Client Feedback: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Feedback from your clients is the most valuable thing they can provide you.  Good feedback of course we all love. But critical (or “negative”, to put it in a negative way) feedback, hopefully provided in a reasonable manner, is crucial.  Without it, you won’t know what you can improve on, and how your clients really feel about the food.  After all, nobody loves everything.

I offer new menu ideas to all of my clients prior to every cookdate, and one of the downsides of a busy schedule is there isn’t always time to test out every new idea or recipe you got from elsewhere.  So, occasionally a stinker may sneak through – a dish that sounded good but just doesn’t quite come together well enough. Sometimes, you’ll make a dish that you think is perfectly delish, and the client simply won’t care for it.  Other times, you make a mistake and a dish doesn’t come out like it should.  (Those cases are when you need to seriously consider scrapping and replacing it. The client’s paying you a goodly sum to prepare delicious meals – if you mess one up, hoping your client won’t notice can reap very negative consequences!  If your schedule permits, replace it that same cook date; if not, do it as soon as humanly possible.)

Let your clients know, often, that you want their feedback – good, bad, or meh. Remind them that they won’t be hurting your feelings (and you really must hide it if they do); you need all comments because otherwise you won’t know if they don’t like something, and you might unwittingly keep doing it!

I’ve found that feedback forms etc really don’t work, though by all means try them out if you want to.  Maybe put one on your web site? I think if someone’s busy enough to need you, they probably won’t take time to fill out your forms.  Instead, just keep asking them how things are going; how they liked a particular dish, etc.  Not too often or you’ll get on their nerves.  Every 2-3 cookdates is fine.   Ask a  specific question, to help move them past “everything was good!”  “What did you think of the fish last week – was the marinade spicy enough?”   “Do you like the chicken breasts left whole that way, or do you prefer them sliced?”  Etc.  If you see them in person at their cookdates, ask them there.  If not, ask them in email or by phone, however you usually communicate.  And don’t forget to remember when they tell you something like “By the way, I think we tend not to really care for fruity flavors with meat,” or something else that you should note as a general rule.

New ongoing section, a kind of a tip o’ the day:

Chefchick Says: Using peeled (fresh, organic) garlic really saves time. For a couple of bucks a container, you can avoid the messy, time-consuming peeling and cleanup of all those pesky papery skins all week long.

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