We earn commissions if you shop through the links below. Read more

How to Start a Personal Chef Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Personal Chef Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$2,050 - $8,100

Revenue potential

$62,000 - $250,000 p.a.

Time to build

0 – 3 months

Profit potential

$44,000 - $75,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

Personal chefs are not just for the wealthy anymore. Busy people are hiring personal chefs to prepare meals to be eaten later, to deliver ready-to-eat meals, or to cook for the occasional dinner party. Demand for personal chefs has seen rapid growth, with the catering industry expanding more than 40% in the last decade. 

If you’re good in the kitchen, you could start your own personal chef business and help busy people eat well while riding this growth wave and making a good living. 

But before you break out the pots and pans, you’ll need to understand the business side of things. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide explains everything you need to know to launch a successful personal chef business.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a personal chef business has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you. 

Pros

  • Share Your Passion – Wow people with your culinary skills
  • Flexibility – Run your business from home, set your hours by appointment
  • Good Money – People pay well for good food

Cons

  • Skills Required – Must be a culinary master
  • Strict Regulations – May need food and health licenses and permits

Personal chef industry trends

Industry size and growth

personal chef industry size and growth

There are no specific personal chef industry statistics, but they fall under the catering industry. 

Trends and challenges

personal chef business Trends and Challenges

Trends in the personal chef industry include:

  • Interestingly, the pandemic increased the demand for personal chefs, as people still wanted professionally prepared meals, but couldn’t go to restaurants. The trend does not appear to be slowing.
  • Personal chefs hired for corporate events and dinners are a growing opportunity.

Challenges in the personal chef industry include:

  • During the pandemic, many chefs left their restaurant jobs and started their own personal chef businesses, making the industry more competitive. 
  • Inflation is driving up food prices, forcing personal chefs to increase their prices, which may drive some consumers out of the market.

What kind of people work in personal chef businesses?

personal chef business demographics
  • Gender – 50.6% of personal chefs are female, while 49.4% are male.((https://www.zippia.com/personal-chef-jobs/demographics/))
  • Average level of education The average personal chef has an associate’s degree.
  • Average age – The average personal chef in the US is 40.3 years old.

How much does it cost to start a personal chef business?

You could run the business from home or rent out a commercial kitchen and handle more business with the help of sous chefs. Startup costs for a personal chef range from $2,000 for a home-based business to $8,000 if you rent a kitchen space. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your personal chef business, including: 

  • Kitchen appliances 
  • Pots and pans
  • Cooking utensils
  • Packaging materials/containers
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Cooking supplies and packaging containers$500 - $1,000$750
Commercial kitchen rent$0 - $3,000$1,500
Total$2,050 - $8,100$5,075

How much can you earn from a personal chef business?

personal chef business earnings forecast

Prices for personal chef services are generally per person and depend on the cost of the food. You should try to markup your costs of food to achieve a profit margin of about 70%. These calculations will assume an average per-person cost of $30 per meal. For dinner parties, this number can be higher. 

In your first year or two, you could work from home and prepare 10 meals for four people per week, bringing in $62,000 in annual revenue. This would mean nearly $44,000 in profit, assuming that 70% margin. As your business gains traction, you might increase your numbers to 40 meals for four people per week. At this stage, you’d rent a commercial kitchen and hire staff, reducing your margin to 30%. With annual revenue of $250,000, you’d still make a healthy profit of $75,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a personal chef business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • The expert skills you need in the culinary arts
  • Attracting and impressing your first few customers

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
How to Start a Personal Chef Business

How to Start a Catering Business

How to Start a Personal Chef Business

How to Start a Meal Prep Business

How to Start a Personal Chef Business

How to Start a Small Barbecue Business

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a personal chef business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research personal chef businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a professional personal chef that cooks kosher meals or focuses on vegan dishes, or a personal chef service that prepares fresh meals in clients’ homes.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as meals that meet specific dietary restrictions, or a personal chef service for dinner parties.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your services and offerings

You can do business in a variety of ways. You can deliver prepared food to customers’ homes, cook fresh meals in their kitchens, prepare meals that can be stored in the freezer, or provide in-home personal chef services for dinner parties. 

You could also offer full catering services. In any case, you should work with your clients to create meal plans for their specific tastes and dietary restrictions or needs.

How much should you charge for personal chef services?

Prices for personal chef services are generally per person and depend on the cost of the food and could be anywhere from $15 to $45 per meal. You should try to markup your costs of food to achieve a profit margin of about 70%. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will likely be more established people, who you can find on Facebook or LinkedIn. You could also try to get corporate clients by finding them on Google or Yelp and calling them directly. 

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out a commercial kitchen. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
personal chef business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Personal Chef Business Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “personal chef” or “private chef”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Culinary Creations” over “Keto Kitchen”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Personal Chef Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: A brief overview highlighting the key points of your personal chef business plan, summarizing your business goals, target market, and financial projections.
  • Business Overview: An in-depth description of your personal chef business, outlining its mission, vision, values, and the problem it solves for clients.
  • Product and Services: Detailed information on the specific culinary offerings and services provided by your personal chef business, including any specialty cuisines or dietary considerations.
  • Market Analysis: A comprehensive examination of the target market for your personal chef services, including demographics, trends, and customer needs.
  • Competitive Analysis: An assessment of competitors in the personal chef industry, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, and differentiators to position your business effectively.
  • Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting and selling your personal chef services, encompassing online presence, social media, partnerships, and promotional activities.
  • Management Team: Introduction to key team members involved in running the personal chef business, emphasizing their relevant skills and experience.
  • Operations Plan: Detailed insights into the day-to-day operations of your personal chef business, covering sourcing ingredients, meal preparation, delivery logistics, and customer interactions.
  • Financial Plan: A comprehensive overview of the financial aspects of your personal chef business, including startup costs, revenue projections, and budgeting for ongoing operations.
  • Appendix: Additional supporting documents, such as resumes of key team members, sample menus, testimonials, or any other supplementary information to bolster your personal chef business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to personal chef businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your personal chef business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

