Just as mental and physical wellness are important to experiencing a happy, healthy life, so, too is financial wellness.
If you are working a full-time job, you should not have to worry about whether you can pay your bills, contribute to a savings account, and invest in your health with nutritious food and proper healthcare. Unfortunately, this is not the case as the restaurant industry – among others – are notorious for low wages, unhealthy working conditions, and little advancement. Our country- along with dozens of others- experienced record high unemployment rates in 2020. Each sad statistic comes with a story of struggle, loss, hope, emptiness, and helplessness. The word of the year was ‘pivot’, and for good reason: we had to reimagine how to remain relevant in the workforce in an ever-changing world with unpredictable circumstances.
In this post, you’ll learn 3 Steps To Plan for Financial Security before transitioning to the private chef world:
Create an automated savings plan
Don’t quit your day job
Narrow your niche
According to the AARP, the hospitality industry was the hardest hit in 2020.
Due to pandemic shutdowns, the hospitality industry reported a whopping 16.7% unemployment rate, up 11.7% from 5% reported in 2019 (cited here).
Many chefs, servers, bartenders, and dishwashers found themselves jobless- through no fault of their own. Restaurant owners without a monetary buffer or quick ability to pivot to to-go service were forced to shutter their establishments and, sadly, their dreams. As of May 2021, despite the reopening of many dining establishments, the unemployment rate in the hospitality industry remained high at 10.1% (cited here). If last year taught us anything at all, it is that the restaurant industry is forever changed. Restaurant owners are seeing rising employment and food cost, and slim profit margins.
Being as we had zero control over the economy and businesses being shut down to avoid potential illness, we must ask ourselves, Is the restaurant industry a sinking ship? Will the fear of another shut-down keep restaurateurs from expanding and employing? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ok waiting around to find out. It’s time to take control of your life.
If private cheffing, meal-prep, and meal-delivery is the future, why don’t more cooks make the transition?
Photo of me contemplating my cooking career, by Caitlin Collins
4 Ways to Plan for Financial Security before transitioning to the Private Chef World.
1. Create an automatic savings system.
You’re going to have some start-up costs when opening your business because we want you to do it legally and professionally (FYI, you don’t have any other option). This means finding a coach for guidance and accountability (oh, hello! Have we met?), hiring a lawyer to build custom contracts (we’ve got you covered here), making a website, and creating promotional materials like ads, business cards, and other effective marketing tools. These may all be tax deductions but you’ll need these costs up front. And having some fallback money will help you feel prepared for life’s unavoidable surprises.
Remove the excuse of not remembering to save money by automating transfers from checking to savings.
To automate your savings, you simply create a weekly transfer through your bank app or at the branch at a denomination of at least $5 per day. This is an equivalent to a daily Sbux trip. Transferring $35 over every Friday is a whole hell of a lot easier than transferring $150 at once which we only seem to remember at the same time that rent is due. Eventually, you will not even remember it is happening as you absorb it quickly.
You must spend money to make money and being prepared to do so facilitates growth. – Tiffany Thomas
As this becomes comfortable, increase the contribution to $50 weekly then later, $75. The idea, by the way, is that you ARE slightly uncomfortable transferring this much over because nothing monumental happens within our comfort zone and you probably need to stop spending money on that one thing that just came to mind when you read this sentence. Ideally, you work it up to $100 per week or more. For perspective, you may spend $400 per month on an average 2 beers and a tip for shift drinks daily after work ($13.33). This doesn’t mean sacrifice your health or activities that bring you happiness and improve your life. Track your spending and get real with what you can cut out. Oh hey, adulting.
Don’t have a savings account? GET ONE but not just any old stale storage. You’ll want a high yield interest account that compounds interest daily and deposits monthly. 2020 took a dive for APY rates- mine dipped as low at .02% but they’re creeping back up (currently at .65%). Try my favorite online high yield interest savings – Affirm. You’ll earn money on your money and their app is so easy to use. What is better than that?
2. Don’t quit your day job.
I understand that you’re eager to start your new venture or to leave a job you hate, but don’t be hasty: timing is everything. You need to prioritize essential bills and your current job could be covering that. What you’ll need before and during your transition is a different mindset to get through the next couple months. After all, you’ll be going through a big shift and preparation is key.
