Interviewing Chef Teri Porterfield of Just Eats

Remember when your business was just getting started? Exciting times, weren’t they? I have shared that excitement with several of my clients!

Chef Teri Porterfield first contacted me about helping with her website back in March 2013. She was in the process of launching her new personal chef business and needed help building a website. Since Teri was a fellow graphics professional, we were able to design and build the site very quickly. It launched within three weeks of our first meeting. Teri worked hard on improving the Search Engine results for her website, and by Fall of 2013, it was showing up on the first page of Google results for “Dallas personal chef.”

Two years later, you’d think that Teri had been in business as a personal chef for a decade or two. Already, she has brought three additional chefs into the Just Eats business, and is using her website to find new clients for them!

I recently caught up with Teri to interview her for this blog.

Chef Teri Porterfield, Dallas personal in-home chef

Chef Teri Porterfield, owner of Just Eats

Q. Teri, the Washington Post recently wrote this about businesses: “about 50 percent survive four or five years.” We have often heard even worse statistics, such as “Eight out of ten businesses fail.” You’re two years into your business, Just Eats. Have the first two years been scary?

It was very scary at first. It was “hurry up and wait” for the site to be “found” by the search engines. That was the worst part I remember, because I had no control over it. The other things, working on SEO, uploading photos, getting business cards, car signs, cooking practice… all those things I could do, but initially getting into the search results was out of my control. The clients trickled in slowly at first. I got one client then waited several months for the next one. But in hindsight, it was so much better that way. I was able to hone my craft slowly and get better, to learn what I was doing wrong and right. If I had gotten a full roster of clients all at once, I think I would have drowned and quit. Now, after so much trial and error, I have gotten the procedures down so efficiently that I do two customers per day and am still home before dark. But in the first months I wondered if I’d ever make enough money to live.

Q. What have been your most successful marketing moves?
yelpAt first, the website was the biggest source for new business, but now most of my leads come from Yelp. I have stellar reviews, and apparently a lot of people use it as a resource. I get 50-100 views and 10-20 clicks through to my website, per week, from there. Most of my new customers tell me they found me through Yelp. [Note from Brad: researching YELP, I have learned that some people are very frustrated with how it works for their business. But if you check out Teri’s truly stellar reviews, you’ll see why it’s so helpful to her!].

Q. I have noticed that visuals play a big part in your online advertising. For instance, you have Instagram and Pinterest accounts that include lots of food pictures. Tell us how you think about visuals.

Because “food porn” is so popular now, I think it is essential for chefs to have photos of their food online. People eat with their eyes as much as they eat with their mouths, and beautiful photos make people hungry and make them want to have that beautiful food at their party or weekly on their table.


Q. Early on, you created a business Facebook page. How does that page relate to your website, and how has it helped build your business?

I think the world of small business growth revolves around social media. Almost everyone is plugged in somewhere and I feel that I need to be there for them to find when they need me. I think initially, the Facebook page was just “liked” by my family and close friends. Then, a few customers “liked” me after they had a good experience. I have a standard “morning after” follow-up email that I send to every event client, that asks them to write me a review, either on Facebook or Yelp and to “like me” or follow me. This introduces me to all of their friends and puts my services into their mind. I also use my Facebook page to boost my SEO presence. I periodically write a blog on my website and always share the entries on my Facebook page. This adds multiple points of recognition to the website. Each additional point to my site adds to my search results. Every time anything refers to my website, anywhere on the Internet, adds to my presence and increases my likelihood to be on the first page of search results.


Q. I gather that you and your fellow chefs at Just Eats have two main kinds of service: one-off parties or special dinners and long-term in-home meal preparation. Do you prefer one over the other?
The parties are more profitable but less reliable and the weekly meals are less profitable, but steady. They are each important in different ways. I develop a great relationship with my weekly clients. I get to know them really well, and I’m in charge of nourishing their families. This is a great responsibility and I take that intimate relationship very seriously. Their trust in me, with house keys and alarm codes and blank checks, makes me feel very proud and the fact that I give them time to spend together with quality time gives me warm fuzzy feelings. Parties, on the other hand, are a chance to get fancy and show off. I get to try recipes and preparations and presentations that are special and dramatic. And it’s a bit of a performance. I get to present the food, listen to them ooh and aah and enjoy the dishes and sometimes get applause. It’s great for the ego.

Q. How do you see Just Eats growing in the next five years?

I am now getting more inquiries than we can do, so I plan to bring more chefs into the Just Eats family. The challenge is to find people that I can entrust with my name and reputation. And I need to find a chef that is farther west. I get some inquiries from Fort Worth, and that’s just too far for our current chefs to drive.

I have vague thoughts of opening a commercial space, to allow us to cater and to also rent commercial kitchen space out to other chefs, who might have an idea but are not ready to get a full time kitchen. I need to arrange Just Eats to be a passive income generator, so that when I’m too old to cook anymore, it will continue to support me.

I also may have an opportunity to teach a beginners class at the school where I got my training. I think that would be very challenging and fun, to help mold the next batch of culinarians.