Do you want to start a personal chef business from home? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a personal chef business with NO money and no experience.
Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample personal chef business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample personal chef marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for personal chef companies. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a personal chef business. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.
Why Start a Personal Chef Business?
If you are one who has a love for all things culinary, and in addition has entrepreneurial attributes, then starting a personal chef business might just be the thing for you. There are an increasing number of people – male and female – who have to work to make ends meet, and because some of their jobs are too demanding, many no longer have the time or no longer want to worry about meal preparation.
Also, apart from those having to meet with demanding work schedules, a large number of people now own and run their businesses which brings a certain degree of pressure where these entrepreneurs don’t want to worry about having to prepare their own meals and instead opt for a personal chef.
What is a Personal Chef?
A personal chef not only prepares meals for those who are too busy to do so, they also cater small events such as corporate lunches, small parties and special occasions such as anniversaries or birthdays. Personal chefs can either prepare the meals in their own home, a commercial kitchen or the homes of their clients depending on what the client wants.
The difference between starting a personal chef business and starting a catering business is that the latter cooks on a large scale and there are much more hassles in this kind of business, which a personal chef does not have to worry about.
There are several reasons why starting a personal chef business might just be right for you and one of them is the low costs you need to start the business as most times you will have to cook in your client’s kitchen or your own, which means that you will not need to buy any kitchen equipment. The only difference is if you intend to lease a commercial kitchen which will see your costs go up.
Take time to know the rules regarding the personal chef business in the area you are looking to operate from because some states do not allow for intermediate storage of food stuffs purchased as they are expected to be transported to the kitchen or residence of the client. If a food storage facility must be used via an agreement with your client, it has to have undergone inspection and must also be licensed to store food.
Starting a Personal Chef Business from Home – A Complete Guide
According to the American Personal Chef Association (APCA), there are close to 6,000 personal chefs in the United States of America believed who are to have served close to 72,000 clients and generating revenue of $52 million annually.
It was estimated that should all conditions remain the same, the industry will grow to have nearly 20,000 personal chefs that will be serving more than 300,000 clients and generating close to $1 billion within five years, the periods of 2003, 2008 and present trends have surpassed this estimation. According to the APCA, there are only about 8 percent of women in an industry that is largely dominated by men.
In 2006, the personal chef industry generated more than $100 million in revenue with projections that revenue will reach $150 million in 5 years. However, it has not been easy to determine the number of personal chefs in the country as estimates used have been based on membership of different culinary organizations as well as associations. An estimated number of personal chefs in 2004 was pegged at 9,000 with the number reaching 25,000 by 2009. According to the American Culinary Federation, the personal chef business is the fastest growing sector in the industry.
Over the years, consumer demands have increased in their intensity as more consumers are becoming more health-oriented as regards the meals they consume, they want meals that are adventurous and yet authentic, and demand that industry practices be transparent and sustainable.
Customers also expect operators in this industry, during their purchase of food, to consider health and wellness, buy from local producers that use no chemicals or pesticides and engage in sustainable production. Industry operators are also expected to source for animal farmers that engage in humane animal treatment.
More consumers are shifting to local because of varying factors such as the produce being fresh, clean, natural, healthier, sustainable, high quality and also because they feel that going local makes them socially responsible. This shift to local has affected operators in the industry as this shift in customer taste and preference will affect sourcing for products, purchasing, and invariably the menus of the personal chefs.
Because more people are not satisfied with meals from restaurants, they are turning to personal chefs to help them create the meals that they feel is better for them.
Starting a Personal Chef Business – Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The people looking for the services of a personal chef ranges from workers, dual income earners, baby boomers, entrepreneurs, busy families, corporate organizations, small events planners. Therefore, if you are looking to define the demography for your personal chef business, it should be based on what your niche services will be as this will determine those that will demand your services.
List of Niche ideas Within the Personal Chef Business That You Can Specialize in
A niche service is a specialized form of service that is different from the regular service and entrepreneurs who often wish to distinguish their business from similar others in a growing or even saturated market look for niche ideas. The personal chef business might seem like the one that has to do with cooking good meals for several customers; however, in a bid to stand out from their competitors, many personal chefs are now offering niche services.
