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Buisness is booming..almost

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
It's been awhile since I was here..But just an update and open to suggestions. Me and my wife started the personal chef business in orlando. I mailed out postcards to almost 2000 so far with houses worth 450k or more. To get things started, we offered 3 meals/week for family of 4 for 2 weeks for $150. Low price I know, but thinking was after 2 weeks they would stay on board for longer. We're charging $25/hour, when all competition around is $50/hour. We're adding in time for shopping and travel, plus food costs. In 2 months, we've gotten 10 calls, 4 have done the special and 1 is now twice per week for 5 days of lunchs and dinners. I got a mobile cart to carry all pots,pans,food..etc..plus a travel fridge that plugs into the truck, so I can keep one customers stuff cold while working another...Ultimately hoping for at least 2/day 5 day week...1 at 11ish, second starting at 3ish...we're packing it in tuperware or wrapped in 1/2 hotel pan size disposal aluminum trays that they reheat in oven. My real concerns now are how to get contracts signed for specific lengths of time so that I know the time slots are filled. Already it seems as if Monday's are going to be popular to request. Thats the latest and greatest. I would appreciate any thoughts, ideas, suggestions from those that have done this before and what ya'll think about my approach.
Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
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Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
Reply
post #2 of 18
I always had a signed contract at the first meeting....that took 2-3 hours as we discussed likes, dislikes, perimeters of cooking. I told them from the git go that it takes 6-8 weeks for us to get into a groove.....how much to make, if they want scoop and eat or micro or bake in oven, how hot is hot, etc.

When I started out I had a comment sheet so I could get better feedback....if they understand the more feedback I get the better the service I can provide they are more apt to fill it out.

Life is tough, not every day is Monday....first sign up frist get choice of day options that work for you.

I spent alot of time deciding who to cook for.....saves on turnovers.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #3 of 18
Hey..think I been looking for you:) As I was prattling on another thread have heard rumors some outlaw caterers has now become "Personal Chefs" dodging the health dept..blah blah blah. Even seen a van driving down the road which say Personal Chef on the side. Whuts up with that? Whut be the eggxact parameters to fit into that etc. Do it vary from State to State or similar? Wishing you much success and thanks for any info.

bigwheel
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 

hmmm..

shroom...how do you an initial meet for 2 - 3 hours??? I'm out of there in like 10 minutes...I've got a 3 page list of food..meat, veggies, spices, pretty much everything...and we go down...likes,dislikes,allergies..etc. Either I'm running into the most agreeable people or... "yeah, we pretty much like everything..." Besides..for the intro special..I gotta keep my food costs pretty low..so I tell them its pretty much pasta, veg, chicken and pork dishes..give them an example of a menu...and they're like...ohhhhh that sounds good..do that. I figured out the feedback form by the 3rd job..I give it to them after the initial 2 weeks.

Big..outlaw chefs in orlando?? Can't say I've seen them cruising the roads..but then again, I don't spend a whole lotta time cruising anyway.
Don't know bout state to state..but here, i just registered the company for taxes and such...and got a general liability insurance plan..Because you're cooking entirely in customer's home, not much to do with health dept. Anyways, it sunday and off to the market
Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
Reply
Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
Reply
post #5 of 18
Well think maybe I am slowly getting the pitcher here. You haul the food chilled to the customer's location (it if needs chilling of course) then you cook and or heat it at on the customer's equipment? Notice you use the term reheat in part of the narrative "we're packing it in tuperware or wrapped in 1/2 hotel pan size disposal aluminum trays that they reheat in oven" This phraseology would seem to indicate the food has been previously cooked at some remote location and only needs a reheat job to be edible. Your house perhaps? Or maybe you just assembling the raw goodies and making em cook it themselves. Now is this hot or cold? How does one go about establishing the customer as being the owner of the raw food? Thanks.

bigwheel
post #6 of 18
shroom...how do you an initial meet for 2 - 3 hours??? I'm out of there in like 10 minutes...I've got a 3 page list of food..meat, veggies, spices, pretty much everything...and we go down...likes,dislikes,allergies..etc. Either I'm running into the most agreeable people or... "yeah, we pretty much like everything..."

That last statement is the worst Kiss of DEATH! I find the ones that don't want to put the energy of thinking what they like to eat will last less than 3 months.

I'm really clear about the rules of engagement.....and I really make sure they understand this is a long time gig. It's interesting how the 2 clients I had for 4 and 6 years talked at the initial meeting about how long they had had other staff people (ie the maid has been here for 12 years, the gardener has been here 7 years).....Years ago I also made sure there was alot of expendable income .....ie dbl surgeons, CFO of major companies etc.....
Now I only pc for a south city priest every other week, because it's fun....takes a total of 4-5 hours of my time (including shopping, drive, cooking, eating lunch with everyone) I get to make whatever I want and talk to people that are not in my normal circle. No fancy kitchen, just the rectory standard 4 electric burner with dbl oven, reg dbl sink, cutco knifes.....
I've cooked there for about 5 years and it's still enjoyable.

