Are you looking to expand your business into new avenues? Do you have skills and knowledge you want to share with beginners? Maybe you want to get out into the community and meet customers face-to-face?
Hosting classes or workshops could be an incredible opportunity to grow your business! Classes are a fun and exciting way to grow your business — and meet your customers in person. Nothing helps you create customer loyalty like connecting with your customers in-person.
Hosting a workshop is a whole new ball game — one you may know nothing about. Don’t worry, we’ve asked the experts for their help and advice for selling food classes.
Emily Jacobs, owner of Fancy Snacks Charcuterie, and Leah Livingston, owner of Yaya’s Sweet Treats, have perfected the art of co-hosting cookie and charcuterie workshops. Your immediate reaction might not be to put charcuterie boards and cookie decorating together, but the pair have found huge success teaming up to host fun and interactive workshops.
After hosting many of them, Emily and Leah have learned the do’s and don’ts of planning, marketing, and hosting food classes, but it's the joy they bring to their classes that keep customers coming back.
Lucky for you… they’re sharing their secret recipe for how to host the perfect class with us. Keep reading for all of their tips!
Step 1: Find a location
Finding the location you want to host your class is a crucial step in planning your class and something that requires quite a bit of thought. The location should match the theme of your brand and make sense to your business. For example, if you’re hosting a kid-friendly class, a bar would not be the ideal location for your event.
A great way to find a space for your event is to use social media. Put out a call for locations (or location suggestions) on your Instagram or Facebook page — and consider asking your followers to tag the location they’d like to see host your class. It’s a great way to catch the attention of a potential host! In Emily and Leah’s experience, local businesses have reached out to them offering to host when they post their classes on social media.
Local restaurants, event spaces, banquet halls, churches, and bars are great places to start your search. Some considerations to keep in mind when selecting a location to host your workshop are:
- Do you have access to tables and chairs?
- What is the set up of the area? Does it make sense for a class setting?
- How many guests can they comfortably accommodate?
- Do they have the necessary accommodations for your business?
It's extremely important to scope out potential locations before booking. Some places may be too loud or too dark, but you’ll only know if you go there in person. The venue also needs to accommodate your class size, which is another consideration you’ll only find out through trial-and-error.
When they started hosting classes, Emily and Leah set their attendance cap at 50 people, but quickly realized that they couldn’t give everyone the attention they wanted to provide with that many people. Before you commit to a venue, make sure everyone in your class will be able to see your demonstrations, be able to hear you, and that the space is comfortable.
Step 2: Market your class
So, you’ve picked your venue and now it's time to actually plan your event. Let’s do it!
A good starting point is deciding the theme of your class. Marketing your event towards the next holiday is a popular choice and will allow you to switch up your class every time.
Next, you’ll want to set up ticket sales. Before you put your classes up for sale, calculate a price that will cover the costs of materials, your time, any event space costs, and all other costs, while still generating a profit. This can be tricky to do, but remember: this is the time to be proud of your expertise and set a price that actually makes you money.
Sell your classes via a platform like Castiron that allows you to set an inventory for your tickets, so that you don’t accidentally sell too many tickets.
Social media will likely be your main source of marketing, so it's important to create strong and engaging content that will push sales. Load your class into Castiron or an online store, draft a few social media posts to sprinkle out over a few weeks, and add the registration link to your bio.
Emily and Leah use Castiron to keep track of their sales, process payments, organize customer contact information, and manage inventory, so everything is in one place.
After your initial class announcement post, follow up with posts that elicit FOMO to get your customers to sign up quickly. These could be Instagram Stories saying “tickets are going fast” or “grab your spot while you still can.” Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What would make you want to sign up?
Don’t forget to include the event location in your posts. We recommend tagging their business in your posts to encourage them to share about your event. This is an incredible opportunity to get in front of a brand new audience.
Step 3: Prepare for class
Preparation is the name of the game when it comes to hosting an organized, relaxed, successful class. Of course you might experience some nerves the first time you teach a cookie decorating workshop, a charcuterie board making class, or a cake decorating class — that’s totally natural! But you should do everything you can to be prepared before the day of the event.
