121623 TR – Should your personal chef business offer catering

[00:00:00] Hey there, Chef Shelly here. If you have watched any of my videos, then you know I am full on team meal prep services. I admit it. That’s just me and my business. Now, in the past, I’ve done plenty of small catering in my personal chef business. I’ve even worked catering for restaurants and I’ve even been employed by a big catering company at one point in my career.

So listen, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, anti catering per se. I just like what I like, right? Hey there, Chef Shelly here. If this is the first video of mine you’ve seen, I am a personal chef. I’ve had a successful business for over 15 years. I do meal prep services. I used to do catering and teach classes too.

And when I’m not cooking for my own clients, which yes, I still do. I help passionate cooks just like you start your own personal chef [00:01:00] business so you can get paid to do what you love. And you don’t have to go to catering school and have tons of restaurant experience or a bunch of other stuff like that to be able to do it.

So speaking of that, this is your business so you get to do what you want. So let’s kind of talk through what catering is like in case you haven’t ever done it before and see the what’s what so you can decide if it’s a service that you would want to do in your personal chef business. So first of all, a big difference is catering.

is basically for people on a special occasion, right? They might get catering for a party, the holidays, an anniversary, a big birthday, something like that. Right? So if you want to do catering, you need to have a strong system in place to be getting those jobs regularly, if that’s part of your business model.

So [00:02:00] also, Not only is it just a once in a while things for people, which means you need new clients all the time. It’s also really seasonal. It has high seasons like now at the holidays. If you’re watching this one, this is coming out in December and depending on your business model and what kind of food you do in.

stuff, you might have a busy time in May and June for graduations or in the summer if you do a lot of barbecue or smoking or even if you focus on weddings or bridal showers or stuff like that, right? So The other thing about catering is being special occasion and being not a all the time service for a person and being more typical to have high seasons and low seasons, you are going to have to want to work or be okay with working nights.

And weekends, because that’s when people want to have their special occasion thing, right? [00:03:00] Typically, most people work during the week, during the day, so when they do a special thing, they want to have it when everybody can come on the weekend. Which means you’ll be working on the weekend. So, that’s basically when people want catering, right?

Let’s talk about money because a lot of people think that doing catering is the way to make the big bucks like you make a lot more for a job than you would doing other services like meal prep services. And just to be clear again, especially if you’re new here, when I’m talking about catering, I’m talking about catering jobs.

In a personal chef business. In a personal chef business, it’s you. And then maybe you have people that can help you at an event. But this is not about having a big company working out of a commercial kitchen with a lot of full time employees to work your events. That is a whole nother bag of cats and that’s not what [00:04:00] we’re talking about.

So when we’re talking about making money as a personal chef doing catering, you’re probably considering much, much, much smaller events. You’re typically not going to be pulling off a wedding for a hundred by yourself in a personal chef business, right? So the type of events you’ll be doing typically in a personal chef business are romantic dinners for two, Um, if you’re up for it, um, seated multi course dinners, you know, think about how many could you do on your own?

I typically could do up to eight by myself, but it was always nice to have someone else to do the cleaning and the dishes and stuff. But then if you’re thinking about setting up a buffet or something, you could obviously do it for much more people, but How much more? Right? So when you think about these types of jobs that you’re doing on your own or just with a minimum of help, think about getting paid for the job, [00:05:00] right?

You don’t take the amount that they pay and just minus the food. And that is all your profit. for what you worked at the event. Let me explain that a little better. Okay, let’s say you cater a big birthday party, like a buffet. And let’s say their invoice, what they pay is 1, 000. And you’re thinking, Oh, that’s great.

I made 1, 000 for one work of night, or one night of work. Well, hang on. Okay, let’s take off the top, the 300 for the food, right? Okay, 700. I worked the event six hours. You know, maybe it took you a couple hours to set up. The hour was three event three hours and then it was an hour to clean up and you’re thinking great.

700 for six hours. That’s awesome. Okay. Hang on. Did you do any work on this event before the actual event time? Of course you did. You had [00:06:00] to talk to the client. Maybe you met in person with the client. You probably went back and forth multiple times, right? You had planning and shopping and then all the cooking and all the other stuff and the setting up and the cleaning.

So you need to think of completely everything you do for this one event and then you can figure out how much true time, how many hours it took you total. And then figure out how much you made, typically. Because think about it, if it takes you a week’s worth of work to do that party for making 700, you might decide that if you could do two days of meal prep during the day and make the same almost 700, if you’re making the average is 335 for a cook day.

Which one of those is more compelling for you? So again, I’m not [00:07:00] saying that any one is better than the other. I’m just saying these are the things you’ll want to think about before you start doing them when you’re setting up your business. So that you don’t end up taking jobs that you hate or being unhappy with getting all these catering requests and not ever doing meal prep and working weekends.

Again, it’s just what you want in your business. So then let’s talk again about having people help you, right? If you’re going to do bigger events like that, you’re probably going to want someone to help you. And of course that’s going to come straight out of your profit. And it can be really challenging to, to have people that help you as opposed to like big catering companies have regular employees.

