In our busy lives, we don’t always have the time to make a proper lunch or dinner. You can save the day for single working professionals and busy families with a meal prep service. Here’s how to start a meal prep business.
Everything You Need to Start a Meal Prep Business
- A handful of tried-and-true recipes
- An approved kitchen (could be your own or a commercial kitchen)
- Permits (varies from state to state and county to county)
- An Airmart shop for online orders
- Good food photos
- Designated pickup spot and/or delivery method
Check out the chefs on Airmart offering meal prep services:
Sign up to create your own online ordering page for your meal prep business.
The Legal Stuff
In California, you can register your food business as a microenterprise home kitchen operation (MEHKO). However, this registration does not apply to catering businesses and is only available in certain cities/counties. To establish your food business as a MEHKO, you must follow these steps:
- Submit a permit application to the local environmental health agency
- Obtain an inspection of your home kitchen
- Complete an approved food manager certification
MEHKOs also have these restrictions:
- Direct-to-customer sales only, which means you cannot sell your food to grocery stores or restaurants
- Food must be prepared, cooked, and served on the same day
- Only 30 meals per day, or a total of 60 meals per week
- Gross annual sales limit of $50,000
If you want to sell more than 60 meals per week, or live in a county where MEHKOs are not allowed, you must operate your food business in a commercial kitchen.
To learn about food laws in other states, check out the Institute for Justice resources:
Choose a cuisine
Share your home cooking and family recipes through your meal prep offerings. People love food that reminds them of home, so think about your community of customers when choosing which cuisines to offer. For example, there’s a lot of demand for Indian food tiffin service.
Your meal prep business will stand out from the rest if you cater to dietary restrictions like vegan, gluten-free, kosher, halal, dairy-free, and vegetarian.
Packaging your meals
Single-use takeout boxes are cheap, but plastic takeout boxes with lids, bento boxes, and other containers that can be washed and reused are the best for your meal prep business. Encourage customers to return the meal containers after using them so that you can reduce waste. You might offer a discount incentive for this recycling program.
You can find customers for your meal prep service through social media and your local community spaces. Here are some ideas for promoting your meal prep business:
- Ask your local gyms if you can put up a flyer or a stack of business cards at their front desks
- Post about your service in Facebook mom groups and other local groups
- Make a local business page on Nextdoor
- Leave your business cards on coffee shop bulletins and in other local businesses
You can allow customers to purchase recurring meal subscriptions in your Airmart shop with the subscription feature.
Meal prep delivery service
Meal prep businesses in California can use our delivery service to make weekly meal prep deliveries. If you are located outside of California, you can use our route-planning tool to make your own efficient deliveries.
Start your meal prep business on Airmart with our free online ordering platform: