ChefsTBL: The business idea in response to Coronavirus
Interview with Kim van der Zande
“That review shows that CHEFSTBL has created and experienced something very special”
Tell us about the beginning. Why and when did you start ChefsTBL?
I started CHEFSTBL together with Bart. We got to know each other at a marketing agency. Which is where we got a taste of the start-up world and selling that company, I quickly decided that I wanted to do it again. It was too much fun and I’d learnt too much not to try. I’ve always found entrepreneurship very interesting.
Bart and I had stayed in touch and the last year and a half, we started contemplating new business ideas. CHEFSTBL was born at the end of the first lockdown. We both missed going out for drinks or a bite to eat, enjoying good food and the whole restaurant experience.
But even before Corona, during dinners at home with friends and family, we found that someone is always responsible for the cooking and is not completely present. In our opinion, it’s quite nice sometimes if you can just enjoy the company of your guests and not worry about anything else.
So, we started to do some research. And we found out that there is a complete market of private chefs who come to your home to serve you delicious food and pamper you. Then when we found out about the prices, we really had the feeling that this was the hospitality industry’s best kept secret. We also discovered that there wasn’t a site where you can easily find private chefs available for booking.
Which is why, last Spring, we decided to start CHEFSTBL – a platform where you can book a chef at home for your dinner.
So… how’s it going?
CHEFSTBL is beating our expectations. At the same time though, I do get nervous about all the new Corona measures. They do have a direct, negative impact on our business. On the other hand, we are still in business, which puts us in a better position than most in the hospitality industry. So yes, we are doing great. But we also have to do better.
How do you handle the ever-changing Corona measures?
The only way is to keep adjusting. It’s important to continuously think of what is still possible.
“The only way is to keep adjusting.”
For example, when the number of guests was reduced to three people at the end of September or the beginning of October, we had to make a decision. Either we stop and to go to ‘sleep’ for three months or longer. Or we also offer dinners for two to three people. Since our minimum used to be six, this was a big change to our business model. However, with the necessary alterations, we did make this change and we were able to stay in business.
What are your tips for those who are now starting their business?
My first tip is to think of the long-term. If you start a company during Corona, everything is relatively uncertain. Only do it if you really believe that your company can also be of added value in the long-term. This is something we actually suffer from now, that people think we are a ‘trick’ and that we will only be here during this crisis. However, this is not the case. We believe that CHEFSTBL will remain to give added value to the hospitality industry.
My second tip is to ensure that you are agile and resilient in the current state of affairs. Things can go in any direction, both externally and internally. So do not assume that everything will run smoothly and be prepared for this.
And my third tip is to build a resilient and flexible culture within the company. We are very proud of the CHEFSTBL team who are able to approach everything so positively.
What did you find the hardest in terms of leading your business during Corona?
For me, it was on a personal level. Starting a business while the children are at home too is quite challenging. And even in this aspect, I am lucky. My wife has taken on a lot and my children are independent. So, it’s not been nearly as difficult as it has been for some others. But that was the hardest part for me.
Where do you think CHEFSTBL will be in five years’ time?
We hope to have conquered the whole Dutch and European market by then. In addition, we hope to have become an established concept and name in the food, or at least the hospitality, industry. We should also exactly know by then which occasions CHEFSTBL is best suited for – family occasions, corporate parties and/or weddings.
How are chefs finding CHEFSTBL?
Actually, many people believe that we only work with restaurant chefs. However, the number of restaurants is only 10%. The other 90% are self-employed. Many of these chefs have decided that they prefer to do private dining. They like the freedom and want to be an entrepreneur. In particular, they like to use their creativity and receive direct feedback and appreciation from their customers.
“They like to use their creativity and receive direct feedback and appreciation from their customers”
Plus, they usually used to have their own network of families who would call and book them for private dinners every now and then. So, although their work has remained the same (with the exception being the number of people that they can serve), they now have one place where they can be booked and thereby also reach a greater number of potential customers.
Can you tell me about the best reviews you’ve received during the new Corona measures?
We usually receive messages the morning after they’ve enjoyed a private dinner. Just this morning I received a text message from a lady who had to rearrange her wedding to a very small affair due to the Corona measures. Through CHEFSTBL, she booked a chef that cooked an amazing dinner for her and the few guests that were allowed to attend. She said: ‘I loved what you arranged for our wedding; do you have a chef that we can book for Valentine’s Day?’
That shows that you have created and experienced something very special – an evening that was seemingly going to have to be cancelled, that we were able to participate in and strike a chord with people, which also sees them to come back to CHEFSTBL and want to use our services again. That’s exactly why we do what we do.
One of CHEFSTBL’s most popular chefs once told me: ‘It looked like 2020 would become a really awful year, but because of CHEFSTBL, I actually had a very good year instead.’
We’re very excited to see what the future holds.