So let’s say. We’re getting into the holidays and it’s a Saturday night in December and you want to have maybe a server to help keep the buffet up and maybe a person to help with cleaning. Okay, well, how much are you [00:08:00] going to pay them? How, uh, how can you make it worth their while to want to help you and to give up their Saturday night?

Right. And how are you going to make sure that they’re responsible, that they can follow your directions, especially if they’re just a friend or something and they’re not really in hospitality or doing catering, you’ll need to be really careful about explaining things clearly, making sure they understand and in the frenzy of an event that can be difficult to do when you’re just starting out.

So you’ll want to decide how big of an event can you handle on your own? At what size of event would you want to have somebody help you? Typically, if you’re wanting to do events again just by yourself, you can do romantic dinners for two easily. You can do a multi course dinner probably for four. Can you do six?

Do you think you can do eight? Now again, there is no right or wrong reason answer here. It is just What you want to [00:09:00] do, what you can do, what you’re willing to do. These are all decisions that you get to make. So, another thing that you’ll want to be thinking about if you want to consider having catering in your personal chef business is pricing.

And the whole giving people quotes and proposals part of the business, right? This is the big one. I don’t even do catering jobs anymore. I mainly talk about meal prep and I get asked this question all the time. How do I price catering? How do I price catering? Even people want me to help them price like a very specific job, right?

Well, my answer is always the same. For how to price catering if you are doing this event by yourself So you just have the cost of the food. You don’t have staff or overhead and all that other stuff. A lot of times people hear, especially if they’re [00:10:00] googling how to price a catering job, the 3x rule. Okay, the 3x rule does not work for you.

Usually, if you’re a solopreneur working on your own doing smaller catering events, and let me explain why, okay, restaurants and big catering companies have overhead, right? They have a lease, they have inventory, they have staff, and the reason that the Three X rule, which to be honest, really selling companies don’t even use that because they have all their menus, all their food costs, all their staffing costs so dialed in that they know how much they need to make to hit their revenue goals and stuff like that.

But again, this is a much simpler business. being you and maybe bringing in some help on a bigger event if you want to do that. So the 3x rule is you take the cost of the food and you multiply it times three and in theory what this [00:11:00] does is a third of the event will be food cost. A third of the profit will go to covering the overhead of the business and then a third of it is the true profit.

So again, the theory is that your business costs are equal between the food, the overhead, like the building and the staff, and then the profit that you want to make on the job. So let’s talk about it. Sounds like a great idea, right? You’re like, but wait, if I three times the food cost, well, that’s even going to work out better because I don’t have that overhead.

Why wouldn’t I want to do that? Right? So let’s talk through some examples. The reason why this doesn’t work in a personal chef business is that so you don’t have true overhead like that, right? And the types of catering that you’re going to do by yourself need to reflect it. Everything from your business specialty or your style of food, like, here’s an example.[00:12:00] 

If you are a family comfort style food person, and you want to do an event for someone that’s just a family get together, like, in the summer, and they want to have a very simple buffet set up, Good family style food. They don’t want staff. They’re not doing rentals, right? And the menu is very simple too.

That’s going to be priced really differently than if you take the exact same number of people, but the food is much more gourmet and higher end. There’s a much more complicated setup. Maybe they have, they want you to have extra staffing. They want you to cover a bartender. Maybe they want, you know, rentals and stuff.

So all those things taking into consideration, the 3x rule would be really different for you on the cost. For instance, let’s use something concrete. Chicken and waffles. If you were [00:13:00] doing a catering event and you were doing solo chicken and waffles, or you were doing beef tenderloin and a baked potato, which one of those would cost more on a menu?

Because the really interesting thing about that is chicken and waffles is considered way more casual. Beef tenderloin and potatoes is considered very fancy. People will expect to pay a lot more for a steak and potato. And the irony is doing good chicken and waffles is A lot more work, and it takes a lot more time.

Steak and a baked potato is very simple. The flip side of that is the cost is going to be in the food, not in the labor, not in the work you’re doing. So I know that’s a whole lot to take into consideration, but let’s say you want to do catering in your business. business. Maybe you just love the party vibe, right?

Or maybe you’re starting your personal chef business on the side of a full [00:14:00] time job and weekends are when you’re available to work so you want to do events. Or maybe you’ve heard that’s where the big money is and you believe it. All those things could be true. So just like everything else in your business, you need to go in with a plan before you start telling people that you are available to cater.

You need to decide. What you’re cooking. What is your style of food? What are you gonna offer? Are you comfortable doing chicken and waffles live at an event? Are you comfortable doing beef tenderloin and potatoes at an event? Are you comfortable doing, you know, your style of food? What is it that you would be comfortable doing, right?

What’s your specialty? So then, what are you offering? Are you doing romantic dinners for two? Are you doing up to sit down multi course dinners for eight? Are you doing just buffet setups and would that be for twelve, two dozen, three dozen people? How many? [00:15:00] So, you figure out what you can and want to do from the food you want to cook and the type of event.

