My wife and I have been supporting our family for over 15 years with a Prepared Meal Delivery Business. We call our business model a “Meal Solutions Business” but in essence, it’s a meal prep delivery business.
So what is a Meal Prep Delivery Business?
A Meal Prep Delivery Business is a service that provides prepared meals to their clients in the comfort of their own home. It focuses on prepared meals for individuals or families, instead of for larger groups as a caterer specializes in.
Below I’m going to give you a more complete description of a Meal Prep Business and what running a business like this might look like for you.
Then I created a table of general characteristics of this business model (as we do with all home-based food business models that we cover) so it’s easier to compare with other home-based food business ideas.
A Description of A Meal Prep Business
A meal prep business provides a meal solutions service to clients in their local community (though some people have scaled up to offer mail-order meal solutions).
In general, here is how a meal delivery business works:
Your customers will place their orders each week from your menu. Some meal prep businesses have static menus, and others, like ours, have menus that change weekly.
Once you have all of the orders, you’ll compile a shopping list to prepare the meals ordered by all of your clients.
Then you shop for all the required ingredients. You can use wholesale delivery, or choose to shop at local grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
Then you prepare, package, and freeze each meal to be ready for delivery to your client’s freezers.
After scheduling the delivery to each client, you’ll pack the meals into coolers and deliver them to your client’s freezer.
With that your work week is done, and you’re ready to start the next week!
This is a business (much like a restaurant) that can be specialized to meet your community needs as well as your own interests. We’ve seen meal prep business that focuses on all kinds of meals including Weight Loss Meals, Senior Meals, Gluten-Free, Body Builders, Keto Meals, Family Meals, and even specific ethnic meals.
In our meal prep business, we don’t specialize in just one type of meal, but have chosen four different types that we offer our community.
Alternate Names for A Meal Prep Business
People have come up with many different names for nearly every business model. Here are the other names that I’ve heard this called:
- Prepared Meal Business
- Pre-Cooked Meal Business
- Meal Solutions Business
- Ready To Eat Meal Business
- Prepared Meal Delivery Business
- Meal Prep And Delivery Business
If you’ve heard this business model called something else, please let me know in the comments below so we can help others avoid confusion.
Pros of Running A Meal Prep Business
- Little waste (and higher margins) because you’re purchasing ingredients after orders are placed.
- Low-pressure cooking compared to a restaurant setting because no one is waiting for their meal right now!
- Flexible work schedule, because the only deadlines for your customers are around ordering and delivery. The rest of your work can be done on your schedule. We even take a week out of the kitchen every 3 to 5 weeks to get other work done around our business and home.
- Longterm relationships with your customers who will become like friends and family.
- This is a business that really does make your clients’ lives better and your community healthier and more stable. That’s good business.
Cons of A Meal Prep Business
- Higher startup cost compared to most home-based food businesses.
- A dedicated commercial kitchen space is required.
Meal Prep Business Characteristics
|Cost To Startup (Scale: $ to $$$$$)||$$$$|
|Full Income or Side Hustle||Full Time|
|Income Potential (Scale: $ to $$$$$)||$$$$|
|Profit Margin (Scale: 📈 to 📈📈📈📈📈)||📈📈📈|
|Time To Build (Scale: ⏰ to ⏰⏰⏰⏰⏰)||⏰⏰⏰|
|Time To Run (Scale: ⏰ to ⏰⏰⏰⏰⏰)||⏰⏰⏰|
|Complexity to Run (Scale: 🤹 to 🤹🤹🤹🤹🤹)||🤹🤹🤹|
Now I’ll give you a little more details on each of the characteristics of this food lover’s business model. Keep in mind that the goal here isn’t to cover everything you need to know, but to just give you a basic understanding so you can decide if you want to learn more.
If you do want to learn more about this kind of business, let me know in the comments below and I’ll work on getting a more in-depth article published or perhaps even creating a course to walk you through starting a meal prep business.
Cost to Startup A Meal Prep Business
This is not a Food Cottage Business. That means that you can not run this business out of your residential kitchen. Instead, you’ll need a state certified and licensed commercial kitchen.
While you can create such a kitchen with significantly less investment than what might be needed for a full restaurant, it’s still a significant investment.
