Personal chefs are the must-have luxury of a post-pandemic world. COVID-19’s sweeping impact on society has included a growing desire for luxury, comfort, and ‘treating yourself’ to the finer things in life. People are embracing the opportunity to live largely and spoil themselves and their loved ones with special experiences. As good food is one of the primary ways we appreciate life, this has naturally resulted in a demand for private chef experiences.
It’s a win-win for diners – comfort, delicious food, hygiene, lower risk of infection, and all at a cost that’s comparable to eating out in a fine dining restaurant. For chefs, private chefin is an opportunity to continue making a living after worldwide restaurant closures. There are no two ways about it, private dining is on the rise – but what does it look like in Australia?
As the largest Private Chef Platform in Australia, CHEFIN is one of the most established players in the industry. Based on increased demand and the desire to better understand consumers, CHEFIN surveyed approximately 100 of its top diners to get an insight into the state of private dining in Australia.
These are some of the discoveries from that survey…(You can download the full Infographic at the bottom of the report.)
The rise of personal chefs & private dining
Personal chefs were seeing increased interest before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has fuelled the growth of the industry and taken it to new heights. We’re seeing a huge transformation in how people dine, and it’s reminiscent of the social changes that led to the evolution of restaurants hundreds of years ago.
A brief history of private chefs
Once upon a time, most chefs were private chefs. They worked in private homes and estates, catering to royalty and aristocrats. The general public didn’t have access to chefs, rather, they would eat whatever was available at inns – and the choice was limited. After the French revolution, the private chefs of the elite were out of a job and had to look for work elsewhere. Sound familiar? This event is what eventually led to the first restaurants popping up around Europe and the eventual evolution of a fine dining industry.
In 2022, the case is different but shares many similarities. Restaurant closures all around the world, as a result of the pandemic, have led to a deluge of out-of-work chefs. Most of these chefs are turning to personal chef work, where they have the opportunity to continue their work in the private sphere.
The current state of private dining in Australia
So what does private dining currently look like in Australia? Here’s what we found out from speaking to our real in-home chef diners…
Private chef experiences are not just for the wealthy.
Although 40% of diners surveyed earned an income of $100k+, almost 25% earned an income less than that. Many people consider private chef experiences to be costly and extravagant, but the truth is that most private dining experiences are comparable to spending money on a fine dining meal in a restaurant. This is a sign of the market segment expansion to the general consumer market and the desire of lower-earning households to have the same fine dining experiences at home.
⅔ of private chefs were booked for special occasion experiences at home.
Private chefs aren’t just for cool tech companies and celebrities. The majority of private chef bookings are for special occasions at home – memorable fine dining experiences are at the forefront of consumer minds! On the other hand, ⅓ of private chef bookings were for small business celebrations like the end of year parties, Christmas celebrations & team building.
Most people who plan private dining events live in the inner city or old money suburbs.
These diners made up ⅔ of those surveyed, with the other ⅓ living in rising suburbs, by the beach, or ordering private dining experiences for holidays and vacations.
Inner-city diners plan more events.
Almost ⅓ of inner-city diners were already planning their next private chef experience for the next month, more than double those from other suburbs.
Australian seafood is a symbol of fine dining.
There’s something about seafood that screams fine dining, and diners agree. 25% of people surveyed said that they favour seafood dishes for their private dining experiences. On the other hand, only 6% said that dessert was their favourite part of a meal.
Men are twice as likely to prefer seafood over steak.
While a well-cooked steak is still highly regarded, men are more likely to prefer seafood dishes when private dining. They’re still the majority meat-eaters though, with 16% of men favouring steak compared to 2% of women.
Women prefer to experiment with new and different cuisines.
25% of women surveyed showed a preference for cultural food experiences and trying different cuisines. They were twice as likely to choose a cultural food experience than men.
Men are 3x more likely to plan a private chef experience for their partner’s birthday.
Toss those cliches out the window – men do put some thought into planning their partner’s birthdays. While they didn’t care for anniversaries as much as women, they were 3x more likely to hire a private chef for their partner’s birthday.
