A Tale from the Trenches: Word of Mouth Marketing for Personal Chefs

Posted on August 28, 2009
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Word of mouth marketing seems risky, but if it’s done right it can really rake in the client list.  This guest blog was written in 2009 by a personal chef who started her business selling home cooked meal plans and found herself diving into a new opportunity. She was not a fan of advertising online and wrote this piece to explain how she made her business plan work for her.

catered event

Image via StyleMePretty

Since no one was jamming my phone lines with orders for my time-saving home-cooked meals, it was time to take a look at my business model and figure out a way to make it work. What I was getting were orders for private dinners and luncheons. Although this was good business to get, it wasn’t what I had set out to do. I remembered the advice I received in my planning stages from another personal chef who said to never to go below a certain profit price. And now with my original business plan not going according to what I envisioned,  I’m 50% below the said profit price. So in  this crazy economy and with more people pinching pennies, I had to re-think my original model or my cooking would be just for my husband and daughter.

To solve this problem I decided to transition my personal chef business into a: personal chef/ small catering company, or as I call it a “petite” catering company. I say petite because I’m petite (and it sounds better than small) and I’ll only cater parties with 50 people or less (at this time). Since I’m used to hosting dinners for up to 20 people, what’s 30 more, right? I then advertised (eh-hem, mass email to my nearest and dearest, with a slight nudge to pass the info along to everyone they know) my ‘new and improved’ petite catering company for private dinners, bridal/ baby showers, kids birthday parties and book clubs!

You’re probably shaking your head right about now, “Why isn’t she doing a website?” “Why isn’t she advertising on mom-sites?” I know, I’ve heard it, (not to mention I minored in Advertising and Public Relations in college and did two summer internships at an ad agency) and here is why: I’m a fan of ‘word of mouth’ advertising. At this point I don’t want to go into a stranger’s home to cook for someone who found me on the Internet. What if they don’t like the food and they spread that on the Internet? What if that turns my little start-up into a shut-down? Paranoid? Yes, a little, but we are living in a viral world and I’m barely a viral girl. So, I wanted to keep it in the family, so to speak.

What has/ had worked for me up to this point was cooking for the same client twice because if she likes my food, her friends will like my food (think high school and cool girl syndrome). If they like my food, they’ll hire me to cook for them and they’re not strangers because we have a mutual friend and they’ve had my food. It’s a win-win. The same applies selling a script. You just need one person to like it to make everyone else like it. It’s exactly the same theory for selling yourself as a chef.

So what started out as a simple “hey, pick a meal plan for your family and have delicious, home-cooked meals in your fridge and freezer at your convenience” turned into “you need home-cooked food for a small event? I’ll make it for you.”

What about you? Has your business changed since its inception? What did you do to turn your endeavor into a success?

FSW Staff FSW Staff (139 Posts)

The writing team at FoodServiceWarehouse is dedicated to bringing you the freshest tips, tricks and trends for your professional or home kitchen.

1 Reply to "A Tale from the Trenches: Word of Mouth Marketing for Personal Chefs"

  • jennifer
    September 2, 2009 (3:09 pm)

    Great idea- and you are taking all the steps to reach your ultimate goals.

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