Feb. 19, 2024

Beyond Contracts, Invoices, and Deposits: Creating a Less Transactional Experience

Beyond Contracts, Invoices, and Deposits:  Creating  a Less Transactional Experience

In this week’s solo episode of Chefs Without Restaurants, host Chris Spear delves into the controversial yet effective business practices he's adopted for his personal chef business. Chris reveals how he's successfully run his culinary business without the reliance on contracts, invoices, or deposits, placing a significant emphasis on trust and personal connections over formal paperwork. 

While his method defies many traditional business norms, especially in the personal chef world, Chris explains how this approach hasn’t hindered his success. In fact, it has opened the door to memorable interactions with clients, making each event more than just a transaction.

Addressing the nuances of dealing with corporate clients, Chris also touches upon the scenarios where contracts and invoices become necessary, illustrating flexibility and understanding of different business contexts. Despite introducing deposits as a way to secure event dates recently, he maintains his minimalistic and trust-based approach to business dealings.


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Chris Spear:

Have you considered making your business less transactional? What if you opted not to do contracts, invoices, or even take deposits. This is probably controversial, and it's something I want to talk about today. This is Chris spear. And you're listening to Chefs Without Restaurants, the show where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting. I have 31 years of working in kitchens, but not restaurants, and operate a personal chef service throwing dinner parties in the Washington DC area. So today is a solo episode, and I don't have a guest on but I do have a lot of really cool guests who will be on the show soon, I've recorded about a dozen episodes that I'm looking forward to sharing with you. So the feeling that this is going to be a little bit of a hot topic. I've talked about this with friends in the business, I've touched on it and conversations on this podcast. And I've most definitely argued with people in Facebook groups. I started my personal chef business on the side in 2010, and made it my full time job in 2016. And in that time, I've never implemented contracts with my business, nor do I intend to. I'm not a full service caterer. And I can see where you'd maybe want to contract for that. But I think if you're doing a dinner party for 10 people, you don't need a formal contract. Sure, a lot of this goes back to how I was raised. My dad always told me that a man's word and maybe a handshake are good enough. And while I plan most of these dinners through email, so I don't get a physical handshake, I do see an email as your digital word. And this isn't to say you shouldn't spell out the details of your event. But what if you had an email template that you used, I have one titled menu selection, another title payment and arrival terms, all of which are personalized for my client. For me, I find that the formality gets in the way of the type of event I want to do. As soon as you have a multi page document that says you will do this. And I will do that. And here's how much and when I get paid. It just I think presents your business in a different light. I've literally cooked for 1000s of people at this point, and not once have I not been paid what we agreed upon. Not once have I shown up and not had some food item that they wanted, or was there a miscommunication? In fact, I exclusively have five star reviews on every single platform for my business. And while I asked for the balance to be paid at the time of the event, there have been a couple times where the guest asked if they could Venmo me the money the next day. And you might think I'm crazy. But I said sure. And I've never had trouble getting paid. I just think it's easy to get caught up in a cover your ass mentality and to think the worst of people. And yes, there are bad actors out there. And yes, I've heard many of the horror stories, some of you might feel inclined to share them with me at this point. But I don't want to live a life where I'm skeptical of people, I want to make the best of them. And that means to me, if I say I'll be there at Friday night at six o'clock, here's the menu and it's $100 a person. That's exactly how it's gonna go. Going back to my dad, he was a salesman for his whole career. He worked at Sears for 40 years back then. And that was something you could make a career out of. I imagine that. But one of the things I remember was the relationship he had with his customers. He started out selling electronics. And I remember something he'd routinely do was go to people's homes and set up their stereo systems or their TVs for them for free. He come home after working a full day eat dinner. And so he had to go to someone's house to help them set up their surround sound system. Now this was off the clock, he wasn't getting paid by Sears. The customer wasn't paying him for this, though, I'm inclined to think that maybe he got a tip every now and then, though I can tell you he probably would have refused it. For him. It was all about building relationships. Gary Vee would call something like this scaling the unscalable. And I'm sure in today's climate of litigation and so forth, this would be highly frowned upon. But I think it's kind of cool. And it's also what got him referrals and repeat business. When was the last time you went into a store like Best Buy and ask for a specific salesman? Probably never. And as far as contracts and invoices go, it's a little different if you're dealing with corporate clients, so I wanted to address this. I've done some business dinners, and I know they're going to be writing this off as a business expense. And if that's the case, I will absolutely do a contract and invoice if needed. But otherwise, I'm just not interested in it. And actually didn't even start taking deposits until last year, which was 12 years into doing this. And it's not because I had any problems. But I did find that there were more people who wanted to do a party on the same day. And it was just a way for me to securing the date and giving myself a little bit of insurance that this party was going to actually happen. But I'm still asking for a very minimal amount with the complete remainder due the day of the event. For me, I just don't want to be dealing with I took a deposit of $200 on this date. Then I took $700 On this day, which is half and then he took the remaining $700 On this day, which is the final. It's just too much for me to be doing by myself. And I think I have a great relationship with my customers. By the time I get to their house for the dinner. It's almost like we've built up a warm relationship. I can't say that it wouldn't be that way if we had done contracts and invoices, but I think it would just make me feel a little more like the help and a little less like a personal chef. You know, one time I got into someone's house, and the guy said to me, Hey, I was on your Instagram. And I see you're a craft beer enthusiast. So I made sure to go out and pick up some good stuff and stocked this little fridge for you here. So if there's something you want, feel free to grab it, because I think this is all stuff you'd like. And, you know, if you don't want a beer, now you can take one with you when you go. And I just thought that was really thoughtful, and not getting into the whole drinking while you're working thing, because I think that's a slippery slope there. But the point being is it felt like we already had a little bit of a relationship before we started the dinner. There are obviously many ways to run your business. I think a lot of people like us. And by us, I mean, like personal chefs or small business entrepreneurs didn't come up with a business background. So you take what information you can, quite often, you know, you took a course you read something online, you know, someone who can help you with this. And I think a lot of the advice is to follow these traditional business formats. And there's nothing wrong with that if this works for you. Great to you. But I just wanted to present another side of that coin. I don't think it makes you look less professional to do it this way. It's just a different way of doing it. And I wanted to present that to you. You know, I'm always open to feedback, hit me up on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants or send me an email at chefs without restaurants@gmail.com. If you're in the Facebook group, we can talk about this there as well. I'd love to hear what everyone's thinking. So, as always, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to this and I hope you have a great week. Are you a personal chef looking for support and growth opportunities? Look no further than the United States personal chef association with 1000 members across the US and Canada. USPCA provides liability insurance certification lead generation and more. Consumers can trust that their meal experience is insured and supported by USPCA. Plus, hire a chef subscriptions are available to list your personal chef business at higher chef.com. To learn more about membership, advertising or partnership opportunities, call Angela at 1-800-995-2138 extension 705 or email apratth er@uspca.com. You're still here? The podcast is over. If you are indeed still here. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. I'd love to direct you to one place and that's chefs without restaurants.org. From there, you'll be able to join our email newsletter. Get connected in our free Facebook group and join our personal chef catering and food truck database so I can help get you more job leads. And you'll also find a link to our sponsor page where you'll find products and services I love. You pay nothing additional to use these links. But I may get a small commission which helps keep the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast and organization running. You might even get a discount for using some of these links. As always, you can reach out to me on Instagram@ChefsWithoutRestaurants or send me an email at chefswithoutrestaurants@gmail.com Thanks so much