The devil is in the details.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Bigwheel...nothing cooked ahead of time..I go straight from farmer's markets, grocery store, etc. to their house...everything cooked there and put into pans in the fridge, they pull out and reheat during week. Things like roasts, pork and such..i cook 3/4 way and they put in oven to finish it off..10 - 15 minutes or so..

shroom...I see where you're at..I just haven't decided if i'd like the long term ones yet...finacially they're good...but so far I'm enjoying the variety I get from different families all the time
Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
Reply
Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
Reply
post #8 of 18
Sounds similar to some retail places we have springing up down here called "Super Suppers." Supposedly the yups come by and sip wine whilst they cook up their food to go. The the yup takes the food home and eats it all week.

bigwheel
post #9 of 18
Like all other contractors ( builders, plumbers etc.) you'll sooner or later find out the value of a contract. Doesn't have to be fancy, or twelve pages long, but all the important information has to be there. If you're relying on this biz as your sole source of income, you will, sooner or later, have to go with some form of a contract. Hopefully, it'll be sooner.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #10 of 18
"yeah, we pretty much like everything..."

That last statement is the worst Kiss of DEATH! I find the ones that don't want to put the energy of thinking what they like to eat will last less than 3 months.


:lol: I have one elderly client who told me she likes almost everything. Her "almost" turned into a rather large category. Last week I delivered her meals, one of which was a roasted salmon with balsamic glaze. She took one look at it and said, "I HATE salmon!" like a petulant four year old. I reminded her that she told me she doesn't like tuna and swordfish, but she insisted that she had told me she won't eat ANY fish....except for haddock, cod, sole and flounder, scallops, shrimp, and clams. Alrighty then.

Today I gave her a pretty extensive menu of all the South Beach, WW, and low fat/cal meals I do. I asked her to pick from those and call me on Tuesday to place her Friday order. She called me within the hour and said that there "were a lot of things on there that I don't like". Well, Mrs. L, you're not my only customer....believe it or not.

Her usual weekly order went something like this: She'd call me on Thursday and ask what her meals were going to be for Friday pick up. I'd ask her what she wanted, and she'd say anything would be fine. I'd then give her a couple of ideas to which she'd say that she didn't like this one or that one, so I'd try again. I'd finally tell her I'd surprise her and she'd be really happy with that. Early in the following week, she'd call me to tell me which ones she didn't like, so I'd remind her that she REALLY needed to tell me what she wanted because relying on my imagination wasn't getting us anywhere. What I really wanted to tell her is that I'm too busy to play with her, but I think she likes the attention. We'll see how it goes now that she has the new menu.
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
The kiss of death has been brought upon me . Thanks guys, you put the curse on me...:lol: . I have a once a week regular, elderly couple, that after 5 visits so far, have been pretty open with food, they told me they are different from all their friends, and like a variety of food with alot of spice. I even tested them out with a medium spicy jambalaya, and they said they loved it. The lady told me she makes a better stir fry....and stir fry's are one of my bread and butters, but that's another story. Here's where the problem begins, so far, and roasted,baked items I've done, I put in an aluminum pan, cook 1/2 - 3/4 of the way, and leave instructions to cook another 15 minutes or so. When I tested it out at home, everything seemed to come out ok, still nice and moist, warm throughout. But getting the complaint that neither of these are true for her, too dry and not hot enough, so she's cooking for 25-30 minutes. Now doesn't want to do any roasted, grilled, sauteed items because they won't reheat well and more braised items. Anyone ever run into this type of problem and how did you correct it?
Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
Reply
Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
Reply
post #12 of 18
I'm not sure how you setup your meal service. Each family was pretty individualised to me which was one of the things that kept it interesting. I don't have recipes, I have descriptions of dishes I've made up.....

Initially I spend 2-3 hours talking about ingredients....literally going down the list of veg., meats, degrees of heat, timing for them.....microwave, baking time options, stove top, scoop and eat......
The priest I cook for now is everyother Monday....I don't know what I'm making until I hit the store....really......he doesn't care nor know until I'm done cooking. We're going on 5.5 years. Others through out the years have either wanted more input, or a pre-menu to review...it has always worked better to have clients that can cook so that they can doctor if necessary or know when "done" is.....some think they want the service but can't afford it in the long run.

Sometimes it's not worth the agrivation to deal with ongoing needy clients. I'm not saying there isn't always and I mean always an adjustment period. How much is too much food, how do they really like reheating (is a frozen lasagna really the answer for this family)? Soups, stews, braises are always good freeers/keepers. Pasta salads last for a while and can be total meals.

