Everyone eats lunch — or at least, everyone should. A box lunch delivery service makes lunch more convenient for people with grueling work schedules, and it's also an obvious option for meetings, conferences and field trips.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
To open a box lunch delivery service, plan an adaptable but simple menu and chart a delivery area large enough to reach a wide audience but contained enough to be manageable.
Lunch Box Delivery Service Possibilities
- Office lunch delivery service. At an office, you can find many hungry people in the same place who are ready to eat at more or less the same time. An office lunch delivery service can either use an online preordering system so you know how much food to prepare or you can show up with a selection of prepacked meals for customers to choose on the spot.
- Catered box lunch delivery. You can set up your box lunch delivery service so you work with a centralized client, such as office management or a conference organizer, who orders boxed lunches for a group. This approach offers the advantage of volume so you know you'll be paid to feed a critical mass of people at each stop. However, lunch catering can be inconsistent because meetings and conferences don't take place every day.
- School box lunch delivery. As the movement for healthy school lunches has gained traction, many parents have begun ordering lunches for their school-age children through box lunch delivery services. This format provides a group of hungry eaters and a consistent demand, though the menus may be limited because tastes in your target market have yet to mature.
Box Lunch Menus
Box lunch menus have a variety of components, and you'll need to decide how much you're willing to customize to meet individual needs. Tailoring your offerings to individual tastes can give you a competitive advantage over one-size-fits-all services, but this approach will create considerably more work. You'll need to not only track and pack custom orders but also keep track of these different orders through each step in your process, from assembly to delivery.
Most box lunch options are based around sandwiches or wraps, but you'll also need options for gluten-free and low-carbohydrate diets. You can offer meat-based and vegetarian salads and specialty items such as pot roast or roasted chicken. Your lunches should also include auxiliary elements such as drinks, snacks and sweets.
The simpler your menus, the easier it will be for you to fill orders and manage inventory. On the other hand, customers appreciate having variety and choice, so you'll need to balance practical logistics with your marketing strategy to find a solution that works for both you and your clientele. Make sure to charge enough to cover both your ingredients and your labor for routine assembly and customization.
Lunch Delivery Marketing
Marketing a box lunch delivery service is rarely as simple as posting a menu online and waiting for the orders to roll in. Even if you work with a service or platform that does some of your marketing for you, you'll still need to stand out from the crowd. This can be especially difficult if your company is new, and you haven't yet had a chance to earn customer loyalty and repeat business. You can offer incentives such as discounts for first-time customers or referral bonuses to help build a steady customer base.
Your menu and prices are marketing tools as well. If you offer especially appealing sandwich and salad options or you use noticeably high-quality ingredients, customers who value these extras will have good reason to choose your service over the other alternatives, especially if you do a good job of communicating your competitive strengths.
Your website should be clear and easy to use so interested visitors can be conveniently converted to customers. Make logistical information easy to find and understand so viewers can make purchasing decisions quickly and without having to ask unnecessary questions. Promote your website and services online using ads targeted to key groups such as offices, rental facilities and parents. Track your results and invest more heavily in the media that provides the best return.
Delivering Box Lunches
Getting your box lunches into customers' hands will be a critical part of your operation. Unlike a grocery delivery business that can provide a two-hour delivery window, boxed lunches must be delivered in time for lunch. However, they shouldn't be delivered too far before lunch because the boxes may have to sit at room temperature until they are eaten.
Decide whether your delivery routes will be far reaching or contained. The answer to this question will depend on where your lunch delivery company operates and whether offices and event centers in your city or town are located in a concentrated area or spread over a broader range. A far-reaching delivery area will allow you to reach a broader pool of customers, while a contained delivery area will make your delivery routes more efficient.
Your box lunch delivery service can either purchase its own vehicles or hire drivers willing to use their own cars or vans with compensation for mileage. If you're looking to eventually scale up your company, you will probably need to own your own vehicles in the long term so you won't have to depend on your workers' resources to fill orders. However, paying employees to use their own vehicles is considerably less expensive in the short term, so it can be a viable option while you're getting started.
Box Lunch Production
Some box lunch delivery services prepare all of their offerings from scratch, while others buy completely or mostly made components to assemble. If you're roasting your own meats and preparing your salads from fresh ingredients, you'll need to either rent or outfit a commercial kitchen depending on the scale of your operation.
Even if you buy sandwiches, salads and snacks from another caterer, you may need some kind of health department certification for the facility where you assemble them. Check local regulations before launching your company.
Making your offerings from scratch gives your company a competitive advantage over similar companies offering box lunches whose components are not as fresh. However, it will increase your costs and make your operations considerably more challenging because you will have to coordinate purchasing, production and deliveries.
Using Organizational Systems
Use spreadsheets to aggregate production information for multiple deliveries so you can make all you need of a certain item at once even if these sandwiches and salads will eventually end up being part of different deliveries. Keep finished inventory and completed orders well organized so you can find what you need when you need it.
You can organize invoices and delivery information online, or you can file hard copies of documents in file folders with pendaflex tabs. The sophistication of your organizational systems will depend on how much information you are organizing and whether you and your staff are more comfortable with a digital or paper system. The dabbawalas of Mumbai deliver tens of thousands of lunches daily without using any kind of computerized system.
There is no one solution that is right for every box lunch delivery service, but whatever system you use, it should be robust enough to get your lunches into the right customers' hands in time for their midday meal.
- Jungleworks: Food On Demand: Business Models of Meal Delivery Startups
- BBC Future Now: The Unsurpassed 125-Year-Old Network That Feeds Mumbai
- RubyGarage: 7 Hot Trends That Will Change the Future of the Food Delivery Industry
- FATbit: Here is a Brilliant Startup Idea of Online Office Food Ordering & Delivery Business
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.