The range of startup costs is wide and depends greatly on what space you are putting a commercial kitchen into. In big round numbers, you’ll spend at least $8,000 if you focus on used equipment, and could spend over $30,000 if you need construction work to build out the space for your kitchen.
Renting a commercial kitchen might be a possiblity, but to scale to a full time income, you’ll need a kitchen that you have access to full-time.
We do run our Prepared Meal Delivery Business out of a commercial kitchen in our home. This doesn’t affect the initial startup costs, but it does have many advantages that help make a Prepared Meals Business profitable. I wrote a whole article on the profitability of a prepared meal business here.
If you are read to dive a little deeper into the cost of this kind of business, I encourage you to read my article “How Much Does It Cost To Start A Meal Prep Business?“
Is This A Full Time Business Or A Side Hustle?
Because of the cost to startup a business like this, it really needs to be growing towards a full-time income.
I would not recommend this as a home-based business to earn extra money on the side. If you want ideas for a food-based side-hustle business, check out this article that I wrote with dozens of great foodie business ideas that you can run from home.
Income Potential for This Business?
You can make pretty good money on a business like this, but it is a job and not a passive income.
The upside of creating your own job is that you don’t risk being fired and you’re the boss. The downside is that you’re still trading time for money.
Please don’t let this honest assessment dissuade you from considering this business model. This is how we support our family in a pretty comfortable manner. For us, the pros outweigh the cons.
Here is an article I wrote about the profitability potential of a meal prep business.
What is the Profit Margin For a Meal Prep Business?
The profit margin for this business model is way higher than for a traditional restaurant, but less than a business where your main product is information and not goods that have cost-of-goods associated with them.
In our business, our profit margin is around two-thirds (including our wages). That’s pretty darn good, especially when you consider the tax benefits associated with a home-based food business.
How Much Time Does It Take To Build This Business Up?
You are going to need some time to not only find potential customers, but to educate them on what this growing niche business is and how it can make their lives better.
When I coach people in starting their own meal prep business, unless investment money isn’t an issue, I strongly encourage them to start their business slowly like we did.
We started out as personal chefs, cooking in our client’s homes. Once we had an established client base, we purchased our home in the country and put a licensed kitchen in the walkout basement.
If you want to learn more about our food business background, you can find that story on the About Stacey page on this website.
With such a start-up plan, we never risked investing money that we didn’t know our established business could payoff quickly.
How Much Time Does It Take To Run A Meal Prep Business?
This is a full time job. In our business, it’s a full time job for two people (me and my wife).
You have to keep in mind that running this business is more than just preparing and delivering meals. You’ll also be spending time taking orders, managing clients, scheduling deliveries, and delivering those meals.
As with all businesses, you’ll also spend some time marketing and taking care of the book keeping.
One person could run this business, but it would be hard and I’m not sure you could scale it to our size by yourself. There are options to get around that challenge. You could hire help to take some of the non-cooking work, or you could just decide to keep your business a little smaller.
How Complex it is to Run A Meal Prep Service?
There are a lot of moving parts in an operation like this.
You not only have to be a good cook, but you’re going to need some skills (or tools) to organize your customers, menus, shopping lists, and more.
Fortunately, I’d love to be your guide to help you figure out easier ways to keep it all going. After 15 years of running a business like this, we’ve done most of the associated tasks a number of difficult ways before finding more effective and efficient methods.
Are Employees Required To Run A Business Like This?
As our personal story demonstrates, you can run a pretty large home-based meal delivery business with just two partners working side-by-side.
Could you grow bigger with more employees? Probably.
That’s a choice you’ll have to make for yourself.
This is the most high-end home-based food business idea that I’m sharing on FoodBusinessPro.com. It takes more resources to start and run, but it also has the most steady upside.
There are other food business ideas here that might have higher upside, but they are not as steady and reliable. Just as importantly, in many of the other ideas, your long term success depends, at least in part, on the success of other businesses.
So would we recommend this business model? YES! You have to remember that this is the business model that has been the primary source of income for my family for over 15 years.
It’s not for everyone, but for the right family, this is a ‘living-the-dream’ kind of business.
P.S. If you want to learn more about how I can help you start or grow your home-based food delivery business, be sure to check out the Business Plan Template, Marketing Plan Template, and Consultations that I offer to people who are considering starting a Prepared Meal Delivery Business.