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We started our meal prep business in 2007, and our business startup was done as inexpensively as possible. In this article, I’m going to share with you how much it cost us to start our meal prep business.
It cost a minimum of $8,000 dollars to start A Meal Prep Business if you want your own kitchen ad are very cost-focused during your business startup. You can also start your Meal Prep Business for as little as $1000 if you are renting a kitchen, though you will have rent as an ongoing expense.
Cost To Have Your Own Meal Prep Kitchen
When we started our Meal Prep Business, we decided that we wanted to own our kitchen and we also decided that wanted that commercial kitchen to be in our home.
There are lots of advantages to having your work kitchen in your home. Those advantages include, but are not limited to:
- Work Convenience
- Family Convenience
- Tax Advantages
- Pay Your Home Mortgage, Not Rent, Or Business Mortgage
We were ready for a larger house because we’d just had our first baby. We needed another bedroom. So we began the search for a house with a few more bedrooms and a walkout basement where we could build a commercial kitchen.
It is worth noting that not all local governments allow a commercial kitchen in your home. Here is an article I wrote specifically about finding out if you can run a Meal Prep Business From Your Home.~Stacey
In our area, a residential-commercial kitchen needs its own entrance as well as a laundry list of other requirements, including seven sinks!
We searched our dream location for months until we found our home in the county with a crappy little kitchen in a walkout basement. We bought that home and immediately began building a commercial kitchen in the basement.
In our situation, we needed to add a wall, put a door in another wall, and buy commercial kitchen equipment.
We did most of the work ourselves and purchased nearly everything else used either a local restaurant auction (there is a shocking number of them, but digging into the reason for that will have to wait for another day) or at used restaurant equipment stores.
The items we purchased for our commercial kitchen and the approximate cost of each are included in the table below. Regulations in your area might require different equipment in your kitchen.
Table: Equipment Needed To Start A Meal Prep Business Kitchen
|2 Residential Freezers||$600|
|Three Compartment Dish Sink||$250|
|Hand Washing Sink||$125|
|2 Small Stainless Steel Tables||$200|
|1 Large Stainless Steel Table||$400|
|Residential Stove Hood||$150|
|Meal Packaging and Meal Packaging Machine||$600|
|Construction, Plumbing, Electrical||$2,500|
|Total Cost To Build Meal Prep Kitchen||$7,325|
The remaining $675 was spent on business supplies to get our fledgling home-based Meal Prep Business.
Those business supplies included:
|Ingredients For First Week’s Order||$175|
|Total Meal Prep Business Supplies||$675|
So that’s how we started our meal prep business for eight grand.
In hindsight, we would have done a few things differently.
The biggest is the decision to purchase a used commercial refrigerator.
The first one we purchased wouldn’t hold temperature well. After hundreds of repair expenses, we gave up and replaced it after about a year with a second used commercial refrigerator.
The compressor on that one died in about two years, and the cost to replace that was as much as we paid for the ugly old thing.
But by then we were making pretty good money, so we bit the bullet and purchased a brand new two-door commercial refrigerator for about $4000.
That one has operated flawlessly for nearly a decade.
I believe that moving those things isn’t good on the compressor, and because of that, I don’t see myself buying another used one. But if that’s what you can afford, do it while keeping in mind that it’s probably a short-term solution.
Spending More Starting A Meal Prep Business
Of course, you can spend a lot more starting a Meal Prep Business. I know someone who built a brand new kitchen in a retail space and was $150k into the business before selling her first meal.
She went out of business in about three years.
When starting your meal prep business, my suggestion is to spend only what you can afford to spend. In our family, we believe that debt is slavery. You can’t always entirely avoid it, but can minimize debt.
The Cost Of Starting A Meal Prep Business In A Rented Kitchen
Your upfront cost with using a rental kitchen is much smaller than with building your own kitchen.
Including the first month’s rent, depending on where you live, you could start a Meal Prep Business in a rented kitchen for $1,000 to $5,000.
Even if your dream is to eventually run your Meal Prep Business from home, it might make sense to start in a rental kitchen and only move to a home-based kitchen when you have the clientele to support that mortgage payment.
Finding A Commercial Rental Kitchen
The most affordable way to rent a commercial kitchen is to find a kitchen that sits empty some of the time. If you take your time and search high and low in your community, you can probably find a great deal.
Here are places to look:
- Community Centers
- Clubs With Clubhouses
- Neighborhood Common Areas
- Small Restaurants
- Out of Business Restaurants
- Food Truck Owners (licensed commercial kitchens on wheels)
- Food Businesses That Offer On-Site Classes
If you can’t find a small partner like this, then you’ll have to explore some less low-cost options. Remember, even these more expensive rental options are going to keep your upfront expenses much lower than building your own kitchen.
There is a growing trend of Dark Kitchens that are designed for delivery only businesses.
CloudKitchen is a startup that has built shared kitchen space in a number of countries, and dozens of larger cities in America.
If they have a location in your city, they are worth looking into. If they haven’t made it to your city yet, don’t give up. They are growing quickly.
Spending A Little More Starting Your Meal Prep Business
If it’s within your means, you can grow your new Meal Prep Business faster with some additional upfront spending.
However, let’s quickly go through a list of ‘upgrades’ with the potential for the greatest return on investment.
Better Website – A really good website with online ordering will help potential new clients feel comfortable with your new business.
Good Email Service – Communication with your existing and potential clients is of paramount importance. A good email service makes your communication better and easier.
Professional Pictures – People want to see who they are doing business with and what your food looks like. Pretty pictures help people get to know you, like you, and trust you.
Online Advertising – The majority of our new clients still come to us through online advertising. We have a set monthly budget for local advertising on Google and we spend that money year after year. Its Return On Investment (ROI) is always good. We also run occasional Facebook Ads, which are good for Brand Building, but not as targeted because they are not served as a result of a specific search for information.
Delivery Vehicle Signage – People are going to see you in their neighborhoods bringing amazing food to their neighbors. They are going to wonder who you are and what service you are providing. A nice magnetic sign, roof topper, or even a vehicle wrap will tell the world who you are!
Conclusion Regarding The Cost Of Starting A Prepared Meal Business
Starting a Meal Prep Business can be really affordable. You just have to very mindful of each and every expense you commit to. Little numbers add up to big numbers.
Keep in mind that in a Prepared Meal Business, you are probably going to be delivering your meals so a pretty kitchen isn’t a necessity. Your kitchen needs to be clean, safe, and 100% compliant with local food regulations.
You don’t need to spend more to be fancy or for your own vanity.
And finally, consider starting with the lowest cost startup option available to you. You can always upgrade later and grow into your dream kitchen.
If starting with your dream setup on day one comes with a lot of debt, your dream can quickly become a nightmare if you have a few slow months.
No matter how you start your meal prep business, make sure that you have access to funds for at least three months of set expenses. Better yet, six months.
Be smart, dream big, and get started today!