It is however important that you conduct a thorough research on the niche area you intend to offer your services so that you do not end up in a niche that does not have lots of potential customers. Below are some of the niche ideas that you can specialize in;
- Regular Meals
- Gourmet Foods
- Ethnic Cuisine
- Diabetic Dishes
- Vegetarian Meals
The Level of Competition in the Personal Chef Industry
The level of competition that exists in this industry is one that is limited to your area of operation. This therefore means that location has a lot to do with the level of competition that a personal chef faces in the course of running the business. If your business is where there are lot of alternatives for customers, then you will need to come up with strategies on how to make your business survive.
What customers are on the lookout for when they contract your services is that you can provide your services in an agreed location – at your own kitchen or theirs – under a hygienic environment. People are now becoming conscious of what they consume and as such will want to know that you are aware of this fact and take it seriously.
While there are very few personal chefs in one state, another state might have a large number of them and so where you intend to start your personal chef business will determine how much of a competition you are going to face. Large cities where there are more commuters and corporations will have a need for personal chefs than cities that have fewer establishments.
List of Well – Known Brands in the Personal Chef Industry
In every business industry, there are brands that stand out due to various factors and the personal chef industry is no different. Popular personal chef brands are those who have distinguished themselves in terms of their niche services, their publicity campaigns both online and offline as well as their relationship with their customers.
Below are the top personal chefs well known in their various cities of operations in the United States;
- Eclectic Personal Chef
- Just in Thyme Personal Chef Services
- Nibbles Personal Chef
- Life of Riley Personal Chef Service
- Main Course Personal Chef Service
- Chef Kelvin, Inc.
Personal chefs were seen as professionals that cooked for only wealthy people, but that has changed as people are becoming busier with their careers, businesses, kids and having to commute, and having a personal chef is now seen as a must for those that are looking to have sustainable balanced and organic meals.
The industry was hard hit by the recession which saw many families lose their jobs and not being able to afford the services of a personal chef as they have the time to cook their own meals. However, as the economy has slowly been recovering, more personal chefs are back to cooking for families with some now also arranging intimate dinner parties, offering cooking services and also leading in-house cooking demonstrations.
Typical customers that seek the services of a personal chef are those that are looking to maintain a sustainable diet with organic foods or those that have medical concerns or allergies. Other groups of customers are those who may not be able to cook for themselves anymore or have to come up with diets that will cater to their medical conditions.
There is a new trend for personal chefs especially those that prepare specialized cuisines as clients are made to fill a questionnaire about what goals they are looking to attain and their food preferences and then if they will need meals weekly or monthly. The personal chef then designs menus that are based on the answers of the clients.
Starting Your Personal Chef Business from Scratch vs Buying a Franchise
Starting your business from scratch or buying a franchise might be not an easy decision for many entrepreneurs, especially as each option has its pros and cons. However, the personal chef business is not one that requires the entrepreneur to buy a franchise as this option is not available for this kind of business; which therefore means that entrepreneurs who want to start the personal chef business must be prepared to start from the scratch.
Starting a business from the scratch might seem quite overwhelming especially for entrepreneurs who have no experience when it comes to running a business from the scratch, which is why it is usually advised that entrepreneurs have a written down plan as regards how they intend to run their business as this will help lessen the startup fear regarding the business.
Your business plan should not only show a clear plan of how you intend to run the business at first but should also show how you intend to build your business structure and expand your business should it ever come to that.
Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face When Starting a Personal Chef Business
When starting a business, you should be prepared for any threats and challenges that are likely to crop up by having strategies in place. No entrepreneur should expect to have it all easy and if this is your mindset then it goes to show that you are not serious as challenges are part of everyday life of a business. There are some threats and challenges that you would be able to handle easily and there are some that you wouldn’t and when the latter occurs, all you need is to remain optimistic and wait till they pass.
