Anyone thinking of starting a restaurant in the Big Apple and in need of a business plan might try to crib one from the Harlem Educational Activities Fund.
They’ve got a few — about 10 years worth, just sitting around.
And though these are ideas created, researched and refined by school children as part of HEAF’s Project Restaurant program, these are real plans, the real deal.
“The students have to do the research to come up with start-up costs and work through income projections,” said Merle McGee, HEAF’s vice president of programs. “They research where to put the restaurant, what are the competing businesses nearby. They design the restaurant, the size, theme and decor. They come up with menus and price out the silverware. Sometimes in past years they would bring in food samples.”
HEAF is a nonprofit group which targets students, incoming eighth graders or higher, and offers them various types of academic assistance so they can finish high school and go on to complete a four year college degree.
All, that is, 100%, of HEAF students finish high school, officials said, with 98% going on to college and 95% of them earning a degree.
The restaurant program was created almost 17 years ago, McGee said, as a way for students to explore possible careers as entrepreneurs.
“The beauty of the entrepreneurship program and Project Restaurant is we let them know there are other career options besides being a doctor or lawyer,” McGee said. “We want them to think about how their talents and hobbies can be turned into businesses.”
Running from July 9 to August 10, the curriculum for Project Restaurant includes a class visit to Chez Josephine’s Restaurant in Times Square, where owner Jean-Claude Baker helps students understand the business and the details a successful restaurant owner has to deal with daily.
“They go to see a successful restaurant and to talk to an owner about the stresses an owner has, the partnerships and collaborations he has to make to be successful,” said Osvaldo Avila, who teaches Project Restaurant with group leader Joli Eubanks and HEAF’s High Expectations program director Tanya Wiggins. “As an instructor, I want to expose them to that knowledge base.”
“Mr. Baker has been a partner with Project Restaurant for over 17 years,” McGee said. “He helps teach the young people and gives them practical experience in the restaurant business.”
Once all the data is in place, the students — 24 in this summer’s class — split into teams and prepare Power Point presentations, with each team responsible for different parts.
Then they put the entire package to the test — on Aug. 9, the group will head to Capitol One Bank’s Lower Manhattan headquarters to make a formal presentation to bank officials. Capitol One Bank is a longtime supporter of the HEAF program.
“The students have an opportunity to really engage their imaginations around the project,” McGee said. “They really try to deliver this exciting restaurant product to the real world.”
Project Restaurant is just one of a myriad HEAF summer class offerings, which include English and math instruction, ‘Doctor Doctor,’ a medical science class, art classes, including drawing, sculpting and painting, French, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese language classes, a photography class and two engineering classes, including one on building rollercoasters.
“This year we included a food chemistry class, what is in your food,” McGee said. “They are watching what happens to organic material in the presence of different foods to understand what happens to food when you ingest it.”
Exploring the inner workings of restaurant culture may have worked too well for students Mark, Kiana, Dekai and Amanda, one team preparing their presentation.
“Owning a restaurant is not something I want to do,” said Kiana. “Its very challenging. A lot of stuff you have to double check, and there is always a possibility of going into debt.”
“After this class, I am not sure if I would,” said Amanda. “All these budget plans, stuff you have to know off the top of your head, its hard.”
“Not something I would look forward to,” said Dekai.
“The class was fun, but we’re not going through the trials a real restaurateur goes through. From what we have done so far, it seems too hard.”
For more on HEAF, see the website, http://www.HEAF.org.