If you love to cook but have no interest in the long, inflexible schedule that comes with running a restaurant, a home meal delivery service may be the ideal business for you. This format involves preparing, cooling, and delivering multiple meals for clients to keep on hand and reheat over the course of a given period of time. Menu selections change periodically--usually weekly--and customers have some degree of flexibility as to how often they order, and which selections they choose.
Contact your local health department and ask about regulations and requirements for licensing a commercial kitchen. Contact your city and state revenue departments as well, and apply for relevant licenses and permits. If you plan to hire employees, register with the federal government to receive an employer identification number, and with state agencies that handle unemployment insurance and workers' compensation.
Build or lease a commercial kitchen that complies with local guidelines and regulations. Include an oven and stove top range, plenty of refrigeration for storing ingredients and cooling product before packing it, and plenty of counter space for prep and packaging. Your kitchen should also have an adjacent office space for processing orders, compiling production spreadsheets, and answering phone calls and emails.
Design a menu format with selections that change periodically. Offer meal plans for customers who want to choose their weekly meals, and also for those who don't want to think about their selections. Base your menus on a core list of ingredients, and a set of production processes that enable you to prepare foods sequentially, then cool them and package them efficiently.
Create a database that includes contact information for current and prospective customers, as well as order histories, menu and recipe information for planning and tracking inventory, and a spreadsheet that compiles production quantities from a particular week's orders. Link this database to an informative website that includes basic information about your company, current menus, and a form for customers to place and manage orders.
Plan your delivery area and divide it into delivery routes. Purchase as many vehicles as you will need to cover it, or consult your accountant and insurance broker about the ramifications of paying your employees to use their own vehicles.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.