How to Start a Meal Prep Business

If you're wondering how to start a meal prep business, all you need is a love of cooking and the ability to find deals at grocery stores.

Families across the country are simply too busy to take the time to prepare tasty, nutritious meals every day. Because of this lack of time, meal prep businesses have become extremely popular. A large number of people suffer from stress when it comes to making meals. In addition to worrying about what dish they should make, people worry about having the right ingredients and the time they will need to spend making their meal. 

Everyone needs help making meals, and meal prep businesses provide this assistance. A large number of meal prep businesses offer meals for customers with special diets, including gluten-free and dairy-free dietary plans.

Anyone who's interested in taking advantage of this growing industry can start their own meal prep business in their town. Establishing a meal prep business in your neighborhood or town will provide you with a built-in customer base, reducing both your start-up costs and the amount of money you'll need to spend delivering meals. Choosing a local business will also make it easier for you to identify and respond to customer needs.

A meal prep business provides its customers with:

  • Ingredients.
  • Recipes.
  • A workspace.

All the customer has to do is stop by the meal prep business and make their meal.

Some meal prep businesses provide meals that are pre-made and can be taken home for reheating. Meal prep businesses that have experienced the most success provide their customers with nutritious meals that promote a healthier lifestyle. Customers prefer meal prep businesses that provide healthy options, and many of these businesses are reporting impressive profits.

Starting a Meals To Go Business

Visiting your county or state health department is the first step to starting your meal prep business. You need to find out where the health department will allow your meals to be prepared. For instance, you will usually not be allowed to sell food that has been prepared in your home.

To be able to open your meal prep business, you will need to find a test kitchen. Your test kitchen can be in a restaurant that's closed to the public, a church, or a community center. If you use a commercial kitchen, you can negotiate an hourly rate that's included in the cost of your food. Generally, you can find affordable rates for a commercial kitchen as long as you are using it during off-peak hours. This will usually mean that whoever is using the kitchen will be cooking late at night or on days where the kitchen is typically closed.

Certain cities and states have laws known as Cottage Food Laws. If you want to start a meal prep business in an area with Cottage Food Laws, you should be able to prepare food in your home kitchen that will later be sold to customers. California, for example, has a number of Cottage Food Laws.

When preparing food for sale in a home kitchen, there will be limits on what foodstuffs you can sell. For instance, baked goods are considered safe for sale while meat and vegetables usually are not. Because these food limitations will restrict the menu of your meal prep business, it's a good idea to find a commercial kitchen.

Step two of starting your business is acquiring a license. In addition to your business license, you will also need a food handler's license and a sales tax license. It may also be a good idea to form your business as an LLC. When you incorporate as an LLC, your personal assets will be protected if your meal prep business is sued, which can be a concern in this field. If the food you deliver to a customer contains an ingredient to which they are allergic, or one of your meals causes food poisoning, you may face a lawsuit.

To be able to correctly fill out your business forms, you will need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service. Get in touch with your local health department so that you can find out exactly what permits and licenses you'll need to start your business.

If you need help to start a meal prep business, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.