If you love your profession, it should be easy to convey that passion in your choices of ingredients, your menus and your cooking. But it may not be enough to succeed as a Personal Chef. The practicality of running a business is not a strength for many Chefs, who naturally tend to be more creative. So, I asked a Success Manager (a mentor for Personal Chefs) at The Chef Alliance for some advice for Personal Chefs. Here are some ideas to help you on the road to fulfilling your dreams.
FIND YOUR NICHE
– Examine your areas of expertise and your interests and focus your attention on growing a few key services.
– Decide what services you will offer, whether it’s dinner parties, menu planning, private cooking lessons or a special diet meal service etc.
– A focussed approach means a higher quality, more consistent service for your clients, benefiting you and your business in the long run.
– It also means that you can work more efficiently, leaving you with more time for your personal life.
– As with any niche service, you can expect to charge higher ratescompared to less specialized service providers.
Communication with clients is also a key element to running a successful business.
– Respond to client enquiries promptly.
– Provide updates or information when you say you will.
– To avoid issues from arising later, keep a record of conversations, dates and a list of things that you and the client have to do.
– Follow-up with your clients after each service to get feedback on how you can improve your service (and make sure you take any criticism constructively) and what they thought you did well.
KEEP UPDATING YOUR SKILLS
Keeping on top of culinary trends keeps your clients excited about using your services again and again. – Track new trends in menus and ingredients, as well as cooking techniques, to avoid boredom setting in for you too. You’ll find that it will help to keep the passion for cooking that attracted you to the industry in the first place.
– Watch trends in marketing, and use social media to increase traffic to your blog/ website as a way to garner new business and build your online presence.
USE AVAILABLE RESOURCES
Many private companies offer information on industry trends, recipes and free business and marketing tips via social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – all to help you succeed while allowing you to focus on cooking.
– Restaurants Canada (formerly the Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice Association) keeps their members up-to-date on menu trends, suppliers and industry news with regular electronic newsletters and magazines.
– Many government agencies offer mentorship and advice to help small business startups to reach their full potential.
– Connect with successful business people in your community who mentor small businesses, sharing their experience and expertise with you.
– Speak with an accountant or lawyer to avoid making costly mistakes.
YOU’RE WORTH IT
New businesses are often tempted to offer lower prices than their established competitors as a way to boost their exposure to new clients and bring in income quickly.
– This strategy may backfire in the long-term, especially when you try to raise prices; clients may become accustomed to the lower pricing structure.
– You may be attracting ‘bargain-hunters,’ typically not your ideal, long-term clients.
– A better solution is to provide a superior service compared to your peers from the start, so that your clients will recommend your services to friends and family without hesitation. After all, word-of-mouth advertising is the best kind!
– It’s OK to say ‘no.’ Whether it’s the service that doesn’t appeal to you or a clash in personalities, it’s OK to turn down a prospective client. Be sure to do it in a professional manner, and if possible, refer them to a peer who may be able to assist.
Organise all aspects of your business, from accounting to equipment. Here are just a few examples:
– Create checklists for equipment and utensils, so that you know that you have everything when going from job to job.
– Organise your ‘pantry’ items – the flour, oils, vinegars, spices etc that you carry with you to each event, so that you never run out.
– Have your grocery list for each event organized into categories, based on supermarket layouts to make your shopping more efficient.
– Keep a time slot each day for communication with clients, whether it is by phone or email.
– Track ‘next steps’ for each client, so that things don’t get overlooked, leaving a client less than happy.
MORE HASTE, LESS SPEED
Yes, that old saying is true.
– Take your time when getting organized for each service. You’re less likely to forget a key ingredient or something else vital to your service.
– You’ll enjoy providing the service and appear more professional if you’re focused and not frazzled!
– Accidents are more likely to occur if you’re rushing to complete a service, so pre-planning is a key factor.
– Print out directions or invest in a GPS to make finding alternate routes to your destination easy.
– Leave extra time when travelling to a client’s home, so that traffic-jams, a missed turn or unexpected roadworks do not cause you to be late.
Get familiar with technology to help you save time and become more efficient. For example…
– Accounting products can help you issue quotes, invoices and track expenses easily.
– Having a hand-held device where you can receive phone calls and emails, means that you can stay connected with clients without being tied to a desk.
– Check out the wide range of services to help you issue e-newsletters to your clients, helping to keep your business in the forefront of their minds.
TRACK YOUR TIME
Even though you’re likely working by yourself, it is important to track how long you spend on each event.
– Look for inefficiencies, then find ways to use your time more efficiently. One suggestion is to create sample menus in advance (e.g. by season, occasion etc) so that they are ready to be sent to clients.
– Are you spending too much time travelling to suppliers? You may decide to group grocery shopping for events together into 2 or 3 weekly trips, rather than going out daily.
It is important to provide excellent customer service in order to keep clients, get referrals and grow your business.
– As a Personal Chef it is important to be respectful of being in someone’s home; at the start, many may feel uncomfortable of having a ‘stranger’ in their kitchen.
– Be polite both in conversations and in emails.
– Clean up any mess that you have made in the client’s home before leaving.
– If you have forgotten something or have accidentally broken something, speak to the client promptly; your honesty and professionalism will be appreciated.
– Carry ‘indoor shoes’ with you and change into them when you first enter a client’s home – it may be a small point, but will be noticed.
WATCH THE MARKET
– A strong economic environment usually has a positive impact on businesses, as clients are financially stable enough to spend more on ‘non-essentials.’ Although a slow economy will mean that clients typically have less disposable income to spend, to your business it may simply mean that you will have to keep a larger number of clients on file, rather than relying to repeat business from a few regular clients.
– Oil prices will also have a dramatic impact on your business, not only on your travel costs to job locations, but also food prices; it is essential that Personal Chefs track the price of groceries and adjust prices and menus accordingly.