Restaurant Chefs Search for Greener Pastures
SAN DIEGO, California – As feast turns into famine for restaurant operators facing plummeting food sales in the current economic downturn, even executive level chefs are finding their jobs in jeopardy. In the wake of dining establishments shutting down or cutting back staff, those chefs are increasingly looking beyond the battered restaurant industry at the growing personal chef industry as a lucrative occupational niche.
According to Tom Stieber, CEO of San Diego-based Big City Chefs Corporation, the country’s first nationally positioned personal chef service provider, the economics of the personal chef business indicate that it may be one segment of the food industry that can better withstand the impending recession than traditional dining establishments. For example, he notes that while restaurants must maintain relatively high prices in order to cover fixed expenses such as rent, management, staff, and utilities, personal chefs, who provide personal services cooking customized meals in clients’ homes, operate relatively independently and efficiently. As a result, as restaurant check averages in large cities like San Diego have soared to over $30 per person in recent years, personal chef services, which can run as little as $12.50 per entrée, provide an affordable alternative to cost-sensitive customers looking for value-priced restaurant quality food.
The benefits of low overhead add up to competitive earnings for personal chefs. Stieber notes that despite aggressive entrée pricing, his company’s chefs earn higher average hourly earnings than most restaurant chefs, partly due to the fact that minimal fixed expenses allow the business to pay its chefs a much larger cut of revenues. As a result, the company increasingly works with high profile chefs to deliver a variety of services.
Big City Chefs’ newest personal chef recruit, Nathan Slovatizki, represents the growing contingent of high-caliber chefs answering the industry’s call. Slovatizki, who left his position as Executive Chef at San Diego’s acclaimed Tupelo (part of the Cohn Restaurant Group) to pursue personal chef work, had the competitive edge of big-name experience under his belt. He previously worked with celebrity chefs Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck, and Emeril Lagasse at their respective restaurants. Although likely to find another restaurant job after Tupelo’s unexpected recent closure, he decided the personal chef industry could be a lucrative route given the current economic climate.
Stieber’s company also draws big names to cooking demonstrations his company coordinates at exclusive residential communities. Regional celebrity chefs such as Josh McGinnis, executive chef at Spectrum Foods’ popular Prego Ristorante in San Diego, are using the opportunity to cook for an affluent audience as a means to promote their employers’ upscale restaurants during the turbulent economy.
Bringing on big talent to the personal chef business means frugal but sophisticated consumers can increasingly enjoy attractively priced restaurant quality foods in their homes and communities. Combined with personal chefs’ unsurpassed level of personal attention to clients’ specific dietary needs and culinary preferences, Stieber believes the personal chef industry may particularly flourish in the months or years ahead. “Customers that spent a lot of money dining out during the late 1990s have modified their budgets and values, but not their tastes,” he believes. “Bringing the restaurant chef into the home permits people to enjoy unparalleled quality and personalization of food while keeping their monthly food expenditures modest during uncertain economic and political times.” As more high-level chefs discover this demand, Stieber predicts Big City Chefs will continue to raise the bar on this lucrative market niche.
To contact Big City Chefs, call toll free at (866) 321-CHEF.