Students in orange shirts taking a group photo

Check, Please: Cooking Up Business Skills with a Restaurant Takeover

Do you remem­ber your first job? From tele­mar­ket­ing to pack­ag­ing Hal­loween make­up to serv­ing at a restau­rant, we’ve all been there. A com­mon say­ing at my first job was “you got time to lean, you got time to clean.” Lit­tle did we know our first job expe­ri­ences would shape the busi­ness skills we use every day – espe­cial­ly the val­ue of a strong work ethic.

The val­ue of hard work is often a les­son in itself. For one group of sub­ur­ban Twin Cities stu­dents, a lit­tle bit of “sweat equi­ty” goes a long way toward teach­ing career ambi­tion, per­se­ver­ance and the entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it. Recent­ly, our team helped spread the word about “Graft’s Grill Goes Sporty,” a com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ship between Wayza­ta Pub­lic Schools, our client Peg’s Coun­try­side Café and Inter­faith Out­reach & Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ners (Inter­faith Out­reach). The part­ner­ship helps young peo­ple gain job skills, dis­cov­er their per­son­al pas­sions and become career-ready through the real-life expe­ri­ence of run­ning a restau­rant for a day. This event has an almost two-decade his­to­ry; the pro­gram was start­ed by and named after a beloved Wayza­ta school­teacher, Suzanne Graft, who passed away in 2010. Peg’s Coun­try­side Café and Rick Graft con­tin­ue to invite youth to open the café’s doors and take over the restau­rant for the night in Suzanne’s honor.
Over the course of sev­en weeks lead­ing up to the big event, these stu­dents learned every aspect of the restau­rant busi­ness – bussing tables, san­i­ta­tion, food prepa­ra­tion, even mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing – nec­es­sary to run a full din­ner ser­vice. The stu­dents had fun as spokes­peo­ple, pro­mot­ing the event on FOX 9 and WCCO, as well as tak­ing inter­views with the Ply­mouth and Wayza­ta Sun Sailor. Even Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s The Feed newslet­ter gave the stu­dents a shout-out.

Final­ly, on Thurs­day, March 30, the twelve stu­dents from the Inter­faith Out­reach Neigh­bor­hood Pro­gram were hand­ed the keys to Peg’s Coun­try­side Café and expe­ri­enced what it is like to man­age a restau­rant for the night. The stu­dents wrapped up the night with a $1,700 prof­it, which was then donat­ed to Min­neapo­lis Cri­sis Nurs­ery.

This oppor­tu­ni­ty, sim­i­lar to any first job, taught stu­dents valu­able skills that can be trans­ferred to any future careers they pur­sue, including:

  • Team­work and accountability
  • Goal set­ting
  • Prob­lem solving
  • Mul­ti-task­ing
  • Com­mu­ni­ca­tion
  • Patience
  • Atten­tion to detail
  • Math

We’re look­ing for­ward to see­ing how this project will con­tin­ue to grow and pro­vide even more hands-on social and emo­tion­al learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to help young peo­ple become career-ready.

What do you think are the most impor­tant skills to learn in run­ning a busi­ness, and what advice would you pass along to some­one purs­ing their first job? Share a note below, or on any of our social media chan­nels to let us know.

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