How to Start a Home Vegetarian Food Business

Choose farmers and purveyors offering the freshest and widest variety of foods.
Choose farmers and purveyors offering the freshest and widest variety of foods. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

If starting a home-based vegetarian food business is at the top of your to-do list, you know that there’s more than one way to skin a cucumber. You can prepare meals for restaurants, cater parties or you can cook and package dishes for sale at local food stores. If you’re ambitious, you can build a brand and do all three, but before you start empire building, nurture your start-up and slowly grow your enterprise so your bottom line turns out to be as healthy as your meals.

Check out the competition and demographic in your area to make certain there’s a market for your vegetarian food business. For example, former McDonald’s executive Mike Roberts in concert with Stephen Sidwell (a former banker) announced the launch of Love Your Food Everyday (LYFE) in Palo Alto, California in 2011 because the market is ideal for establishing healthy fast food eateries. Scope out the ratio of healthy foods to not-so-healthy products at area supermarkets. If these businesses devote lots of space to fresh produce, that's a sign that shoppers buy it.

Assess your kitchen to make certain there’s ample room you can devote to storing ingredients, preparing dishes and packaging them. Lots of counter space is essential, and if you happen to own commercial-grade baking and cooking appliances, you’ll be ahead of the game. Ask municipal authorities about licensing laws. Some states and cities don’t require home-based businesses to apply for licenses and permits, but you won't know if yours is among them if you don't ask.

Contract with local farmers and food purveyors for ingredients. Your decisions on the restrictions you put into place for food guidelines will determine the type and number of resources you’ll need to keep your home vegetarian food business afloat. Will your menu be restricted to just vegan (no animal products of any kind), only organic dishes or a broader interpretation of healthy foods on the order of the LYFE founders (Step #1) who aim to serve a variety of fresh foods that fit into a general meatless category?

Develop a myriad of recipes to stay competitive and attract consumers. Rely upon veggie staples like lasagna, burritos, curry, vegetable casseroles, potato pancakes and other mainstays, but develop new recipes regularly to give diners new culinary experiences. In addition to recipe development, focus on the biggest challenges your home vegetarian business may face: pricing and shelf life. Dishes absent of preservatives present multiple challenges, and if your foods aren’t priced competitively, sales could suffer as you strive for the 20 percent profit margin folks in the food service industry seek.

Establish guidelines for publishing and tracking nutrients and food values if your aim is to sell your foods at retail stores. Calculate calories and break out fiber, fat, sodium and nutritional information. Use this full disclosure as a selling tool when you build your customer base. Whether your meals are served directly to consumers or packaged for stores, proving the healthy qualities in your vegetarian dishes should lead your list of benefits when you pitch your wholesome alternative meals to consumers and/or retailers.

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