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(Nov 8, 2020) Should I offer discounts in my personal chef business?

When first starting your personal chef business, it's not unusual for your friends and family to ask you to offer your cooking services for free or at a discount. They may even package it as "getting your name out there."

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Decide now how you will handle discount requests in your business

You might be tempted when you first start out in business to offer your services for free or maybe even at a discount.

When I first started in business, I had a friend who owned a hair salon and was going to be having an art opening. She thought it would be a great opportunity for those who have never been to her business to visit her salon while perusing works of art. She asked if I would be interested in catering the event.

Especially since I was new in business, I was extremely excited about catering this event and wanted to make it extra special. I spent a lot of time researching interesting appetizers, probably more time than usual since I was new. I created a fantastic menu with pricing, then sent it over. She replied back, “oh, I thought since you’re new in business that you’d like to do it for free to get your name out, like a free promotion.”

That was really disappointing because I thought I was getting my first catering event, yay, but no, she wanted free business. It actually wasn’t free to me. I would be paying for the food and all my time. My time is free, but is it really? She would be having new visitors check out her salon, but for me, I may have one or two people asking, “oh, who did the food?” In reality, they’re thinking, “oh look, free food while I look at art.” They’re probably not much interested in the catering company. Ultimately, I decided, “no, I don’t think this is going to be the crowd that’s going to bring me new business” and I walked away from it.

How do you respond to a "discounted" request?

It’s tough when your friends ask, “would you be interested in catering a party for me for free or at a discount to get your name out there?” It’s really hard to say, “I don’t work for free. I’m a professional. I do this for a living. I don’t want to give away my business for free.”

You can’t really walk into a brand new restaurant and say, “I’ve never been here before. Do you have a free sample tasting menu that I could check out because if I like it, I may come back next week to have dinner and really pay for it.” That is never going to happen.

How valuable is your time?

It takes a lot of time to gather your recipes, put together a menu and create pricing for an event. You also have to prepare the food and gather serving platters. It takes hours and hours to put together an event. It’s unfortunate that people think you can just throw it together and present it for free.

I’m of the opinion that you should always be a professional and take the stance of never offering your product for free or at a discount. Bargain hunters are just not the clients you want.

Do you have a discount or coupon business model?

If you do find that many of your potential clients are asking for discounts on your services, you may need to rethink your business and the target market you’re attracting. If the people you’re approaching for business don’t agree with your pricing, look at your target market. Look at your target market before you start looking at reducing your prices.


It's wonderful to see perspectives on how others run their personal chef business. If you'd like to share your personal chef journey, I'd be honored to have you as the next guest post.

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