Form Your LLC

Choose Your State

We recommend ZenBusiness as the Best LLC Service for 2024

starts at $0, plus state fees

4.7/5

starts at $0, plus state fees
Visit ZenBusiness

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a personal chef business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. 

Step 8: Apply for Personal Chef Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a personal chef business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Some states have specific licensing and permitting requirements for personal chefs, so check with your state government. 

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your personal chef business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as vai, Personal Chef Office, or modernmeal, to manage your schedule, recipes, inventory, and invoicing.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Leverage Social Media Platforms: Utilize platforms like Instagram and Facebook to showcase your culinary creations, share behind-the-scenes moments, and engage with your audience through visually appealing content.
  • Run Targeted Online Ads: Invest in targeted online advertising to reach potential clients in your local area, focusing on platforms like Google Ads and social media ads to promote your services directly to those seeking personal chef experiences.
  • Collaborate with Local Influencers: Partner with local influencers or food bloggers who can help amplify your brand by reviewing your services or featuring your dishes, providing authentic testimonials and expanding your reach within the community.
  • Offer Cooking Classes or Workshops: Host cooking classes or workshops to showcase your skills, connect with potential clients, and create an additional revenue stream while establishing yourself as an authority in the culinary space.
  • Create Promotional Packages: Develop enticing promotional packages or limited-time offers to encourage new clients to try your services, such as discounted multi-course meals, special event catering, or loyalty programs for repeat business.
  • Optimize for Search Engines (SEO): Enhance your online presence by optimizing your website for search engines. Use relevant keywords, update content regularly, and encourage satisfied clients to leave positive reviews, boosting your visibility in local search results.
  • Collaborate with Local Businesses: Form partnerships with local businesses, such as fitness centers, wellness clinics, or event planners, to offer your personal chef services as part of exclusive packages or promotions, expanding your clientele base.
  • Utilize Email Marketing: Build an email list and regularly communicate with your audience, sharing updates, seasonal menus, and exclusive offers. Email marketing is a cost-effective way to nurture relationships and keep your services top of mind.
  • Attend Food Festivals and Events: Participate in local food festivals, markets, or community events to introduce your brand to a wider audience, allowing potential clients to taste your offerings and providing a memorable experience.
  • Focus on Client Testimonials: Collect and prominently display positive client testimonials on your marketing materials, website, and social media. Satisfied clients can be your best advocates, influencing others to choose your personal chef services.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your personal chef business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your personal chef business could be: 

  • Busy schedule? Let our chefs prepare delicious meals in advance
  • Impress your dinner party with top-notch French cuisine from our expert chefs
  • We bring it all and cook tasty, healthful meals in your kitchen

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a personal chef business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in personal chef businesses for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in personal chef services. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a personal chef business include:

  • Sous Chefs – assist with meal preparation
  • General Manager – scheduling, ordering, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Personal Chef Business – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Personal chefs have gone mainstream, which means now is a great time to start your own personal chef business to show off your culinary abilities and make a good living. If you have a passion for good food and for making your customers happy, you have a great chance of serious chef success! 

You’ve got the business know-how in your cupboard now, so it’s time to break out the pans and launch your successful personal chef business. 

Personal Chef Business FAQs

Is a personal chef business profitable?

Yes, you can earn a good profit margin with a personal chef business. You just need excellent culinary skills and a passion for cooking and taking care of clients, and you can be successful.

How can I learn to be a personal chef?

You can take courses through the United States Personal Chef Association by getting a membership for about $600. You can also get a personal chef certificate through the American Culinary Federation. Different certifications are available by meeting various requirements.

How do I market myself as a personal chef?

To market yourself as a personal chef, focus on building a strong online presence by creating a professional website, utilizing social media platforms, and showcasing your culinary expertise through high-quality food photography. 

What is the difference between a personal chef and a private chef?

The main difference between a personal chef and a private chef lies in the nature of their work. A personal chef typically serves multiple clients and prepares meals in their clients’ homes. They often work on a part-time or freelance basis, offering customized meal plans and catering to individual dietary needs. On the other hand, a private chef is typically employed by a single client or household, working full-time to handle all aspects of meal preparation for that specific client or family.

How can I differentiate my personal chef business from competitors in the market?

To differentiate your personal chef business from competitors, consider focusing on a specific niche or specialty, such as organic or farm-to-table cuisine, international flavors, or dietary-specific meal plans (e.g., vegan, gluten-free). Emphasize your unique approach to menu planning, quality ingredients, and personalized service. 

What types of meals can a personal chef business prepare?

A personal chef business can prepare a wide range of meals depending on clients’ preferences and dietary requirements. This can include personalized menus for everyday meals, special occasions, or events. Personal chefs often customize their offerings based on clients’ dietary restrictions, allergies, or specific nutritional goals. 

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How to Start a Personal Chef Business