Why Early-stage Investment and Development is Daunting for Entrepreneurial Restaurateurs
The restaurant industry is being challenged by rising food costs, labor shortages and energy/utility costs, just to name a few. Furthermore, with less than 10% of startups getting any funding at all, undercapitalization continues to be the greatest challenge females and minorities face as entrepreneurs.
Lauren Fernandez, Founder and CEO of Full Course, has a distinctly different way of viewing this challenge and is making an impact in the food service industry helping restaurants who want to grow from one to two units, to 10, and then to 20 and beyond.
Named one of Georgia’s 50 Most Influential Latinos in September 2023 by the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fernandez strives to go beyond just funding. Rather, she stands shoulder-to-shoulder with partners to offer education, mentorship and investment. Additionally, she’s ultimately creating a legacy for the industry by building the next generation of restaurant leaders.
As a thought leader in the restaurant space, Fernandez is available to share her strategies and input on how budding restaurant operators can thrive and find success. Here is how Full Course is reshaping the future of the restaurant industry:
- Committing to investment partnerships
Full Course specializes in the fast casual space and is dedicated to creating fair access to capital, supporting partners’ operations, managing development and championing multi-channel growth. What makes Full Course’s approach unique is that it’s the nation’s first and only incubator and accelerator enabling emerging restaurant and food brands to achieve growth while still maintaining majority control of their company equity.
The first two investment partners under this unique model include Atlanta-based brands NaanStop and Fripper’s Meats + Goods. Full Course guides owners and their brands through rapid growth.
- Providing education from a team who have boots-on-the-ground restaurant experience
Fernandez helps restaurants scale for growth through industry-specific education. Full Course is the first company of its type to have a charitable arm dedicated to creating training resources for the restaurant industry. The company’s centralized Learning Center library is a rich knowledge base designed with a 360-degree perspective of operating a restaurant.
With 70% of restaurants being independently owned, the Learning Center’s options range from free video content to low-cost, bite-sized webinars and more focused, deep-dive training. By providing affordable training to leaders, Fernandez believes restaurant operators and employees can find growth and success earlier in their careers by shortening the learning curve.
The company’s educational mission is tied to national statistics that support the need for this type of training in the hospitality industry. Approximately 50% of Americans’ first jobs are in the restaurant industry, with 90% of managers beginning their careers as entry-level employees.
- Recognizing the power of business mentorship
Fernandez believes that external support from industry leaders can make a huge difference in success so Full Course conducts complimentary Rising Tide webinars each month. For these one-hour webinars, Full Course invites all restaurant, food business and guest service professionals to learn from subject matter experts about the latest trends, tools and best practices in the industry today.
The seminars are designed to help restaurant industry professionals grow and scale their businesses because a rising tide lifts all boats. Recent topics have included “Positioning Your Brand for Success,” “A Chef’s Journey: Empowering Lives and Creating Connections” and “A Founder’s Journey: From Food Truck to Multi-Unit Concept.”
About the Author
Ms. Fernandez is a frequent speaker in the areas of licensing, organic business growth and franchise operations around the country, sought after for her ease with audiences, humor and candor. An active leader amongst her peers, Ms. Fernandez was awarded the Section Award of Achievement as the 2015-16 Chair of the State Bar of Georgia Intellectual Property Section. A passionate advocate in the fight against hunger, she also serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
Ms. Fernandez was honored as the 2015 Woman of the Year for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Atlanta. She is an alumna of the Emory University School of Law, where she served as an Adjunct Professor of Trademarks. Ms. Fernandez obtained her MBA from Emory’s Goizueta Business School, with a focus on Marketing and Entrepreneurship.
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