Thumbnail Image-How to Start a Meal Prep Business in 2024 A Step-by-Step Guide in Happy meal prep

Are you looking for a profitable and growing business idea in the food industry? Do you want to help busy people eat healthy and delicious meals without spending hours in the kitchen? If yes, then starting a meal prep business might be the perfect option for you.

A meal prep business is a service that prepares and delivers fresh or frozen meals to customers who order them online or by phone. The meals are usually portion-controlled, nutritionally balanced, and customized to the customers’ preferences and dietary needs. The customers can either heat up the meals in the microwave or oven, or store them in the freezer for later use.

A meal prep business is a great way to tap into the growing demand for convenience and health in the food market. According to a report by Fortune Business Insights, the global prepared meals market size was valued at USD 147.04 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow to USD 248.13 billion by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 6.8% during the forecast period. In the U.S., the meal kit delivery industry is expected to generate USD 7.64 billion in revenue in 2022.

Anyone who has a passion for cooking, a knack for business, and a desire to help people can start a meal prep business. However, it is not as easy as it sounds. There are many steps involved in launching and running a successful meal prep business, such as choosing a niche, writing a business plan, registering your business, setting up your workspace and equipment, setting your pricing and payment methods, marketing your business, and expanding your business.

In this article, we will guide you through these steps and provide you with some tips and resources to help you start your own meal prep business in 2024.

A meal prep business is a service that prepares and delivers fresh or frozen meals to customers who order them online or by phone. The meals are usually portion-controlled, nutritionally balanced, and customized to the customers’ preferences and dietary needs. The customers can either heat up the meals in the microwave or oven, or store them in the freezer for later use.

A meal prep business is profitable and growing because of several factors, such as:

  • The busy lifestyles of modern consumers who have little time or energy to cook at home.
  • The increasing awareness of health and wellness among consumers who want to eat nutritious and balanced meals.
  • The rising popularity of online shopping and delivery services that offer convenience and variety.
  • The growing demand for personalized and customized food options that cater to different tastes, allergies, diets, and preferences.
  • The low barriers to entry and high margins of the meal prep industry that make it attractive for entrepreneurs.

Anyone who has a passion for cooking, a knack for business, and a desire to help people can start a meal prep business. However, you will need some skills and resources to succeed in this industry, such as:

  • Culinary skills and knowledge of food safety, hygiene, nutrition, and recipes.
  • Business skills and knowledge of accounting, marketing, customer service, legal issues, and management.
  • A reliable kitchen space and equipment that meet the local health codes and regulations.
  • A delivery system that ensures timely and safe delivery of your meals.
  • A website or app that allows customers to order your meals online.
  • A loyal customer base that trusts your brand and enjoys your meals.

Step 1: Choose a niche for your meal prep business

One of the first steps to start your meal prep business is to choose a niche or a specific segment of the market that you want to target. This will help you stand out from your competitors, attract your ideal customers, and create a unique value proposition for your business.

There are different types of meal prep services that you can offer, such as:

  • Healthy meal prep: This type of service focuses on providing healthy and nutritious meals that are low in calories, fat, sugar, salt, or carbs. You can also cater to specific diets such as vegan, gluten-free, paleo, keto, or diabetic.
  • Gourmet meal prep: This type of service focuses on providing high-quality and delicious meals that are made with premium ingredients and sophisticated recipes. You can also cater to specific cuisines such as Italian, Thai, Mexican, or Indian.
  • Family meal prep: This type of service focuses on providing family-friendly and affordable meals that are suitable for kids and adults. You can also cater to specific occasions such as birthdays, holidays, or parties.
  • Weight loss meal prep: This type of service focuses on providing weight loss-friendly meals that are designed to help customers lose weight or maintain their weight goals. You can also cater to specific programs such as Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, or Jenny Craig.
  • Fitness meal prep: This type of service focuses on providing fitness-friendly meals that are designed to help customers gain muscle, improve performance, or recover from workouts. You can also cater to specific goals such as bulking, cutting, or toning.

