When you run a small business, like a personal chef company, it can be helpful to keep track of trends–both to keep you in the know about the industry and consumers and to give you some new ways to think about what you do and what your clients want or need.

SmartBrief published a piece on July 2, 2020 by Laurie Demeritt, the CEO of The Hartman Group, which does market research. The Hartman Group just released The Hartman Group/FMI U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker report representing mid-May. Here’s some of what they found:

  • In planning meals, focus often goes to minimizing trips and waste through smart use of perishables.
  • Over one-third (36%) feel they are now eating healthier. Younger consumers especially have adjusted how they eat, with more emphasis on maintaining a healthy body while at home.
  • Older consumers aim to safeguard their health via prudent consumption, minimizing trips and waste.
  • During the timeframe of the report during the lockdown, 41% of consumers said they were cooking more of their meals, 27% said they were “planning more meals in advance, and 20% said they were trying more new dishes.
  • Consumers are reevaluating the very necessity of shopping trips and turning to larger, less frequent trips and alternative modes of sourcing perceived to be safer, such as online and click and collect.
  • Consumers are reevaluating the very necessity of shopping trips and turning to larger, less frequent trips and alternative modes of sourcing perceived to be safer, such as online and click and collect.
  • Looking farther ahead, new routines that focus on preparation for the unknown are likely to have lasting impacts.

Spinach Salad with balsamic vinaigrette and candied walnuts

So, no surprise, the pandemic has deeply impacted consumers’ lives when it comes to food and cooking. But what about those who are finding being in the kitchen less joyful? This same report noted that 23% of shoppers said their priority when cooking is to spend as little time as possible doing it and 33% said they seek “something interesting” to eat when they cook at home, which apparently indicates some fatigue with cooking.

And here’s where it gets even more fascinating for you: More than half–57%–of households outsource cooking to food service and dine out at least one a week with 21% doing it three or more times.

Is there anyone more “food service” than a personal chef? For these shoppers, the decision between cooking at home–seen as being more healthy than eating out–considers three things: cost, time and effort, and taste and cravings.

These little data bites should make you stop and think about the possibilities for your personal chef business. They can guide you on how to market yourself to potential clients or sell yourself again to clients who may have drifted away around March when the world started shutting down. And, they can also give you some inspiration for a new way to conduct your business or add services to it for now, during the pandemic,  and once it eventually comes to an end.

It could mean not just preparing meals for clients but sending the message that their exhaustion in preparing their own meals–and perhaps the same old things–can come to an end with an exciting menu you create for them.

Baja Fish Tacos with Quinoa

For those still anxious (including you) about preparing meals in clients’ homes, it could mean renting time in a commercial kitchen, perhaps a restaurant kitchen that’s reduced hours and could use some income, and then delivery the meals to them. Sometimes the old way doesn’t work all the time.

And then there are those people who you could help by putting together a weekly menu of recipes and sourced ingredients. You could do your own version of a Blue Apron and create a video cookalong to help with technique.

Look above at what you’ve learned about consumers. They don’t like making grocery store trips. They want to eat healthier. They want to prepare meals in advance. They want to try new dishes. How can you not look at this data and project your own business onto it! This is an opportunity a serious personal chef should take advantage of!

How is your personal chef business evolving during the pandemic? What are you learning about consumers during this time?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership. 

And if you are a member and have a special talent or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

Breakfast tacos for dinner! Some chorizo with carrots mushrooms and chard, avocado, red onion, backyard eggs: Contributed by The Quarantined Kitchen member Trish Watlington

One of the phenomena that the pandemic has brought to social media is the rise of sharing in the quarantine kitchen. In fact, a private group I joined when it launched last March on Facebook is called The Quarantined Kitchen. Already it has 2.3 thousand members.

It’s by no means the only one. Another Facebook Group, Quarantine Meals, is even larger. Enormous, in fact, since it’s a public group, with 45.2 thousand members.

And, then there’s the more intimate private Facebook culinary lockdown group launched by APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service in Boston. She calls her group ChefDemic. It  currently has 520 members.

What the three have in common is that members are encouraged to share photos and videos of the foods they’re preparing, share recipes, ask questions, and generally be a culinary gathering place. Or as Jenn Felmley, a San Diego chef who started The Quarantined Kitchen said, “My goal is to make this an online kitchen where everyone can gather.”

For Robinson, there was also a practical issue that needed solving.

“As things closed down for the pandemic emergency, we found ourselves looking in our freezers and pantries wondering what runs on grocery stores would look like, the panic buying,” she explains. “On a whim I turned to social media and created a Facebook group, ChefDemic. All the people included in the initial invitation seemed to like the name and the idea. The premise was to have a place where friends could come on and say, ‘Hey? I have such and such and no idea how to cook it, but it was all the store had.’ We also wanted to concentrate on what people had at hand in their homes and how they could utilize those items to minimize food waste.”

Initially Robinson thought there would be 20 to 40 people talking back and forth about shredded pork over some odd grain they found and what to do with half a bag of greens. What happened, along with that, she saw, was the building of a supportive community, free from virus talk and politics, dealing only with the food they were making at home, sharing ideas, photos, troubleshooting.