If you know you have people that can help you, you know you can go bigger. If you think it might be a challenge to find good, responsible, reliable people to help you, you may want to keep to the smaller jobs, right? So think about what you would be able to charge for those. I want you to get some sample menus drawn up with how much you would charge for them.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re doing a flat rate, a flat rate plus grocery reimbursement, Or if you want to do a per person, if you want to do a per person, you’ll want to make sure that you put a minimum and maximum on there. Because if you’re looking at doing steak and potatoes for 20 people, so you’re figuring that you would make this much, you would charge this much.

Is that going to be the same if it’s only for four people? Well, probably not [00:16:00] because It gets a little counterintuitive, a little complicated, but when you’re doing per person, you might need to charge more per person for a smaller event because you still need to make enough profit to cover your labor for a cook day.

No matter how big or small this event is. It is taking up a day or a night that you could be taking or doing any other job, right? So you need to know, are you going to step out of the house to do a romantic dinner for two on a Saturday night for 50 dollars? Yes or no. That might be where you are and where you’re starting out.

Okay, to start with, and you’re good with that. You might be more established in your business or coming from a very experienced background or culinary school and be like, hell no, I’m not working a Saturday night for 50. Especially when you consider at a certain point, even if it’s only a dinner for [00:17:00] two, you still have to do all the planning, all the shopping, all the cooking, all the cleaning and the service with authority.

smile, right? So think about how much you would need to charge to be worth your time to do that event. Come up with some menus and your pricing for a romantic dinner for two. If that’s a service you want to offer, think about it. If you want to do four, six, eight people for a seated multi course dinner.

Again, work up some menus, check out the food cost. You can just look at your grocery store online, figure out how much the food would cost, figure out how much time it would take you and what you would need to make to make that worthwhile and come up with a few of those. If you’re thinking big buffets, it gets a little more complicated.

Again, are you doing casual food? Are you doing fancy food? Are you including setup and cleanup? Or are you just coming, preparing, setting up and leaving? Are you staying for the event? All those different things to consider, right? In your pricing. And [00:18:00] again, that range of do you charge the same per person if it’s 10 people as if it’s 30 people.

Or do you have to make the 10 person job a little bit higher to cover your true labor costs and how much you need to make for your work time, right? Now, again, this doesn’t mean that any of these in particular is right or wrong. It’s just things that you’ll want to consider in your business. with your cooking style and the things that you want out of your business.

When do you want to work? How much do you want to work? And how much do you want to make? And you need to make sure that the services you are doing in your business are Supporting you doing that so that you’re not building a business that you hate, right? And again, that’s why I choose not to do catering anymore.

I can make decent money doing it, but I don’t want to work weekends and I don’t want to work nights. I am perfectly happy with my. you [00:19:00] know, steady, regular meal prep services during the week. That’s just my jam. But again, when I was first starting out, I did meal prep services and I also did catering. I did some romantic dinners for two in the beginning.

And then I got to a certain point in my business. where the profit just wasn’t enough for me. But then I still did plated multi course dinners for six or eight because that was a much higher profit margin because it’s still one night of work and it is a little bit more work. But again, for taking up a slot on your work schedule, the money was more worth it.

I did buffets, like I said, where there would be setup, there would be working the whole event, there would be cleanup, and I did ones where it was just the cooking and setup and then leaving. And again, it gets into, it was complicated not having a consistent catering business to get people to support me when I did larger events like extra [00:20:00] servers, maybe a bartender.

Oh my God. If someone wants you to have a bartender for them. Who are you going to find that knows how to mix drinks on a Saturday night that’s not already a bartender who knows they’re going to make a hell of a lot more money? Because that gets really complicated, too. Are you going to let a bartender put a tip jar out at an event?

Probably not if it’s an event where it’s in someone’s home, right? Because what you should do there, again, is if they tip you on the invoice, you tip share that out to the people who work for you. Again, that just gets into how much more complicated catering is. So make all these decisions ahead of time, set up menus and pricing ahead of time.

Think about if you can have staff or People that will be reliable to help you out. So, again, think about these things, make the decision for you, get it all decided ahead of time. Because [00:21:00] what this helps you with too is, when you get your menus and pricing dialed in to the style of food that you cook, and what kind of events you want to do, and then you start putting that out there, it will appeal to the exact kind of people who want that.

Right? If you are a down home, American style comfort food cook, and that’s the kind of events you want to do, you don’t want to just tell people that you cater, because then people are going to be like, Oh, can you do foie gras and white truffle season is in with this on and blah blah and microgreens? And you’re going to be like, Ooh, no.

And then on the flip side of that, If you don’t want to do that, and you’re putting out your sample menus and telling people this style of catering, those people aren’t going to come to you and waste time trying to get a proposal, but the people who want that food at that price point you’re charging are going to be even more excited because they know that [00:22:00] you’re doing exactly what they want.

And that’s What makes it so easy to get clients that love you, love the food you’re cooking, and have a fantastic event. And it makes it easier to get those catering jobs because, as I say all the time, all together now everybody, the people are out there and they’re hungry for what you’re cooking. So make it easier for them to find you to get excited about what you’re cooking and hire you.

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