Starting a meal prep business can be a great way to make money while helping others stay healthy. It can be a lot of work to start, but with the right planning and execution, you can be on your way to success.
Here are the nine steps you can take to start building your meal prep business.
Nine Steps to Launching a New Meal Prep Business
1. Choose Your Type of Meal Prep Business
The first step in launching a meal prep business is to identify the type of meal prep business you want to launch. You might choose from the following types, among others:
- Meal delivery service: A meal delivery service delivers prepared meals to customers’ homes or offices.
- Catering business: A catering business provides food for events, parties, and other gatherings.
- Private chef: A private chef cooks meals for a single client or family.
2. Name Your Meal Prep Business
Give your meal prep business an identity so people will think of it as a well-known and respected brand. You can take the name of your meal prep business from your geographical location, or use your own name among other options.
The main goal for naming your meal prep business is to make it sound appealing and trustworthy so that customers will want to try your services.
3. Choose a Legal Form for Your Business
By incorporating your meal prep business, you will limit your liability. You can incorporate as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), a C Corporation (C-Corp), or an S Corporation (S-Corp). Or you can operate as a sole proprietorship.
The business structure you choose for your meal prep business will determine the amount of taxes you pay and which state or federal tax forms you need to file.
Read our article comparing the most common meal prep business structures.
4. Write a Meal Prep Business Plan
All meal prep business owners should develop a business plan.
A business plan is a document that outlines the goals, strategies, and operations of a business. It can be used to secure funding from investors or lenders, as well as to guide the day-to-day operations of the business. The business plan should include information on the company’s products or services, market analysis, financial projections, and management team among other things.
When developing your meal prep business plan and strategy, you should think about the following questions your customers might have:
- What type of meal prep business should I start?
- How much does it cost to start a meal prep business?
- Do I need a license or permit to operate a meal prep business?
- Can I get started with just a few employees?
- What type of food will I prepare?
- How often will I need to cook?
- How will I market my meal prep business?
- What are some common mistakes made when starting a meal prep business?
Read our article about how to write a meal prep business plan.
5. Apply for the Necessary Permits and Licenses
There may be required licenses and permits you need to obtain before launching your meal prep business.
For example, if you are starting a catering business, you will need to obtain a food handler’s license. If you are starting a meal delivery service, you might need a vehicle permit.
You must also register your meal prep business as a legal entity with the state where you plan to do business. You can simply file an online form through your Secretary of State website.
Registering with the federal government is also essential so you can properly pay taxes for your business. You will also need an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which you can apply for at the IRS website, if you plan to hire employees.
Read our article about obtaining the proper meal prep business licenses.
6. Determine Your Budget & Apply for Funding as Needed
In developing your meal prep business plan, you will figure out how much funding you need to start and grow your business.
If you have your own funds to invest in your meal prep business, you may consider taking advantage of that. In addition to your personal funds, other forms of potential funding for your meal prep business include traditional bank loans, SBA loans, credit cards, angel investors and family and friends.
Read our article about the costs associated with starting a meal prep business to help you determine if funding is needed.
7. Get the Technology & Software Needed to Run Your Business Efficiently
When you start your meal prep business, it’s essential to have the right technology in place to maximize efficiency. You need a computer with Internet access, and accounting software for tracking expenses and revenues.
You may also want to invest in project management software, which can help you keep track of tasks and deadlines. And if you have a lot of customers, you might want to consider customer relationship management (CRM) software to help you manage your client base.
Read our article about the technology and software you need to run a meal prep business.
8. Market Your Meal Prep Business to Potential Clients
Before you start selling your services, you have to let the world know you exist. The first step is to create a website so people can learn more about your services and how they benefit them.
After you launch your website, start promoting it through social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Also consider networking with other people in the meal prep industry through social media and blogs so they can help share your business.
You also need to start gathering the materials needed to execute on your promotions strategy, which is your strategy for attracting new customers. Meal prep businesses should consider the following promotional strategies for which you should start getting prepared:
- Host cooking classes or tastings to promote your meal prep business
- Participate in food festivals or farmers’ markets to showcase your meal prep services
- Partner with local businesses to offer discounts to their employees on your meal prep services
- Submit articles featuring your meal prep business to online and print publications
- Engage in social media marketing to promote your meal prep business
Read our article about how to market your meal prep business for more tips.
9. Get New Clients & Grow Your Business
When you promote your services, you’ll start to get interest from potential clients.
Make sure you’re ready to serve these clients. Also, be sure to establish systems to ensure consistency and reduce costs. And be sure to find and train the right people to help you grow your meal prep business.
Read our article about how to effectively grow your meal prep business to learn more.
