Restaurateur and BBC's Great British Menu judge Oliver Peyton told Birmingham catering students the magic trick in hospitality is to make customers feel happy.
Peyton, who runs a string of London restaurants, cafés and bakeries, said diners want to enter a "bubble" and forget about their demanding lives when they eat out.
He was speaking during a question and answer session at University College Birmingham attended by trainee chefs, bakers, culinary arts management undergraduates and postgraduates.
Peyton has been an outspoken critic of catering colleges and has accused the education system of failing young chefs. But having toured UCB's bakery facilities and kitchens, and dined in the university's Atrium restaurant, the TV food critic declared: "I had a great experience. I think this is the best catering college I have been to by some way."
Asked by a student about his criticism of catering colleges, Peyton said: "It is very easy for people to give you platitudes. I am not interested in platitudes. To be successful in life is tough."
Peyton operates a number of upmarket Peyton and Byrne Bakeries but conceded he was "jealous" of the bakeries at UCB, where one of the country's first foundation degrees for bakers was launched in September.
Peyton said: "Happiness has become as important as cooking. I think service is the biggest challenge to us. Now when people come to you [restaurants] there is a presumption of good food.
"People are more demanding because they are busier. We are a busy country. People want to leave restaurants happy. It is a tough world out there. Going to a restaurant is a bubble experience. You are trying to give them a little happiness and joy."
Peyton warned students it was vital they learned about cost-control and cutting waste in kitchens.
He said: "If you are left with loads of loaves or cakes at the end of the day that is your profit going down the swanny. Being a creative chef is only part of the equation. If you don't understand costing, you will never be successful. The world is littered with chefs who know how to be creative but cannot cost a dish."
However, Peyton insisted it was a good time to launch a food business because shoppers were turning their backs on supermarkets in favour of the personal service and knowledge offered by specialist stores. Pointing to the "demise of Tesco," the restaurateur said consumers' shopping habits were starting to change.
"I think we are going to get a real sense of community back to our town centres," said Peyton.
"People are going to want to go to the butcher and the baker and the local restaurant. I think it is a healthy time to be opening a business because people do want to go back to our town centres and they do want a relationship with the shop and restaurant."