How to start a home-cooked meal delivery service

Written by shanika chapman
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Busy parents who don't have time to cook are always looking for convenient ways to feed their families. As long as there are working parents and busy singles, there will be a demand for convenient, well-priced, ready-made meals. If you've got some signature recipes that friends and family can't get enough of and you enjoy the idea of spending hours in a commercial kitchen, starting a home-cooked meal delivery service may be the perfect job for you.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Liability insurance
  • Licensed kitchen
  • Caterer's license or food permit
  • Menu
  • Containers
  • Labels
  • Website
  • Commercial vehicle

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  1. 1

    Find a location for your commercial kitchen. Until your business takes off, rent space in a licensed kitchen at a church, hall or catering company to minimise the costs of equipment, permits and inspections and the risk to your business.

  2. 2

    Apply for your catering license or food permit with your local health department. Start by familiarising yourself with your state's food codes, safety codes, liability insurance requirements, equipment requirements and employee handling practices. Generally, you will need to include in your application the licensed kitchen where you will prepare the food, your business entity, the type of food and the name of each partner or member. Your commercial delivery vehicle must also meet certain specifications.

  3. 3

    Purchase a commercial delivery vehicle. Ensure that it meets your state's specifications.

  4. 4

    Create a menu that is within your business budget. Busy parents, singles, people who can't cook or don't like to, senior citizens, people on diets and party hosts are all potential clients with different needs. Single portions, healthy fare, comfort foods, bulk foods and gourmet meals may be on your menu. Many online meal delivery businesses serve dozens of types of gourmet food. However, to turn a profit, you'll need to stick to your budget and minimise food waste. Compete by offering quality meals, not quantity. Avoid offering a menu larger than you and your staff can handle. Always consider your refrigeration and storage capacity. Stick with foods that you know how to cook or can easily train others to cook. Stick with foods that are familiar to your clientele. To find out what local customers eat, look at what restaurants and caterers in your area serve and check out the types of produce and meats at your grocery stores.

  5. 5

    Purchase ingredients and meal delivery supplies. Visit stores, online suppliers and farmer's markets. Buy foil, aluminium food service containers, plastic containers, soup cups, food trays, lids and custom packaging labels. Purchase dry ice for cooling meals that will be shipped. Purchase a nutrition facts labelling software program.

  6. 6

    Review the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Food Labeling Guide to ensure that your labelling and nutritional information are in compliance.

  7. 7

    Create a spreadsheet detailing the costs of all your expenses. Refer to this when determining what to charge for each home-cooked meal.

Tips and warnings

  • Purchase a website for your meal delivery business. Detail on the site the benefits of purchasing your home-cooked meals. Offer discounts to those who buy two or more weeks of food.
  • If you're shipping outside of your area, contact UPS and FedEx about getting deals on express shipping.
  • Offer samples of your home-cooked fare at local fairs, events and festivals.

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