84% of women prefer a good location for their private dining experience.
A good view matters – for women, that is. Women were more than 5x likely to plan a private dining experience in a different location than men, who seem happy to dine in at home.
Beer is not the drink of choice when it comes to fine dining.
Unsurprisingly wine is a clear winner with 39% of diners enjoying a glass of red or white with their meals, with cocktails a close second. On the other hand, just 3% of diners showed a preference for a beer with their meal.
Unique experiences are more important than food when it comes to birthdays.
People surveyed were around 10% more likely to favour a unique experience over food when planning someone’s birthday. Perhaps a blindfolded dinner or an omakase experience. When planning a partner’s birthday, however, food was more important than experience.
More than half of inner-city dwellers look to plan events in a different/unique location.
Smaller homes mean more inner-city dwellers plan private dining experiences in other locations, whether that’s a venue or an outdoor space. People like intimate, but not that intimate. On the other hand, only 10-15% of those living in the suburbs planned events in different locations – we attribute this to their homes tending to be larger with more space for gatherings and parties.
78% of private in-home dining events are birthday celebrations.
Most diners agree that a birthday is a cause for celebration – and a delicious one at that. The large majority of in-home private chef experiences were booked to celebrate someone’s birthday.
The great majority of diners prefer quick & easy booking processes.
95.5% of diners surveyed said that they highly rate the booking process allowing them to instantly & easily book a private chef or dining experience.
Why private dining is on the rise
In a world where people are able to curate their feeds, their playlists, the TV shows that they watch, a private chef experience is a chance for people to curate their own dining experiences, too. Want a fusion of Lebanese/Chinese food? Vegan degustation? To eat food that doesn’t come in plastic and is prepared fresh in front of your eyes? The customer has greater involvement when it comes to private chef experiences. They can decide what they want to go into their meals and what they’d specifically like to be left out. A private chef experience is almost like a live cooking show at home – instead of binging on Netflix you can interact with a private chef and have a Michelin starred fine dining meal in the comfort & safety of your own home.
After the social distancing of the pandemic, there’s also been a growing preference for the intimacy and connection that comes with dining in a private space amongst friends & family. It’s not necessarily about the virus and hygiene, but also realising that this dining experience is more personalised and enjoyable. You don’t have to wait to get your food, be bothered by noisy (or potentially contagious) neighbours, or unsavoury background music.
We’ve all experienced a sense of loneliness and distance over the last few years, and diners want to make up for it. Private chefs are being hired for special occasions that we weren’t able to celebrate fully over the last few years – birthdays, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, graduations. People want special experiences and intimate connections, and private chefs help create these moments.
It could be renting a luxury villa and inviting friends & family for a luxurious dining experience. Hiring a boat and enjoying chef-made food and a highly Instagrammable experience. Or hosting an outdoors dinner under fairy lights with a chef taking control of the BBQ. People want lifelong memories and exciting experiences, and they want to be amongst their closest friends and family.
Why private dining is great for chefs
Private dining isn’t just benefiting diners. On the other end of the spectrum, private chefs have more freedom to create and experiment with new dishes and follow their passion and talents without being bound by the limitations of a restaurant.
For private chef Nick Guan, it’s all about the opportunity to explore your talents and skillsets by curating your menus for different clients. He says that being a private chef means “You can start cooking again and creating menus. I can create a new menu every week, or even every day! As a head chef you’d probably make a new menu once a month – if your boss allows you to”.
Private chef Tom Burney highlights the special chef-diner relationship by saying that private dining “creates a synergy that you cannot recreate even in the top restaurants. A chef creates a menu solely for you and the executive chef oversees every detail of the service. From the chef’s side, it is unique too – to really be a part of someone’s special life event rather than just being the guy who cooks the food”.
With more people enjoying this new luxury, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever stop.
Private dining is here to stay
One thing is clear: private dining is having its moment – and we love being a part of it. See what the fuss is all about and book your private chef experience here.
Download the State of Private Dining Market infographic.
NB: N=100. Research Conducted by Petko Petkov using Typeform & GSuite Analytics