happy. And when people are genuinely appreciative of your efforts, it’s extremely satisfying and spurs you on to do it again and again. You feel an enormous sense of satisfaction when your customers compliment you on your efforts. 

Some essential characteristics

  • A genuine desire to make people feel welcome
  • Being good company with a generous and giving nature
  • Relentless attention to detail.
  • Being knowledgeable, curious and enthusiastic about your product
  • A willingness to anticipate customers’ needs

To succeed as a host it is important to understand the things your customers value in the hospitality business. The experience is not just about consuming food or wine. Above all people want to feel welcome and the role of the host is to ensure that this happens.

Celia Hay

Beginner's Guide to opening your food business (2016) 


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Celia Hay

Celia is a qualified chef and holds the WSET (London) Diploma of Wine. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History, Master of Education (Distinction) and MBA Master of Business Administration from the University of Canterbury.

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The School

Founded by Celia Hay, the New Zealand School of Food and Wine opened its first campus in Christchurch in 1995.

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