Start your class preparation by sending a reminder email to your guests two or three days before your class. The email should include:
- Details of the class
- Where and where (link a Google map)
- The cancellation policy (be transparent)
- What to expect in the class
- An introduction of yourself, how excited you are to meet them and give some background
You’ll be able to use this email as a template for all future classes, saving time the next time you host a class!
Leah and Emily suggest investing in materials you can clean and reuse for multiple classes, or buying supplies in bulk to cut down on costs.
On the day of the event (and on the days leading up to the event!), give yourself plenty of time to get items packaged, organized, and set up. It's going to take you much, much longer than you think so plan ahead and budget in extra time.
Outside of class supplies, don’t forget about the customer experience. Could you bring snacks, or order a round of appetizers from the restaurant you’re hosting your event at? Could you collaborate with the bar you’re using as an event venue to create a special cocktail for attendees? Providing some of your own cookies, snacks, cupcakes, or other treats is a great way to surprise and delight new customers and remind old ones how talented you are!
Step 4: Host the class
And before you know it, it's class time!
It’s important to communicate with your point of contact at your event location about the entire length of time you’ll need the space. Make sure to include set up, class time, and clean up in your estimate. To set up the event, you’ll need to have access to the space well in advance of the start of your class (give yourself several hours just to be safe).
You should also give your guests at least 30 minutes to arrive, get a drink, chat with other attendees, and find their seat before you start instructing. This means a lot of backwards planning on your part to figure out what time you need to get there and your guests need to get there.
A big decision you’ll want to consider is if you’ll create the item along with the class, or if you’re going to walk around and teach. If you choose to create with the guests, you’ll need a projector and screen or a similar tool so that everyone can see what you’re doing. If you choose to walk around, you need to prepare templates or pictures as examples of what they’re making. Both are great options, so choose which one makes the most sense for you (or do both!).
Your guests came to have a fun, interactive experience with their friends. During the class encourage questions, pictures and communication. Remind your attendees to share their experience on social media and tag your business.
This is a great time to chat with your clients and show them that you’re a real person. The more fun they have, the more business you’ll get. Keep the energy up and the good times rolling!
Emily and Leah suggest taking quick notes on the side while teaching, noting the things that go well and the things you’d like to improve for future classes! Don’t be afraid to ask your guests for feedback after the event either. Knowing what your guests liked and didn’t is the easiest way to improve for next time! They might even tell you something you had never thought about.
Step 5: Follow up
Your class might be over, but your work isn’t done yet.
After hosting a food class or workshop, especially your first one, it’s crucial to follow up with your attendees. This is a chance for you to highlight your customer service and stand out as a brand. Create a post on social media highlighting the event and thanking the host location and attendees for coming. You can also tease upcoming events, if you decide that you want to host another class.
You’ll also want to follow up with your guests directly, likely via email. Here are some of Leah and Emily’s suggestions for what to include in your follow up:
- Thank attendees for joining
- Tease your upcoming classes
- Share recipes for the food you made
- Link any relevant websites where attendees can buy the equipment used during class
- Link to an Amazon wishlist that you create that includes all of your supplies
- Ask customers to spread the word about your classes with their friends and family
Emily and Leah both agree that it's not worth gatekeeping your secrets, which is a common objection from bakers and food business owners considering hosting classes. Your competitors aren’t going to steal your business, and your customers aren’t all going to go and start businesses doing what you just taught them. They just want to learn from you!
If anything, Emily and Leah shared, they’ll realize how hard it is to do what you do, and continue investing in your business.
Wow — that’s a lot to take in! Ready to start hosting classes yourself? Take it one step at a time and go at your own pace.
Much of the process will be about learning, and trial and error, but with every class you host, your skills will improve. The most important part is to have fun and use this opportunity to grow your business.
Watch Leah and Emily’s full Food Entrepreneur Growth Summit session on hosting food classes here: