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In order to create and sustain relationships with your clients, you need to gain their trust. Many chefs spend so much time focused on their craft they forget the single, critical ingredient every client needs – trust. It’s one thing to cook great-tasting food and a whole other matter to describe you and your services in such a way that clients want to pay you well for your craft.
Chefs are keen to use any number of buzz words to describe their food.
Farm to table. Clean food. Local. Sustainable. Organic. Grass-fed.
All these words help describe your food and sourcing. Clients want to hear these terms to feel good about the food you’re preparing. By the very nature of your work, chefs always have a lot to say about health and nutrition. Since clients have come to expect this as a matter of course, this alone will not elevate you from your competition.
Chefs wisely follow trends that clients demand.
There are food trends every chef follows. Either because the chef loves to experiment or expand their skillset. Professional curiosity = bread made with cricket flour. Or, sometimes, clients are enraptured by trends and request them. Yes, popcorn shrimp is still in demand.
Several years ago, barbeque was hot, and rubs and salts were the rage. Fermented vegetables, naked layer cakes, and coffee-rubbed steak were but a glimmer in the mind’s eye of some distant culinary creative.
Trends will directly or indirectly shape your independent chef business. But, they don’t tell a client what they really need to know about you.
Subheading: Remember trust is the one ingredient every client needs.
The one ingredient clients need in every dish is trust. A client needs to have confidence and certainty in the chef cooking for them.
The fact is, being fed by another person is a highly intimate relationship. History proves it’s a potentially risky one, too. An 1198 treatise to the Sultan Saladin of Egypt and Syria by scholar Maimonides advised him to avoid foods with strong flavors, especially onion and garlic. As well as those elaborately prepared or containing texture because these could hide the presence of poison. “All … foods are best taken from a reliable person, above all suspicion, because the way to harm [is] by poison.”
There are well-known stories of kings watching a cupbearer sample the food or drink the wine followed by clutching their throat and falling over dead. Today, few chefs give any thought to having to convince a client the food they are serving isn’t laced with arsenic. Don’t take this topic lightly. Every chef is well-served to remember that with every bite a client trusts you implicitly with their health, nutrition, and safety.
Four ways to show your client they can trust you.
Trust is about so much more than food safety. A client’s perception of trust includes more than a chef’s prerequisite commitment to food safety and sanitation. The four most common elements needed to develop trust are competence, reliability, integrity, and communication. Trust is the single most valuable ingredient you can include in any culinary creation. Without it, you’ll have trouble getting clients to the table.
- Competence – You should have this one in the bag, chef. Trust starts with you knowing how to cook, understanding food sensitivities and allergies, and possessing basic competence in food safety. Enough said.
- Reliability – A reliable chef does what they say they’ll do when they say they’ll do it. No excuses. If you promise you’ll provide a menu for the client to review within 24 hours, don’t take 25. Chefs who follow up and follow through reliability are vastly more successful than a more talented but flaky chef.
- Integrity – Integrity is defined as doing the right thing even when no one is looking. You can’t afford to have clients concerned about whether or not you’ll conduct yourself professionally in their home. To build trust in you and your services, your brand and message should convey not just your food but your values and principles.
- Communication – Communication is way more than just words. It is about how you present yourself to others, both verbally and non-verbally. Yep, personal hygiene communicates a lot. Crisp, ironed whites and impeccable hygiene build trust without you speaking a word. How you package and deliver food goes a long way to build the trust a client needs to invite you into their home week after week. (It is properly labeled and neatly placed in their fridge, right?)
Here’s an example of one way to build trust.
In June, I shared my COVID-19 Best Practices guide with you. Letting your clients know that you’re concerned with their health and safety will build their trust. Keeping up on what is happening the world is one way to do that. Another way is to proactively do something about what you learn.
Chef, your clients trust never goes out of style and it’s always in demand.
Trust is the most important ingredient in your work as an independent chef. Without it, creating and sustaining successful relationships with clients is difficult. It’s not that they fear you’ll poison them and take over their throne. It is because they are inviting you into their home to nourish their loved ones. Whether you’re working as a personal or private chef, communicating your competence, reliability, and integrity should be as important as describing each dish you create. Consistently communicate this in your marketing and branding, as well as in every conversation with your clients. It will translate to more clients and greater loyalty for your services than any trendy dish can offer.