Small businesses are really important to the national economy, and these days, with the big businesses taking some pretty significant blows in the economic crisis (see the news…any news station), a lot of Americans are taking advantage of the opportunity to start up their own business.The options are infinite, and as long as a person has the entrepreneurial spirit and is willing to put hard work into a project, there is a good chance that a home business will be able to flourish. One area where business is just about always good, if you’re offering a good service, that is, is the food industry. Everybody needs a bite to eat, and the meal that people most commonly eat out for is lunch, which makes selling lunches a good option when trying to start up a business.
Anybody considering preparing meals at home and running a meal delivery business will first need to do some number crunching. Ask yourself the following:
- How much do you have to put down immediately in this investment?
- What size operation would you be looking to run?
- Do you live in an area with a big lunch-hour market, as in an area with lots of office space?
- What are the eating habits of the folks in your area?
This last point could make or break a workplace lunch delivery operation: if you’re selling burritos to hamburger-lovers, or vice versa, then you’re going to fail as a business.
Also, consider the logistical part of how you would make your meal delivery business work:
- Who would deliver?
- How many deliverers would you need?
- What do you forecast for fuel costs and necessary times to get the work done?
- Is your home kitchen equipped to take on the task?
- Will you need to hire a cook, or can you take on the work yourself?
- What kind of certification will you need from the local food inspector’s office?
Get in touch with your local government—generally the jurisdiction into which food licensing falls—to discover more on this crucial prerequisite to starting this kind of business up. Use this State Govenrment Office Directory to find your local governemt office.
Choosing the Menu
According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans choose fruit first, then hamburgers, then wraps as their favorite lunch time foods. A strange succession, but true. Salads also have a distinctly strong presence in the lunch market, especially among women, who are also more inclined to eat fruit for lunch. People today are doing more work on their lunch hour, so they need practical food for lunch: something they can hold in one hand while they flip through their agenda or Blackberry with the other. Hence the popularity of the above items (discounting salad), which are so hand-friendly. Apparently, wraps are popular in the cities, and regular old cold-cut sandwiches are more popular in rural areas.
Whatever the options, you need to make sure you’re putting together a menu people are going to like:
- You’ll need to make it a little daring, but don’t make all the options outlandish; just one or two.
- Furthermore, don’t make your menu ridiculously long or complicated: you need to streamline your business operation, which will probably be done out of your home kitchen.
- Offer a certain variety of breads or wraps, a certain selection of meats, and a few kinds of vegetables and fruits.
- Sauces are what you can really work on elaborating, with many varieties of aiolis and other mayonnaise sauces being simple to put together, and easy to diversify.
Once you have your set of ingredients, it’s really a matter of knowing how to put together powerful combinations, and making it seem like each option has been thoroughly thought through. Cover all your bases: a little carbohydrate, a little protein, a little fiber and vitamin-rich fruit and/or vegetable.
You need to be packaging your lunches properly. The standard old brown paper bag is a classic and will never fail you, though styrofoam and plastic or cardboard containers are also a good choice. Whatever it is, make sure it’s in mass supply and dirt cheap (if you can, try to get recyclable products, it’s good for your image). Again, make sure that you’re offering a comprehensive package: main item, small snack, and a drink as a bare minimum. You need to wrap warm foods in aluminum to preserve the heat, and if you’re offering potentially messy meals (probably not the best idea, though somethings just never cease to be popular) make sure to put in several napkins and or corresponding wrapping.
You can find a directory of packaging suppliers, at ThomasNet.
Choosing the Right Supplier
If you’re going to be running a meal delivery business, make sure you’re operating with a business mentality and buy from wholesale suppliers, not retailers.
The difference in your budget will be astronomical. Of course, when buying in bulk you need to make sure you have the right storage facilities, and that you’re buying the right kinds of foods (ones that won’t go bad too quickly). A good place to check is Sysco, though most people have a CostCo or Sam’s Club near their community, both of which are great options.
Marketing Your Lunch Delivery Business Effectively
In order to get paid to make and deliver lunches, you need to develop your clientèle. This may be a slow process at first, but if you’re offering a good service and are in an area with a lot of people needing to buy their lunch, then you should win over a good group of faithful before too long.
Get creative with your marketing strategy:
- Launch an email campaign.
- Distribute flyers throughout the zone you’re looking to work.
- Get phone and fax numbers of local office branches to call them and leave faxes, preferably with somebody higher up in the command chain.
- Put a sign out in front of your house.
- Even get your kids or family members to do a little word-of-mouth marketing for you.
These marketing techniques are proven to work. Just don’t wait around hoping for customers to fall out of the sky!