If you promised to cook a gourmet meal after your clients' kitchen was done, would they take you up on the kitchen -- and dinner? That technique has brought mixed results for amateur chef/remodeler Thomas Buckborough of Thomas Buckborough & Associates.

But building a menu or an addition offers the Concord, Mass., contractor equal satisfaction. "I like having clients feel spoiled," he says. "The motivation and reward out of it is the same in both cases for me."

After a remodel, Buckborough and his fiancée, Cynthia First, offer to cook a meal for clients. Buckborough asks clients to invite friends to the dinner or brunch -- people he sees as potential leads. The two have no formal training but have done plenty of dining out and at-home experimentation. (Buckborough considered culinary school before entering the trades 20 years ago.) "A lot of people get intimidated," he says, supposing it may be his offer to pair wines with dishes, or the sample menu, listing such possibilities as curried cream of eggplant soup with crab or osso buco. Still, he's surprised that only a handful of people have accepted the offer.

He says the practice leaves clients with a good taste in their mouths -- literally. He thinks it means he's ended on good terms if he can comfortably socialize. The meals follow significant projects, those of $100,000 or more. "I don't tend to spare any expense," he says of the $400 to $700 meals.

Buckborough raises the possibility of a gourmet meal early if he connects with the prospects or feels it will make them think him more personable. Reactions have ranged from chuckles to one seemingly enthusiastic couple not calling back.

Contractor Thomas Buckborough has figured out a way to leave a good taste in his clients' mouths once their remodel is finished. He and his fiancée, Cynthia First, cook clients a gourmet meal once he completes a remodeling project for them.
COMPOA Contractor Thomas Buckborough has figured out a way to leave a good taste in his clients' mouths once their remodel is finished. He and his fiancée, Cynthia First, cook clients a gourmet meal once he completes a remodeling project for them.

Buckborough is testing the chef-contractor tie as a marketing move by advertising in a "taste of the town" charity brochure. Under a hammer and whisk, his ad asks prospects if they'd like a "gourmet meal with every kitchen."

"It seems like a way to create personality," he says. "Some people may connect and find a reason to call."