Three Types of Difficult Clients – How to Please Them

Working as a personal chef can be demanding, from self-marketing, to finding the best suppliers to purchase from, to managing multiple clients’ schedules. But even if these challenges are very cumbersome, they also are mostly expected.

What personal chefs may not think about as much are the clients themselves. While most clients may be grateful and a pleasure to work for, there is a the very real possibility a personal chef will find him or herself preparing for a less than happy customer. Here’s a look at the most common difficult clients, and how to deal.

The Indecisive Client:

This is the type of client who orders one thing and changes his mind the next. He may think he wants halibut for his next dinner, but changes his mind after the fish has already been purchased. While he may not purposely be making like difficult, his constantly changing mind throws both of you for a loop-costing you both time and money.

The Fix: Make your own expectations, and standards of what is acceptable or not, up front. You should ideally do this anyway, in the form of formal paperwork. Three things you should keep in mind:

Timeline: When is an acceptable “cut off” period for the client to change or cancel and order? Communication: If your client seems to be wavering, try to get a general sense of what he or she wants. If you get an idea of the overall experience he or she wants to have, you can offer your own suggestions

Patterns and Boundaries: Notice if a pattern of indecisiveness forms, and when. And if the client is not willing to work with your own guidelines, the two of you may not be the ideal match.

For more ways to handle an indecisive client:

The Anxious Client:

This is the one who calls or emails constantly. Sometimes it’s to discuss past or previous services, or to ask questions about upcoming ones. Whatever it’s about, the contact is constant, urgent and demanding. Your schedule and needs are not respected. And it seems like, no matter how much you reassure her that you’re prepared for the next meal, she always has more concerns and questions to pose.

The Fix: It’s a tricky situation, because you don’t want to create more anxiety in this client, nor do you want to be unconcerned with her concerns.

Set guidelines: When is an acceptable time for her to call or email? Consider limiting the mode of communication as well (just email, just calling, etc).

Be Proactive: Ask about any concerns she may have ahead of the service. Try to anticipate some of the concerns by seeing past patterns.

Understand it’s Complicated: No matter what boundaries you set, understand the anxiety around a special occasion especially is normal, and that even chronic anxiety is not a reflection of your work as a chef. 

The Bully Client:

Any chef who has experience in the field knows this type. It’s a customer who is, in some ways, the opposite of the indecisive client. He knows what he wants, exactly how he wants it, and exactly when he wants it. While personal chefs’ number one priority is providing quality food and experience to all of their clients, this client pushes as far as possible.

He may demand things above and beyond the services offered, try to bargain down prices, and insist on things not originally in the contract. He likely will threaten to take his business elsewhere.

The Fix: Fortunately or unfortunately, the fix here is usually simple. Make sure the contract, services, and prices, are made clear to the client before and during the service. Only negotiate if you are comfortable, or feel the requests and reasonable. If special requests increase, communicate and make your expectations clear again. If all else fails, this client may not be serving you, or himself well.


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