A contract to me is a letter of understanding. I do this, you provide that....clear, simple, not really legalese but just to refer back to if the need arises. Interesting how often and with whom that happens.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #13 of 18
I don't get the attraction of the personal chef in terms of the customers point of view or the chefs point of view.
Seems like a glorified roady that can cook. Way to much running around and not enough cooking.
I would rather have a commercial kitchen and eliminate the shopping, bring everything in on a truck. THen the cooks can cook, and you can have a couple drivers to to deliver custom meals to the clients.
I can understand clients that can afford a chef on staff. I can also understand having a chef cook for small dinner parties. I just don't understand why a client would want someone schlepping in and out of the house to cook dinners that become left-overs by design. Not to mention that food safety is likely compramised. Even if things are chilled properly, they probably won't be heated properly.
I do some small dinner drop-off meals which are custom menus. I can tell you that they are not very profitable. I can do food for one simple party by myself in one day and serve over a hundred people. It would take a lot more than one day to gross the same number in a PC business model.
What prevents a guy like me from providing hot or cold custom meals delivered from my kitchen(read lower food cost, better food safety, ability to scale labor to feed as many as I can handle on Monday as I like) and and putting a hand-full of PC out of business in one move.
There is no bad intent, I am just trying to understand the attraction. Be your own boss? Sure, but then you take on clients that all become your boss. Then you also become your own dishwasher, your own delivery driver, your own book keeper, your own food distributer....
If you have a competitive advantage in the field of cooking, why not just cook?
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
In theory, isn't every customer you serve food to your own boss?

My way of thinking....this is some ways is easier than executive chef for a restaurant...some ways not so. One, I'm being paid a fairly high hourly salary for food shopping and travel time to the customer, which, by the way, is usually within 1/2 hour to the home. On flip side, I'm up to 5 full time customers that I create a total of 6 lunches and 18 dinners for every week. That's 24 NEW entrees I'm creating every week. How often does the menu change at a restaurant?
Don't get me wrong...I would love to open a commercial kitchen and hire a delivery staff to deliver to 100+ customers every week. I reason I'm not is simple...Money. I don't have the income right now to support it. My wife still works full time in the kitchen until I can attract enough new customers to bring her into the business...once we're both too busy..hire one more...and one more...one step at a time.
Main reason I'm finding that customers like this, is there lack of time to cook. One couple works from home, they like eating at different times, so they like quick reheated meals...and yes..that's what it mostly is...leftovers. I think its the compromise between not quite rich enough to have private chef and wealthy enough to have the occasional hired help...
Are maids,gardeners making 50-60k/ year per customer? No, but add up all the customers and....
Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
Reply
Does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty?
Somebody's gonna end up knocking it over anyway.

Assumption=The mother of all f**kups
Reply
post #15 of 18
agree with you that all customers are your bosses. I would argue tho that a more efficient way of creating diversity for yourself and making a good living is to do catering. THen you get to create different menus all the time, (assuming you don't do cookie cutter or set menu type catering) - work in a variety of venues and homes, work on VOLUME -, hire and have the customer directly pay for the staff (by directly I mean it is costed in per job not neccessarily that the customer pays your staff - please keep control of this profit center).

we just catered a large wedding this weekend which means that we don't have to work for another few weeks unless we want to. It depends what drives you, but to me the personal chef thing, no matter how much you are paid per hour doesn't take enough dollars to the bank without doing lots and lots of little jobs. A catering guru once said something that stuck with me, sometimes you mak more money saying no, Work smart - you will still work hard, but your net profit is greater.
Chef Tigerwoman

Stop Tofu Abuse...Eat Foie Gras...
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Chef Tigerwoman

Stop Tofu Abuse...Eat Foie Gras...
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post #16 of 18

personal chef hopefully

I have recently decided to go into the cooking field. I love to cook and learn everything I can about it. I have never worked in a restraunt but I can't believe that I could love food as much as I do and not be meant to go into the food industry. My plan is to finish getting my AS degree in Orlando and get some real life experience and try to become a personal chef. I just have some questions if somebody could answer them please. Where is the best type of place to live to be a personal chef? Do you have to have tons of resteraunt experience to be good at the job? Sometimes I believe that being a personal chef is too good to be true so I have some doubts. Can somebody please give me some good info. Thanks so much.
post #17 of 18
On the Super Suppers note... these are popping up all over the East Coast and it's a great opportunity to start this type of business if there aren't any in your community...

You spend about $200 bucks, get together with a group of people and knock about several delicious recipes that are easily freezer safe and will last you for weeks and weeks.

If the people you are speaking with "don't really care what they eat" then this might be a great option... they won't care that it is frozen... it is delicous food and people love the social aspect of making it themselves.. without the shopping, preperation and leftover mess!

the company near where I live is called "Just Dish"
post #18 of 18
I worked in a place similar to Super Suppers a couple of years ago. It's not really all that it's cracked up to be. I'm at work now, but will write more later if anyone is interested.
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