Some examples of successful meal prep businesses that have chosen a niche are:

  • Freshly: This is a healthy meal prep service that delivers fresh and ready-to-eat meals that are gluten-free, high-protein, and low-carb. The company claims to use only natural and organic ingredients and no artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors.
  • Home Chef: This is a gourmet meal prep service that delivers pre-portioned and ready-to-cook ingredients and recipes that are easy to follow and customizable. The company offers a variety of cuisines and dishes that range from classic to exotic.

To choose a niche for your meal prep business, you should consider the following factors:

  • Your passion and expertise: You should choose a niche that you are passionate about and have the skills and knowledge to deliver. For example, if you love cooking Italian food and have learned the recipes and techniques from your family or friends, you can choose to offer gourmet Italian meal prep services.
  • Your target market: You should choose a niche that has a large and growing demand in your area. For example, if you live in a city where there are many busy professionals who want to eat healthy but don’t have time to cook, you can choose to offer healthy meal prep services.
  • Your competition: You should choose a niche that has low or moderate competition in your area. For example, if there are already many weight loss meal prep services in your area, you can choose to offer fitness meal prep services instead.
  • Your differentiation: You should choose a niche that allows you to differentiate your business from your competitors. For example, if there are already many healthy meal prep services in your area, you can choose to offer organic, gluten-free, or vegan options.

Step 2: Write a business plan for your meal prep business

A business plan is a document that outlines your goals, strategies, and actions for your meal prep business. It helps you to clarify your vision, identify your target market, analyze your competitors, plan your operations, and secure funding.

A business plan typically consists of the following sections:

  • Executive summary: A brief overview of your business, its purpose, products, market, competitive advantage, and financial projections.
  • Company description: A detailed description of your business, its legal structure, location, mission, values, and objectives.
  • Products and services: A description of the products and services you offer, their features, benefits, pricing, and delivery methods.
  • Market analysis: A research-based analysis of the industry, market size, trends, customer segments, needs, preferences, and buying behavior.
  • Competitive analysis: A comparison of your strengths and weaknesses with your direct and indirect competitors, their products, prices, marketing strategies, and customer loyalty.
  • Marketing plan: A plan for how you will promote your business, attract customers, and generate sales. It includes your marketing goals, strategies, channels, tools, budget, and metrics.
  • Operational plan: A plan for how you will run your business on a daily basis. It includes your production process, equipment, supplies, inventory management, quality control, delivery methods, and customer service.
  • Management and organization: A description of your team structure, roles, responsibilities, qualifications, and compensation. It also includes any external advisors or partners you work with.
  • Financial plan: A projection of your income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, break-even analysis, and funding requirements. It also includes any assumptions or risks that may affect your financial performance.

Step 3: Register your meal prep business and obtain the necessary licenses and permits

Before you can start operating your meal prep business legally, you need to register it with the appropriate authorities and obtain the necessary licenses and permits.

The registration process may vary depending on the legal entity you choose for your business. The most common legal entities for meal prep businesses are:

  • Sole proprietorship: A simple and inexpensive way to start a business as an individual. You have full control over the business but also full liability for its debts and obligations.
  • Partnership: A way to start a business with one or more partners who share the ownership and management of the business. You can choose between a general partnership or a limited partnership depending on the level of liability and involvement of each partner.
  • Limited liability company (LLC): A hybrid entity that combines the flexibility of a partnership with the limited liability of a corporation. You can have one or more members who own and manage the business.
  • Corporation: A separate legal entity that is owned by shareholders who elect a board of directors to oversee the management of the business. You can choose between a C corporation or an S corporation depending on the business’s tax treatment and ownership structure

You can use a service like ZenBusiness to help you form your LLC or corporation online in minutes.

The licenses and permits you need may vary depending on the state and local regulations where you operate your meal prep business. Some of the common licenses and permits you may need are:

  • Business license: A general license that allows you to conduct business in a certain jurisdiction. You can obtain it from your city or county clerk’s office or online.
  • Food service license: A license that allows you to prepare and serve food to customers. You can obtain it from your state or local health department after passing an inspection of your kitchen facilities and equipment.
  • Food handler’s permit: A permit that certifies that you have completed a food safety training course and know how to handle food properly. You can obtain it from your state or local health department or online.
  • Sales tax permit: A permit that allows you to collect sales tax from customers on taxable goods and services. You can obtain it from your state’s department of revenue or online.
  • Zoning permit: A permit that ensures that your business location complies with the zoning regulations of your area. You can obtain it from your city or county’s zoning department or online.