Some of the threats and challenges that you should expect when starting your personal chef business are; having to attract customers to your business, having to deal with competition from other personal chefs and established commercial kitchens, government regulations regarding food handling, change in trends and customer preferences.
Starting a Personal Chef Business from Home – Legal Matters
- Best legal entity to use for this type of business
One major decision that you will have to deal with because of its importance is the legal structure for your business. Choosing the right legal structure for your personal chef business will go a long way to determine how you will be taxed by the government. Every legal entity has advantages and disadvantages and whichever you decide to settle on should be one that will be in the best interest of your business.
As a personal chef in the United States, you have the option of starting off as a sole proprietor, running a partnership or forming a corporation or a Limited Liability Company (LLC). If you are going to start off as a sole proprietor or you intend to run a partnership agreement with someone of like-mind or a group of people, then it will be ideal for you to get a Doing Business As (DBA) certificate. If you are however going to form a corporation or an LLC, then it will be best to get a certificate of incorporation.
Catchy Business Name ideas Suitable for a Personal Chef Business
Once your business idea starts to look like it might become a reality, you need to take several steps in ensuring that your business becomes legal and one way to do this is by creating a business name. Business names might look very trivial but they are very important as they project your business to your target audience as well as your competitors; which is why your business name must be creative, catchy, memorable and indicative of the industry which you are in.
Below are some of the catchy name ideas that are suitable for your personal chef business;
- Dora Personal Chef Services
- Munchies Personal Chefs
- Oliver Twist Chef Services
- Hoeffers Chef, Inc
- Crunchies Personal Chef Services
Insurance policies are very necessary in every line of business especially that which entails handling of meals. With insurance, whatever risks that come with your business are transferred to your carrier. However, while the process of selecting the right insurance policies might be tedious, it enables you to have protection should calamity strike which might come from natural or unnatural occurrences.
One of the major challenges that you might face is in knowing which coverage will offer you and your business the best protection; which is why it is usually best to seek the advice of an insurance agent or broker so that you do not end up spending on coverage that will not protect you or your business.
Below are some of the basic insurance policies that you should consider purchasing as you intend starting your personal chef business in the United States;
- Property Insurance
- General Liability Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- Casualty Insurance
- Professional Liability Insurance
- Umbrella policies
Intellectual Property Protection/Trademark
Because you will be cooking for people personally, you will not need to worry about having to acquire any sort of intellectual property protection for your business. This means you can copy recipes, modify them without having to worry about being hit by a lawsuit from where you have copied the recipe from.
If you however are going to be coming up with creative recipes and posting them publicly on your website, it is only right that you seek for means to intellectually protect your ideas from being used by your competitors especially fast foods and restaurants. Get in touch with a lawyer familiar with the food industry as well as IPP to help you protect your ideas and any other thing you deem important.
Is Professional Certification Needed to Run a Personal Chef Business?
Acquiring professional certification for your personal chef business is not necessary at all as long as you have the culinary skills and also have gotten the necessary state certification and licenses that will allow you to run your business without any hitches.
If however you are looking to compete professionally against other personal chefs, then getting a professional certification will be of an advantage to you as it will give you the edge you seek for your business. The United States Personal Chef Association offers Certified Personal Chef certifications to personal chefs that are looking to take their business up one notch, however, there are requirements that must be met and you should endeavor to find out what they are.
List of Legal Documents You Need to Run a Personal Chef Business
Having legal documents with which to start your business with is a must for anyone looking to start their business in the United States of America. One fact you need to note though is that what obtains for a personal chef in one state as requiring documents might not be what your state will demand and so it is necessary that you make proper findings about what documents you will need so that you do not run into trouble with the regulated authorities especially in matters that has to do with handling of food.
