How To Reinvent My Personal Chef Business

by Cheflady
(Danbury, Connecticut)

I swore I would not leave my future in one employer's hands again. So I thought that I'd switch to become a personal chef. Today I'm a private chef and a member of the American Culinary Federation. I have a menu with 100 international entrees, including breads, desserts and special occasion cakes.become a personal chef

In Connecticut where I live there are lots of affluence, especially in Fairfield County. I served one family in New York for 7 years as their private, personal chef. They loved all that I did. For several weeks I was also a private chef for a local family until they let me go for no good reason. They were uppity and non-communicative – made little eye contact unlike my previous family that were great "people people".

I've scanned through all the information on Starting Your Own Business's "Ways To Make Quick Money Launching...A Personal Chef 'Fast Cash' Business". What a great informative website! I wish to develop my personal chef business. How can I get more clients?

I spread out 150 of my sample menu flyers in local community centers, libraries, YMCAs. I've handed them to realtors who agreed to share my services with new home buyers all at a few affluent towns nearby. I took out a classified ad to show in 8 local town papers. I signed up with several employment agencies. Friends agreed to post my flyers in their towns.

But I have not gotten one response. I am thinking that the economy has everyone holding on to their money. Yet nearby in those towns, restaurants are busy.

Since I've been out of work for two months without unemployment, I am looking for another private client at least part-time. I can't sell anything cooked from my kitchen, not even for the local farm market to sell.

What do you recommend I do?

How can I find at least one or two clients to cook for?

----- Arturo's Reply to Cheflady -----

Cheflady, thank you for visiting my site and finding value in it. I'm encouraged by your desire to turn around your business rather than give up on what has proven valuable to you in the past.

Indeed personal spending at an aggregate level in the economy has substantially declined with the Great Recession and the barely visible recovery. And it will only slump further if we get a double dip recession late in 2012.

However, markets are also local and you've targeted an audience that you cannot go wrong with: the wealthy. The question is "Are you giving them what they desperately want?"

I understand how frustrating it is to have attempted to market yourself so very much only to receive no replies. But flyers are infamous for their poor performance. If you want them to work for you, then you need to cover far more territory than 150 locations. Expect a 1% response rate to be an outstanding performance.

You improve your probability of success by narrowing your target, not by broadening it. Cover more specifically the area where you wish to find clients and the precise kind of client that you want. Start by using Claritas's Prizm to get an idea of what is available near where you live. Part of it is free and will give you a sound way of segmenting your local market using demographics.

Identify not only the neighborhoods where you'd like to find clients but the exact profile of the typical household that you'd like to serve. Then determine what kind of an offer from you will appeal to the decision-maker in that household.

need a personal chef bearWhat will make you unique in the eyes of this individual? Are you offering specialty foods? Are you focused on organic dishes? Do you specialize in cooking for the elderly on special diets? Are you particularly good with meals for children? If price is no objection, what is? Does the client want house-keeping included? Are they picky about scheduling? Do they want to lose weight?

Your kind of business grows best by referral. Do you have a customer referral program? Do you have a website? Are you on Yelp? Have you considered partnering with another chef to do a joint campaign? Have you visited a church to ask if they have a commercial kitchen you can use, so you can try your hand at some catering projects?

Get your name out there every way you can, but only to the people you exactly know you want to work for. Be unique for them, far above your competitors. Volunteer at an event targeting the rich and ask them what they look for in a personal chef who they'd want to contract. Ask what terms they'd like from such a contractor. Start offering your services on those terms.

I understand your situation rather well. Here in California's San Francisco Bay area where I live personal services are down. But an effective marketing campaign with a strong referral program in place can make all the difference between getting 1 or 2 new clients a month or just another month of unemployment.

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Oct 02, 2012
by: chefdebb

I have been a Personal Chef for 7 years and I am very impressed with your information. It is really informative and accurate. I am going through a slump with my business and your article has inspired me to try a few new things. Thank you!

Oct 03, 2012
Feel Free To Ask
by: Arturo F Munoz

ChefDebb, I'm glad to learn that you've found the information on our site useful. You're welcome to ask any question or leave us a brief description of your experience for others to benefit from.

As I'm sure you've been able to discern, we've had several personal chefs visit and share their knowledge, such as Catherine Richey from Lavish To Lite Bites and Sassy Nutson, the Vegan Coach.

If you feel like it, drop by this form and share your experience. Seven years is a wealth of knowledge many could benefit from, and the feedback may prove invaluable to you.

Oct 03, 2012
Update On My Marketing Efforts
by: Cheflady

Hi Chef Debb,

Thanks for your comment.

It's been several months since my above comments. I have learned a lot. The flyers are definitely a good idea. I am still replenishing the supply at the places where I have permission to put them and they are still being taken.

One stream of clients came from one person seeing one flyer on a bulletin board. I have cooked for him several times and also for friends he recommended. Then another new client came from a flyer in a bank where they know me and talk up my services.

I was with one family as a Private Chef before I started this business as Personal Chef.

My experience has been that there is not enough income just in a few dinner parties per month. I need the client that wants meals all week.However there is a shortage of them. Those families are now all expecting one person to be a Nanny/Cook/Housekeeper/Laundress/Personal Assistant.

I would be interested to know how you have survived as a personal chef for seven years.Did most of it consist of pre-prepared meals for different families,or freshly made and served?

Thank you for writing.


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