You can use a service like LicenseSuite to help you find and apply for the licenses and permits you need for your meal prep business.

Step 4: Set up your meal prep workspace and equipment

To start your meal prep business, you need to have a suitable workspace and equipment to prepare, store, and deliver your meals.

Your workspace should be clean, spacious, well-ventilated, and compliant with the food safety standards of your area. You can use your home kitchen if it meets the requirements of your state’s cottage food laws, or you can rent a commercial kitchen from a shared kitchen facility, a restaurant, a church, or a community center.

Your equipment should include the following items:

  • Cooking appliances: Such as stoves, ovens, microwaves, grills, fryers, etc.
  • Refrigeration and freezing appliances: Such as refrigerators, freezers, coolers, ice packs, etc.
  • Food preparation tools: Such as knives, cutting boards, measuring cups, spoons, scales, etc.
  • Food storage containers: Such as glass jars, plastic bags, boxes, trays, etc.
  • Food packaging materials: Such as labels, stickers, tape, etc.
  • Food delivery tools: Such as bags, boxes, carts, etc.

You can buy or lease your equipment from local or online suppliers.

Step 5: Set your pricing and payment methods for your meal prep services

To make money from your meal prep business, you need to set your pricing and payment methods for your meal prep services. Your pricing should cover your costs and provide you with a reasonable profit margin. Your costs may include the following items:

  • Food ingredients
  • Packaging materials
  • Equipment
  • Utilities
  • Rent
  • Licenses and permits
  • Insurance
  • Taxes
  • Marketing
  • Delivery
  • Labor

You can use a spreadsheet to help you calculate your costs and profit margin.

Your pricing strategy should also consider the following factors:

  • Your target market: What are their needs, preferences, and budget? How much are they willing to pay for your services?
  • Your competitors: What are their prices and value propositions? How do you differentiate yourself from them?
  • Your value proposition: What are the benefits and features of your services? How do you communicate them to your customers?
  • Your goals: What are your revenue and profit goals? How many customers and sales do you need to achieve them?

You can use different pricing models for your meal prep services depending on the type and frequency of service you offer. Some examples of pricing models are:

  • Per meal: You charge a fixed price per meal based on the portion size, ingredients, and complexity of the meal. For example, $10 per meal.
  • Per plan: You charge a fixed price per plan based on the number of meals and days included in the plan. For example, $50 per week for 10 meals.
  • Per subscription: You charge a recurring price per subscription based on the frequency and duration of the service. For example, $200 per month for 40 meals.
  • Per custom order: You charge a variable price per custom order based on the customer’s specific requests and preferences. For example, $15 per meal for gluten-free options.

You can use different payment methods for your meal prep services depending on the convenience and security of both you and your customers. Some examples of payment methods are:

  • Cash: You accept cash payments from customers upon delivery or pickup of their meals.
  • Check: You accept check payments from customers upon delivery or pickup of their meals.
  • Credit card: You accept credit card payments from customers online or in person using a payment processor like Stripe or Square.
  • PayPal: You accept PayPal payments from customers online using a payment processor like PayPal.
  • Venmo: You accept Venmo payments from customers online using a payment processor like Venmo.

Step 6: Market your meal prep business and attract customers

Marketing is essential for any business, especially for a meal prep business that operates online. You need to reach out to your target audience, communicate your value proposition, and persuade them to try your service. Here are some best practices and strategies for promoting your meal prep business:

