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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