Starting a Meal Prep Business FAQs
There are several reasons to start a meal prep business:
- The meal prep industry is snowballing. The healthy food movement is gaining steam, and more and more people are looking for convenient, healthy meal options.
- There is a lot of potential for profitability in the meal prep industry. According to IBISWorld, the meal prep industry is expected to grow by 5.4% from 2019 to 2024.
- Meal prep businesses offer a lot of flexibility. For example, you can start your business as a side hustle and eventually transition to it being your full-time job. Or, if you have another full-time job, you can run your meal prep business part-time.
- You can be your own boss and have a lot of control over your business when you start a meal prep business.
To start a meal prep business from home, you'll need to establish a workspace and an office. You'll also need to invest in the right equipment to help you run your business. You can invest what you save in overhead costs in the startup and ongoing costs.
Running a meal prep business from home will require different permits and licenses than running one from a commercial kitchen. Make sure you’re up to speed on all the local requirements, so your home-based meal prep business complies.
There are a few things you need to do to start a meal prep business online:
- Build a website: Your website is your digital storefront. It's where potential customers will go to learn more about your business and what you offer. Be sure to include clear, concise information about your services, as well as strong calls to action.
- Optimize for search: Make sure your website is optimized for search engines so potential customers can easily find you.
- Invest in online marketing: Online marketing is a great way to promote your meal prep business. Consider running ads on Google or social media, or investing in content marketing to drive traffic to your website.
- Create a strong social media presence: Social media is a great way to connect with potential customers and promote your business. Make sure you have an active presence on the platforms your target customers are using.
- Engage in email marketing: Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with potential and current customers. Be sure to include strong calls to action in your emails to encourage customers to take action.
More importantly, ensure that your client can book meal prep services online.
Here are a few tips for starting a meal prep business:
- Start small and scale up: Don't try to do too much too soon. Start with a small menu and a limited number of customers. Once you've perfected your systems, you can start to scale up.
- Find the right niche: Many meal prep businesses are out there. To be successful, you need to find a niche and focus on it. Whether it's healthy meal prep, vegan meal prep, or kid-friendly meal prep, find a niche and build your business around it.
- Invest in the right technology: Technology can help you maximize efficiency and cut costs. So invest in the right technology and software for your business, and make sure you train your team on how to use it.
- Create a marketing plan: An effective marketing plan is essential for promoting your business and attracting customers. Be sure to include a mix of online and offline marketing tactics, and consider hiring a marketing consultant to help you get started.
- Build a strong team: A strong team is essential for any business, but it's imperative in the meal prep industry. You need a team of chefs, food safety experts, and customer service professionals to make your business run smoothly.
- Focus on quality: In the meal prep industry, quality is king. Make sure you're using fresh, high-quality ingredients and that your food is prepared safely and correctly.
- Create a system: A well-run business is all about systems and procedures. So invest in the right systems and processes, and train your team on how to use them. This will help you ensure consistency and reduce costs.
- Be flexible: The meal prep industry is constantly changing. To be successful, you need to be flexible and willing to adapt to the ever-changing landscape.
A simple checklist to use when starting a meal prep business is as follows:
- Choose Your Type of Meal Prep Firm: This should be based on what you are best at and how much experience you have. Remember to keep your interests, skills, and experience in mind at all times.
- Name Your Meal Prep Business: This should be done with care, as your brand is important for attracting the right customers. A simple, memorable name will go a long way.
- Choose a Legal Form for Your Business: Whether you choose to become a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation or another option will depend on your business. Ensure that you are aware of all the implications of each type.
- Write a Meal Prep Business Plan: Your business plan will also help you determine your start-up costs and will provide a roadmap with which you can launch and grow.
- Apply for the Necessary Permits and Licenses: In most locations you will be required to apply for a business license or permits before you can begin operations.
- Determine Your Budget & Apply for Funding as Needed: You will need to know how much money you have to spend on all of your business-related expenses before opening any doors. Then, if needed, apply for a small business loan or other funding options.
- Get the Technology & Software Needed to Run Your Business Efficiently: You need the right tools to succeed. Implement software that will help you manage your time, contacts, and business operations in general.
- Market Your Meal Prep Business to Potential Clients: A solid marketing plan will be crucial to your success. It should focus on attracting the right customers so that you can provide them with the services they truly need.
- Get Clients & Grow Your Business: Once you have a solid marketing plan, it's time to actively pursue and secure those who could benefit the most from your services.
Starting a meal prep business can be a great way to create your own business and provide a valuable service to your community. To ensure success, research the market, build a strong team, and focus on quality. Be prepared to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the meal prep industry, and remember that marketing is key to attracting clients.