How to Start a Meals-to-Go Home Business

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Do you love to cook? Do you have a knowledge of basic nutrition? Is cleanliness very important to you? Do you love meeting people? Are you looking for a business that you could start at home? If you answered yes, then perhaps you should consider starting a meals-to-go home business.

Things You'll Need

  • Licenses
  • Equipment
  • Transportation
  • Investment, revenues and expenses projections
  • Marketing plan
  • Research the licensing requirements of your city, county and state to see what licenses might be required. You will most likely have to have a business license, but you also may have to get a privilege or sales tax license and food handler's license.

    Also research any restrictions that may apply. Some homeowner's associations prohibit businesses being located in the home. There also may be zoning laws in your city or county which restrict what kind of businesses can be conducted out of a home located in a residential area.

  • Determine whether your state or county health department requires commercial food preparation areas, equipment and workers (that's you) to be inspected and approved. Some will not allow food made in a home kitchen to be sold commercially. If that's the case you can still proceed with your meals-to-go business by preparing the food in a commercially approved kitchen, such as a church, or in a restaurant when it's closed to the public. Or become a personal chef and prepare the meals in your client's home.

  • Take a good look at the equipment you already have to see what you're going to need. Your stove and oven may be adequate but you may need a bigger refrigerator. Food that is going to be frozen after cooking needs to be cooled down quickly and frozen fast. Does your freezer have that capacity? Examine the dishwasher to make sure it has the capacity and the high temperatures required for sanitation. Do you have enough pots and pans, a heavy-duty processor and a mixer? Finally, look at your storage facilities to see if they are suitable for storing nonperishable and perishable foods.

  • Is your transportation adequate? A compact car is great for saving gas and getting around town but not so great when you're hauling dinners for four to eight clients at the same time. A van with special shelving and storage units might be a necessity.

  • Project your needed investment, revenues and expenses. Evaluate what you need to start your business, how much money you can invest to fill those needs, what your ongoing costs will be and how much money you believe you can make in the business. Come up with a monthly estimate of investment, expenses and sales. After a year, your business should be making a profit and a reasonable salary for you. If your projections show that it won't, you may need to re-evaluate.

  • Promote your services to your niche market with a marketing plan. A niche is a small segment of a larger market. A meals-to-go business might focus on busy upscale mothers who don't have the time to cook, health-conscience couples who want food cooked without preservatives, fats or salt, or families with small children who would like a break from pizza and fast food. Promotions might include direct mail, distribution of flyers, press releases, word-of-mouth and participation in community events.

Tips & Warnings

  • Overestimate your expenses and underestimate your sales. Start small with what you know you can handle. Too many clients too fast could overtax your resources
  • Don't think you can ignore the licensing and inspection requirements by flying under the radar. The fines can be stiff.

References

  • "55 Surefire Food-Related Businesses You Can Start for Under $5000;" Cheryl Kimball; 2009
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