Get an attorney familiar with the food industry to help you with the legal documents that you might require for your business depending on the laws in your state. Below is a list of some of the legal documents that you will need to be able to run your personal chef business in the United States;
- Food and Safety Certificate
- Business License
- State Certification
- State-issued Catering License
- Sales Tax
- Insurance Policy
- Occupational License
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Doing Business As (DBA)
- Business Plan
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Federal Tax Identification Number (TIN)
Financing Your Personal Chef Business
Not every business idea conceived sees the light of day and this is usually due to startup capital. Even though the personal chef business might not be as capital intensive as other kinds of businesses, you will still need capital to buy certain equipment, get your license and permit and also advertise your business in order to attract customers.
Sourcing for startup capital is usually one very challenging aspect when it comes to starting a business but being an entrepreneur is being able to handle challenges and overcome them. If you are going to be sourcing for funds from external sources, you might need to have a plan of sorts with which to convince those you intend to get your startup capital from.
Below are some of the financing options that are available for your business;
- Starting your business with personal savings or income generated from sale of stock or property
- Sourcing for soft loans from family members and friends
- Getting a business partner and splitting your startup capital with them
Choosing a Suitable Location for your Personal Chef Business
The place where a business is located has a lot to do with how much the business can generate the revenue that will aid it to grow and sustain itself. Most personal chefs that have gained the attention for their businesses and received increased publicity are those that are located in strategic locations where there exists a large number of their target market.
One thing that will determine the location of your business is how your business is structured. Do you intend to cook from your personal kitchen, commercial kitchen or in the kitchen of your clients? If you intend to cook from your personal kitchen or from that of your client, then your location will not matter. If however, you choose to operate from a commercial kitchen and then you might either need to share a kitchen or look for a suitable location for your kitchen; a place that is within the hub of your target market.
There are two reasons why a personal chef might lease a commercial kitchen and one of them is that his or her personal kitchen is not deemed safe by the department of health and safety within the state or that they are running a large operation where they have employed individuals that will not fit into their own home kitchen.
And so even though you must ensure that your commercial kitchen is within your target market, it is also essential that it does not violate any existing state health and safety regulations. For instance, while you might find a good location for your commercial kitchen, it might be breaking zoning regulations.
Ensure that you engage the services of a real estate agent if your intention is to use a commercial kitchen for your business so that they can help look for an appropriate place that is within your budget. You also have the option of sharing a commercial kitchen with others. Just ensure that whichever option you choose will be one that best suits your corporate goals and objectives and will help advance your business to the level you want it.
Starting a Personal Chef Business – Technical and Manpower Details
The personal chef business is different from that of a private chef because while a private chef is employed by a single household and is expected to live with the premises of their employers, prepare at least three meals a day for their employers, supervise the activities of caterers whenever there is an event or large party and does not require a business license in order to operate, a personal chef is regarded as an independent contractor that has multiple of clients and can easily set their own schedules and fees.
Even though the same laws governing the catering services might be applicable to your personal chef business, you might need to make further research on what licenses you might need especially if you will be cooking in your own kitchen or a commercial one for your client. If you will be cooking in your own kitchen or a commercial one, you must consent to routine health and safety inspections.
Regardless of where you will be doing your cooking from, it is best that you set up an office with which to handle administrative tasks such as menu planning, billing and marketing. If you will be leasing a commercial kitchen, you can set up an office within the same building. And if you intend to cook from your own kitchen or that of your client, you can set up your office within your home. Ensure that all documents are safely stored.
The personal chef business is one that can be run by one person i.e the entrepreneur; however, if you intend to run a large scale operation or have grown to have numerous customers which you cannot handle alone, you will need to hire other competent chefs that can help. Those that you will therefore need to hire include; chefs, an office manager, logistics manager, customer care executive, driver and cleaner.
Therefore, if you are looking to start a large scale operation for your personal chef business, you might need at least 7 people.
The Service Delivery Process of a Personal Chef Business
The personal chef business is one that combines one’s ability with entrepreneurial skills. This doesn’t mean that those who don’t know how to cook cannot start the business as training can be obtained to brush up on your cooking skills as well as have the required knowledge regarding food safety, creating of menus as well as freezing of food.