  • Create a marketing funnel: A marketing funnel is a process that guides your potential customers from awareness to action. It consists of four stages: attract, convert, close, and delight. You need to create content and offers for each stage that matches your customers’ needs and interests. For example, you can attract them with a blog post or a video about the benefits of meal prepping, convert them with a free trial or a discount coupon, close them with a testimonial or a case study, and delight them with a loyalty program or a referral bonus.
  • Use the right software: To manage your marketing funnel effectively, you need to use the right software tools that can help you create, distribute, and track your content and offers. For example, you can use WordPress or Shopify to build your website, Mailchimp or ConvertKit to send email newsletters, Google Ads or Facebook Ads to run pay-per-click campaigns, and Google Analytics or HubSpot to measure your results.
  • Choose a target market and niche: You can’t serve everyone with your meal prep service, so you need to narrow down your target market and niche. You need to identify who your ideal customers are, what their pain points are, what their goals are, and how you can help them. For example, you can target busy professionals who want to save time and eat healthy, or fitness enthusiasts who want to follow a specific diet plan.
  • Switch things up: To keep your customers interested and engaged, you need to switch things up occasionally. You can offer new menu items, seasonal dishes, special promotions, or themed boxes. You can also ask for feedback from your customers and use it to improve your service and products.
  • Partner with other businesses: You can leverage the power of partnerships to expand your reach and exposure. You can partner with other businesses that share your target market and niche, such as gyms, health clubs, wellness centers, or nutritionists. You can offer cross-promotions, referrals, discounts, or giveaways to each other’s customers.
  • Put your meal prep company on social media: Social media is a great way to showcase your brand personality, connect with your audience, and generate word-of-mouth. You can use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest to share your story, post photos and videos of your meals, share customer reviews and testimonials, answer questions and comments, and run contests and giveaways.

One of the best ways to market your meal prep business is to use Happy Meal Prep software. Happy Meal Prep is the #1 Meal Prep Business Software platform crafted exclusively for the meal-delivery industry. It helps you automate your operations, streamline your workflows, manage your orders and inventory, create custom labels and menus, accept online payments, and more. With Happy Meal Prep software, you can focus on growing your business while saving time and money.

Step 7: Expand your meal prep business and scale up

Once you have established a loyal customer base and a steady cash flow, you may want to expand your meal prep business and scale up. Scaling up means increasing your production capacity, expanding your service area, adding new products or services, hiring more staff, or opening new locations. Here are some tips for scaling up your meal prep business:

  • Plan ahead: Scaling up requires careful planning and preparation. You need to assess your current situation, identify your goals and objectives, evaluate your resources and capabilities, research the market opportunities and challenges, and create a realistic budget and timeline.
  • Invest in equipment: Scaling up may require investing in new or upgraded equipment that can help you increase your output quality and quantity. For example, you may need to buy more refrigerators, freezers, ovens, stoves, pots, pans, knives, cutting boards, containers, bags, labels, or delivery vehicles.
  • Hire more staff: Scaling up may also require hiring more staff that can help you handle the increased workload. For example, you may need to hire more chefs, cooks, prep workers, packers, drivers, or customer service representatives. You need to find qualified, reliable, and motivated employees that share your vision and values. You also need to train them properly, pay them fairly, and motivate them regularly.
  • Diversify your offerings: Scaling up may also involve diversifying your offerings to attract more customers and increase your revenue streams. For example, you may want to add new cuisines, diet plans, snacks, drinks, or desserts to your menu. You may also want to offer catering services, corporate packages, gift cards, or subscriptions.

Starting a meal prep business in 2024 is a great way to turn your passion for cooking into a profitable venture. Meal prep businesses are in high demand as more people are looking for convenient, healthy, and affordable meal options. To start your own meal prep business in 2024, you need to follow these seven steps:

  • Step 1: Do your market research and validate your idea
  • Step 2: Choose your business model and legal structure
  • Step 3: Obtain the necessary licenses, permits, and certifications
  • Step 4: Find a suitable kitchen space and equipment
  • Step 5: Create your menu and pricing strategy
  • Step 6: Market your meal prep business and attract customers
  • Step 7: Expand your meal prep business and scale up

If you are ready to start your own meal prep business in 2024, you need to act fast and take advantage of the opportunity. The meal prep industry is growing rapidly and the competition is fierce. You need to differentiate yourself from the crowd and offer a unique value proposition to your customers.

One way to do that is to use Happy Meal Prep software, the #1 Meal Prep Business Software platform crafted exclusively for the meal-delivery industry. Happy Meal Prep software helps you automate your operations, streamline your workflows, manage your orders and inventory, create custom labels and menus, accept online payments, and more. With Happy Meal Prep software, you can focus on growing your business while saving time and money.

Don’t wait any longer. Start your free trial today and see for yourself how Happy Meal Prep software can help you start, run, and grow your meal prep business in 2024.