Chef Deb

How to Make Money from Tasting Events

How to Make Money at Tasting Events Chef Deb Culinary Business Coach

How many of you would like to make money simply by¬†showing up at tasting events? You might be thinking “No way! I hardly break even at these events because I have to sample so much food for free!” I totally get it. No culinary business owner likes to give their food away for free, but sometimes in order to get your name out there, you have to be willing to do so but you don’t have to leave the event completely empty handed.

Today, I am sharing how I have made money from tasting events. If you don’t have a brick and mortar, then you need to find ways to get involved in the community and being at events where chefs are sampling their food products is essential. One of the best ways to sell your food is by letting people try it for themselves before fully committing to it. Think about Costco for a minute. Every week they have multiple booths set up throughout their store with samples of their various products. It not only brings people to the booth but I bet they make a sale or two by giving away free samples. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay and it’s effective.

At the start of each year, I make a list of food and wine events, charity events and other artisan events that I know my target market will be at and I strategically decide which ones to attend. How do I decide on which events are worth my time?

What I typically do first is look at the list of vendors who will be there. Are the other caterers, restaurants, personal chefs, and artisans high-end like I am? Are the other chefs well known and perhaps even local celebrities? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then most likely you need to be there too.

The next thing I look at it is the admission price to get into the event. If it’s a really low dollar amount like maybe $10, I most likely won’t participate because the people there most likely aren’t going to be big spenders or be able to afford my services. Instead, I look for events where tickets are $50 or more. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule especially when other local celebrity chefs will be there. However, this usually gives me a good indicator idea if I can find my target market at the event or not.

After that, I evaluate what kind of marketing they will be doing about me. If you are donating a service or food products to a charity event the marketing will probably be more substantial. They might send out a few press releases and include your name in it. They might even do an ad in a local magazine that gives you further exposure. Definitely talk to them beforehand so you know what kind of marketing they will do and then hold them to it. I find that I often have to follow through. The great thing about this is I’m essentially getting free marketing which further promotes my services. It’s a win-win!

Okay, so now getting to the money part. When I go to a tasting event, I come prepared with marketing basics like flyers that talk about my services and business cards, but I take it a step further. I usually host a giveaway at my table. I have a fishbowl where people can put their name and email and win 3 meals, 2 servings (so my smallest personal chef service). People always are excited about this and willing to give their information if they can win customized meals! Again, you’re probably thinking… “great, I have to give ANOTHER thing away for free!” You’re right, but it doesn’t have to be big, and I’m getting to the money making part so don’t worry. You tell everyone that you will email the winner of the meals.

Well after the event I take those names and input them into my email database. I think strategically select a winner who I think would be a good candidate for my services and then email them. Once they try the meals, they usually end up being customers. Not always, but it happens. The others who didn’t win, I now have their emails so I can send them follow up emails with a special deal to start services and start really building a relationship with them too. It’s very possible to get clients from events and I’ve had a lot of other opportunities arise from being at foodie events like getting a two-page spread in a magazine and so much more! Do you see now how you can make money from these events in addition to getting your name out there? Pretty exciting!

Of course, be mindful of how many events you attend and which ones, but in the end they can be quite profitable and be a high ROI.