You can either train through self-study or by attending culinary programs both online and offline. Because of the variety needs of customers, you might need to develop a recipe inventory and ensure that the meals that you create can easily be frozen or defrosted.
Ensuring that where you cook meets with the regulating standard is also important as you do not want to be sued by your customers for violating health and safety regulations.
Starting a Personal Chef Business from Home – The Marketing Plan
- Marketing ideas and Strategies
When starting any business, one aspect that is very important is how you will recoup your investment and make your business generate revenue that will not only sustain it but allow it to grow. Marketing therefore offers you that opportunity of achieving your revenue generation goals through various means.
The growth of the personal chef industry has to do with the fact that more people are becoming too busy to cook their own meals and as a result pay for someone to cook the meals in their own kitchen and then deliver to them. You must therefore be able to anticipate the needs of your target market and know how you can satisfy them.
One thing you should realize when it comes to marketing is that where you are located has a lot to do with how your marketing strategies are going to be effective. If you are starting your personal chef business in a rural area, then you should realize that you might not have as many customers which doesn’t mean your marketing strategies aren’t effective but that those living in rural areas will prefer to cook their meals as they might not be as busy as those living in the city. Therefore, your location should not only determine your marketing strategies but also the services you intend to offer as well.
Before any marketing strategy can be created, it is important that the entrepreneur conducts a thorough research about the market opportunity available and therefore know who your target market is, what they expect from you and what you should expect from hem as well.
You are going to have competitors who might be regular food establishments like restaurants, food trucks and fast foods or other personal chefs and so your marketing strategies should take them all into consideration, study their weaknesses and strengths and then use this to create marketing strategies that will become very effective.
The internet has opened up several marketing possibilities for entrepreneurs and the smart ones are constantly exploring new ways that they can take advantage of the internet for the benefit of their business. You can team up with a social media expert to help you with all avenues to use in such a way that it will be beneficial to your personal chef business and allow you to attain your corporate goals and objectives.
Some of the marketing strategies that you can therefore create for your personal chef business are;
- Ensure that you contract a professional to create a website that describes your services, has your contact information as well as your fees
- Ensure that you advertise your personal chef services in local newspapers, food and lifestyle magazines as well as on local radio and television stations
- Distribute well designed business cards and handbills at strategic locations and associations in the area where you intend to operate from
- Create a handle for your business on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat
- Physically meet people in order to tell them about your personal chef business. You can also visit corporate organizations to push awareness for your business
- Ensure that your personal chef business is listed in yellow pages as well as online directories
Strategies to Boost your Personal Chef Business Brand Awareness and Create Your Corporate Identity
No matter how your family members and close friends might rave about your dishes or service, without making efforts to consciously promote your business, then you are going to be very limited as regards your services and how much you end up generating. Promoting one’s business is very important as you not only get to generate awareness for your business but you also get to generate revenue through the awareness that you have created.
The effectiveness of publicity has made even businesses who are well established to set aside money every year in order to continue publicizing its brand and through that create a positive corporate image. You should however know that while some publicity campaigns might require you to spend money, there are others that will not require you to spend a dime in order to be effective.
This is why it is necessary that you take time to research on ways you can make use of this strategy for your business without blowing a hole in your pocket especially if you have a constraint regarding expenditure. Your market research will enable you to know who your target market is and which means they are more likely to use to see your business.
The internet has opened up several possibilities for innovative and smart entrepreneurs and so you might need to take advantage of what the internet has to offer. This does not however mean that you should totally neglect offline possibilities as a careful combination of the two will see you achieving your publicity goals and objectives.
Below are some of the strategies that you can use to boost your brand awareness as well as create a corporate identity for your business;
- Create a website and include photographs of meals that you have and can prepare
- Offer your loyal clients discounts for every new customer that contracts your service
- Use certain niches in order to distinguish your personal chef services from others as well as stand out from your competition
- Encourage your satisfied clients to write out testimonials on your website
- Write out recipes for online publications and websites and use this to promote your personal chef business
- Participate in community activities such as charity fundraisers and auction events by donating your services in order to create awareness about your personal chef business