The amount of things you need in order to get started and really grow your culinary business can be overwhelming. So I set out to find every day, successful personal and private chefs from across the country to offer their words of wisdom and experience. This resulted in two volumes of the book “Behind Their Brand” that I recently compiled and launched on Amazon.
Today, I wanted to bring some of their insights exclusively to you. Ten of the chefs featured in these books, including myself, are revealing their must-have resources that will keep your culinary business running smoothly and save you time and money.
Executive Chef and Owner of Tailored Taste
For chefs new to the field, the must-have resources would be a network of others who have walked the walk. Beyond a sharp knife and strong culinary knowledge, new chefs need assistance with the business piece. This tends to be the weakest area for most personal chefs. I’d recommend honestly looking at each of your weaknesses and filling those holes with experts. Reach out to professional associations and coaches to access the knowledge needed.
Executive Chef and Owner of About the Table
If you are a personal chef or are thinking about becoming one, you should join the United States Personal Chef Association. This has been an invaluable resource for me. It involves everything from my general liability insurance to the network and support of chefs from all across the country. If you have a question about anything related to the business, someone will have an answer for you. Even on the bad days when you just need to rant about a client, this network of chefs is there to listen.
Also, you need a streamlined way to do all the computer work on the back end. Have a great recipe database software (such as Modernmeal, MacGourmet, or MasterCook) and an efficient program for your accounting (such as QuickBooks). I’ve created a comfortable office space in my home to do all computer work. Sometimes chefs put all their energy into the equipment needed or a great chef coat — which is just as important — but you need an appropriate space to do all the back end work as well.
Executive Chef and Owner of The Holistic Chef
Have a good accounting system. I use QuickBooks to do all my invoices, then I have an accountant look at everything at least once. This way I know that everything is being recorded correctly and that I won’t have a lot to do at the end of the year.
Executive Chef and Owner of Fresh from the Gardens
I’ve learned that it’s impossible for me to run my business alone. I’ve had to make a few sacrifices and switch some priorities around, but I cannot make it in my business without a good bookkeeper, a business coach and a website person to help with posting blogs, making website updates, etc. You also need a good email marketing site like MailChimp or a similar service to use for communicating to your mailing list.
Executive Chef and Owner of Chef Chic
Bounce ideas off other business owners, not just chefs. Make sure you are getting your message across the way you want to. I have tons of books on so many different topics, such as branding, managing employees, budgeting money, how to sell, how to run a biz, etc. I especially recommend that every chef understands bookkeeping. You can keep track of your own books, or you can get someone to do it for you. Always be aware of where the money is going and how much you are spending.
Chef Michael Wards
Executive Chef and Owner of The Austin Artisan
A mentor. Running your own business can at times be a dark and lonely path. Having a trusted confidant can prove to be an invaluable asset. In my case, sometimes my mentor simply acted as an outlet for my venting. Other times he provided sound advice to help me navigate uncharted waters. Without my mentor, I doubt I would still be in business.
A solid website. Without a decent website, your company doesn’t exist. I would argue that, next to business permits, a good website should be every business owner’s highest priority.
Executive Chef and Owner of Zest Culinary Service
Professional industry organizations have a wealth of tools and resources that will save you a lot of time and money. There are also a plethora of business apps out there that are useful. Entrepreneurs tend to be very ADD, so anything that helps us stay organized and on-task is a good thing. It’s also important to have a good accountant/advisor and business lawyer.
Executive Chef and Owner of Deb Miley Dishes
In today’s minute-by-minute selfie-posting, snapchatting world, a comprehensive social media presence is probably at the top of my list for a new business. With so much “noise” and information swirling around, consistent self-promotion of your business is critical. Find the right social media experts early in the process to help you create a comprehensive marketing and media strategy for your business. Maintaining a strong social media presence takes a lot of time and creativity, and hopefully you will be so busy in the kitchen that you will need to rely on an expert to help manage this for you.
I also think it is imperative to gather a board of directors that you trust and can rely on for smart advice and honest feedback — good or bad. I rely on my BOD for all kinds of things — menus, photos, programs, pricing, mistakes I’ve made and how to fix them, generating more business, recipe testing, and editing. (You all know who you are, and thank you from the bottom of my heart!) The bottom line is this: you don’t know what you don’t know. But there are people who have come before you who do know. Seek them out and rely on their experience. Then make dinner for them!
Executive Chef and Owner of The Coaching Chef
It may not seem like a resource, but the biggest “must-have” is investing. Invest in yourself. Stay up to date with resources in this industry — such as newsletters, journals, and websites — that provide the latest information on improving your business. In addition, attend conferences and workshops and join business associations to sharpen your skills. Learning is continuous and ongoing.
Compiler of Behind Their Brand Books, Culinary Business Coach of Chef Deb and Executive Chef and Owner of Savor Culinary Services and Protein Fit Kitchen
There are several must-have resources for running your own chef business. One of my go-to resources is an outstanding coach either for business in general or for distinct areas of my business such as speaking. I think having a mastermind group of same level business owner peers can be invaluable.
The first major resource for having your own culinary business is an email marketing system that allows you to store contact names for your email list and the ability to produce nurture sequences that help convert prospects into clients. Infusionsoft is a great email marketing system that I like to use.
The other valuable resource is an incredible marketing person or someone that you rely on to help you analyze your competition, develop marketing strategies and especially has a great knowledge of digital marketing and product development.
I have lived by that advice, even in slow times. Every day I get up and go to work, regardless if I’m booked on a shoot or not.