How To Attract Top-Tier Chefs

  • Insights

Securing the right chef has everything to do with the success of a restaurant — it’s an art and a science to finding the right combination of expertise, interest, and chemistry. After all, if you don’t build it right, the right people will never come. This kind of food and beverage operator matchmaking is one of our specialties here at Streetsense, so we’re sharing our tips for recruiting and retaining top-tier talent.

Develop in a Fertile Environment

Not every location is conducive to a successful restaurant — savvy chefs seek out locations that tick the boxes on a variety of industry-specific factors. Criteria like robust foot traffic, day and evening population, upscale neighborhood demographics, sufficient parking, and on-street visibility all factor into a chef’s decision to take a chance on a restaurant space. Not every available space or retail location can support a thriving restaurant; even a beautiful space with an amazing view and a fully built-out kitchen will not survive without an adequate flow of paying customers to support it.

Build the Right Kitchen

A great chef needs a great kitchen. Building out a world-class facility is essential to attracting the kind of culinary talent that will move the needle on your project. This means working with career professionals who have built kitchens that are efficient, have an intuitive flow, contain adequate storage and appropriate equipment, and can work for a variety of cuisine types. Keep in mind – you may have to commit to the basic kitchen design and layout well before an operator is identified, so engage qualified professionals to help you build out the right layout. If done properly, this will significantly minimize the rework and change orders once a final chef or restaurateur is identified.

Focus Your Search

A deep understanding of your local trading area, available customer base, and competitive set is an essential step in determining which chefs would be a fit for your facility. An office park with a huge day population that becomes empty on nights and weekends may be perfect for a weekday deli or neighborhood café, but death for a fine dining restaurant. Similarly, locations in an affluent neighborhood with an abundance of fine dining restaurants may not be the best place to try out an edgy nightclub. Understanding the parameters of your market will go a long way towards defining which chefs should be approached to work in your space.

Create a Win-Win

A successful chef in a good market is likely to receive three to four offers for new locations per month. That means that the financial arrangement for the restaurant space should not only satisfy your development requirements but be financially lucrative for the chef as well. Understanding the standard deal types and the market rate for these operators will make the initial negotiations much more productive and efficient. Most chefs have a minimum annual threshold of flow-through cash they will need before they entertain taking on a new location.

Have an Out

All good things must come to an end — even the most successful restaurants eventually close, so having an organized process to dissolve the relationship with a chef or partner is essential. Out clauses for poor performance, lack of payment, and failure to maintain the facility are all standard, as are an agreed-upon jurisdiction and arbitration process. If the relationship becomes a win-lose on either side, the ability to gracefully and professionally end the relationship should be clearly spelled out.  

Hire a Pro

Landing the right chef for your space can be extremely challenging. Working with professionals will help you avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes many developers or owners make along the way. Whether it is building out the right kitchen, conducting a market survey, negotiating the right deal terms, or crafting the final agreement, working with industry professionals with experience in landing world-class chefs is a must.


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