“Dennis [her partner] and I started some short, informative videos, posted what we were eating at home, a few instructions on cuts of meat and freezing. After a week or two, we had people asking to add friends. Then we noticed that conversations were taking place between members who were jumping in to help others with questions. Talk about a wealth of talent and information.

“I have always despised the term, ‘safe place,'” says Robinson, “but during this whole time I have embraced it as we have provided a safe place for over 500 friends and family members, including every level of talent out there, and for ourselves. And the posts have been creative, funny, supportive, informative, and people have stuck to the rules. I have received many private thank you notes via text and Messenger which confirms that there are people craving distraction.”

Most recently on ChefDemic a group member was wondering what to do with quail eggs–and four days later triumphantly posted several photos of her Angus burger with edam cheese, quail eggs, tomatoes, butter lettuce, salt and pepper on toasted, sprouted rye. There are photos of seared polenta cake, pulled pork, and coleslaw; photos of fish markets; photos of chicken and mushroom asparagus crepes with a mushroom dill sauce; shrimp zoodle pad thai; and Bibimgooksu (Korean Cold Mixed Noodles)–and so much more.

And here’s where you can find ChefDemic’s YouTube channel.

 

I know a lot of the folks who post on The Quarantined Kitchen and find myself posting on it pretty regularly. It’s filled with chefs and food writers, and, as you’d expect, a lot of dedicated home cooks–many of whom share dishes they’ve made with food they’ve grown.

To join the private groups, simply head over to the group page and request to join. Once you’re a member you can also invite your friends. These are wonderfully quirky groups and places where you can not just show off your own creations, but get inspired by what others are making and learn how they do it–all while getting out of your head a bit if you’re still in lockdown at home.

Do you belong to a Facebook culinary group? What have you gotten out of it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership. 

And if you are a member and have a special talent or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

We Can Do This!

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 16, 2020

How’re you doing? Coping with the chaos? Our chef members are the rocks of their communities. In times of disruption there may be nothing more important than to have focus, a strategy, pragmatism, and, yes, optimism. Every state and locale is experiencing this coronavirus pandemic differently so far but what we have in common is to critical mandate to protect ourselves and our society by following CDC guidelines and keeping up with federal, state, and local direction.

APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace has been through tumultuous periods before–from recessions to 9/11 to other pandemics. Naturally, she has a great perspective on what we’re going through now and advice for member chefs.

I have been struggling with this situation, like you, for weeks, watching it evolve so that I could offer realistic recommendations and suggestions to support our personal chef members.

This is even more challenging than the financial challenges of 2008 with the gravity of a global pandemic. Safety from contagion is paramount. Peace of mind, professional leadership, and stability are vital to prevent panic. Personal chef clients hire us because they need/want our assistance and guidance, so how can we continue to be useful in the present situation?

Let’s address first what we are dealing with: A fear of food source instability that’s causing panic buying, fear of exposure, and a lack of comprehensive information and/or direction from our government to name a few. Let’s not forget anxiety and the collapse of our way of life when it comes to employment, healthcare, education, sports/entertainment outlets, and organized face-to-face religious support and worship.

Let’s be honest. We are in a state of chaos where the parameters change with the fluidity of liquid mercury so the ability to adapt service for clients while remaining safe is the quandary.

What do we know with certainty at this point?  Not much. But this is no time to panic. We’re smart; we’re resourceful. And we’re among the luckiest of our citizens. So, let’s make use of it. How? Think of this period as a time to prepare, do your best to help clients and your families, and plan for the future–because this will resolve and life as we knew it will resume.

I have no doubt that when the chaos settles and the fear factor is reduced, personal chefs are going to be a big part of the recovery process and an enormous asset for a population that wants to get well and maintain  a healthy lifestyle. So stay in touch with your current and past clients, offer services that don’t put you in any jeopardy, and be a resource of advice and tips on being safe in their home kitchens in an epidemic and they will rely on you in the future.

What do I advise?

  • Wait. Watch. Pay attention. Rest. Exercise. Eat well. Keep safe. Remain calm.
  • Prepare to react quickly when we have real and reliable information.
  • Use this opportunity to update your recipe files and develop new healthy recipes.
  • Help current clients by updating them on ways to stay safe and offer support through communication and information.
  • Use social media to communicate your presence and commitment to the well-being of your clients and your community. Post current information impacting resources that impact your specific area so they will turn to you as a reliable source of information and support.
  • Stay in touch with your professional colleagues to glean and share information, suggestions and support.
  • Stay in touch with us–we have our forums and Facebook page and group that are all great resources for sharing information and comparing notes.

Let’s face it, our world is changing. We are in what I refer to as a breakdown across the board of Epic Proportions, and yes, I intentionally capitalized those last two words. We must be part of the equally Epic BREAKTHROUGH that is on the other side of this dreadful current reality.

In order to survive as professional personal chefs and rebuild our businesses and industry we must choose to be part of the change, be able to adapt and address the realities that are in the process of revealing themselves, and act quickly implementing a new service model when we have enough real information to determine direction.

In the next week stay safe, rest, reflect and recharge your batteries. And be sure to let us know what you need from us and keep us posted on what’s happening in your community!

Are you still able to work with clients? What kinds of challenges are you facing and how are you resolving them?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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