Start slow and get acquainted with the private chef world.
Similar to a kitchen stage, you want to try out the gig before committing, right? Preparing food in people’s homes is NOT the same as being a cook on the line in a closed kitchen. The largest detriment to chefs is when they do not understand this difference: at a restaurant, guests are eating the food you want to cook. As a private chef, you’re cooking the food they want to eat. You MUST be ok with that before venturing into our world.
There is very little room for ego in the private chef world. The definition of hospitality is to be of service while offering your talent with care.
Pick up at least one regular client per week or two dinner parties per month.
Thursday is the new Friday and Sunday is the new Saturday so don’t worry about clients only wanting gigs on the weekend when you are expected to be plating for 500 at the restaurant. Brunch parties, wedding rehearsals, and Tuesday night birthday dinners are all within regular business hours of a private chef. The best way to create wealth is with multiple streams of income so, best to get started now!
The idea is to warm yourself up to the system and possibilities of private cheffing without yet committing 100%. Allow yourself time to become proficient in a service style and see if you love it!
In the beginning, explore the avenues of weekly meal-prep, dinner parties, cooking classes, and catering to feel which avenue is best suited to you. While it seems the natural course for a restaurant chef to transition to dinner parties, you may thrive in a different environment. It is best to find out now, before you get fully booked in that niche. You are not expected to do what you’ve always done or just because you’re good at it. I was a badass sous chef running a fine-dining restaurant with a daily-changing 8-course tasting menu and now I cook weekly meals for CEOs and their kids who want to eat healthy and save time and energy to be together and I love it.
Give yourself permission to change course, try something new, and reinvent yourself.
3. Narrow your niche so far it makes you uncomfortable.
“The riches are in the niches,” they say. It doesn’t even rhyme and I rolled my eyes while typing it. But I must admit, it’s true. The effectiveness of your niche will determine your success 100%.
Wait… What is a niche?
A niche is a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.
For example, your service could be a ‘healthy private chef’ but a niche would look more like, “Seasonal organic meal prep for new moms over 40 looking to save time and energy for what’s most important”. Feel the difference?
Now that you’ve tested which avenue you love – dinner parties, cooking classes, worldwide retreats, weekly meal prep, etc. – it is time to write your niche! This means saying No to many possibilities but in turn, you are saying Yes to 1000 others- including your peace, energy, wallet, and fulfillment.
A six-figure niche compassionately hits the pain point of an extremely targeted demographic with your specific expertise and shows that your services are the obvious answer to their #1 problem.
Photo by Kao Saephanh
“Try to reach everyone and you’ll reach no one.”
I used to think this phrase was BS. Whatever- I’ll take anything! I’ll cook anywhere! For anyone! I just need MONEY and I love food! While yes, you can make a living that way, you will be energetically drained beyond belief being pulled in 10 different directions.
In the beginning, I did meal-prep, dinner parties, Yoga retreats, cooking classes, and personal shopping.. ALL OF IT. I was so spent and burnt out. I literally had NO niche. Turns out, “I cook healthy food,” is as broad as an artist saying, “I make cool shit.” I reached no one with my weak marketing.
I finally started to pay attention to which projects GAVE me energy and which DEPLETED it. Then, I formed my ideal client around who I would love to cook for and if I could end their suffering on one or more points.
Give yourself permission to stop doing the shit you hate. Do what you love, accept what you must, and delegate the rest.
Your niche should cover these essential 4 details:
What or who you are (service or expert status)
Who you serve (ideal client)
The unique problem you are solving for your ideal client (pain point)
The outcome your services will provide only by working with you.
Your niche will also:
Reflect your personality
Example: Introverts tend to enjoy meal-prep while extroverts love dinner parties and cooking classes
Example: promote health and ease without promising the effects of a current fad or diet trend;
Create financial abundance and growth
Example: regular weekly clients provide a consistent stream of income versus allowing random diners to order from a site for drop-off
My niche reflects my introverted personality, love of cooking healthy food, and background in Nutrition: Personalized Healthy Meal Prep for Busy Professionals who want to save time and energy for what’s most important.
As you can see, there are multiple ways to prepare yourself before transitioning to the private chef world.
You have to spend time, energy, and money to facilitate growth in your business. I am here to help you through the process by working smarter not harder.