Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on February 25, 2022 Updated on November 23, 2023
$2,250 - $5,100
$40,000 - $200,000 p.a.
Time to build
0 – 3 months
$30,000 - $80,000 p.a.
Are you masterful in the kitchen? Do people swoon over your culinary creations? You could prepare delicious home-cooked meals, deliver your delights to happy customers and make a good living. Food delivery has exploded in recent years and is now worth $70 billion globally, illustrating just how many people might be interested in your gourmet creations.
While your cooking skills are key, you’ll also need business know-how. Fortunately, you’ll find all the tips and insight you need in this step-by-step guide, which will help you start cooking your way to success.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Fine dining delivery is gaining ground as people want to eat high-end food even when they’re unable to go to restaurants. This presents an opportunity for an entrepreneur to start a luxury food delivery service.
Special diet meals such as vegan meals and gluten-free meals are trending, presenting another opportunity for specialization.
Challenges in the food delivery industry include:
Food delivery businesses that serve home-cooked meals are competing with rising restaurant delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats.
Rising food and gas prices are cutting into profit margins.
What kind of people work as personal chefs?
Since this article relates to chefs who cook and deliver home-cooked meals, personal chef statistics are provided.
How much does it cost to start a food delivery business?
Startup costs for a food delivery business range from $2,200 to $5,000, assuming that you already have a fully equipped kitchen and a vehicle.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your food delivery business, including:
Containers to deliver food
Cooking pans and utensils
Setting up a business name and corporation
Business licenses and permits
Business cards and brochures
How much can you earn from a food delivery business?
Prices for online food delivery vary depending on ingredients and the number of people served. This will assume the average delivery is $50. Your profit margin after the cost of ingredients should be 75%.
In your first year or two, you could work from home and deliver 15 meals a week, bringing in almost $40,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $30,000 in profit, assuming that 75% margin. As your brand gains recognition and you get repeat customers and referrals, sales could climb to 75 meals per week. At this stage, you’d rent a commercial kitchen and hire staff, reducing your profit margin to around 40%. With annual revenue of nearly $200,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $80,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for a food delivery business. Your biggest challenges will be:
Equipping your kitchen for the heavy workload
Competing with the likes of DoorDash and GrubHub and Uber Eats
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a food delivery business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research food delivery businesses in your area to examine their products and services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a gluten-free food delivery business.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as vegan dishes or high-end meals.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
You’ll need to decide if you want to make custom meals or offer a menu, or both. You can make a specialty menu like vegan food or fine dining or offer a variety. You could also boost your revenue by delivering wine and spirits, although you’ll need a license to do so.
If you’re not a chef, you have other food delivery options, such as building a food delivery app and delivering from restaurants, supermarkets and specialty shops. You could also deliver prepared meals that just need to be popped into the oven, like the popular service Blue Apron.
How much should you charge for food delivery?
Your prices will depend on the type of food, the number of portions, and the distance for delivery. You should try to markup your food costs by about 400% and add a delivery fee.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market will tend to be more established people who will be willing to pay a premium for a delivered home-cooked meal. You should market on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Where? Choose your business premises
In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out a commercial kitchen. Find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
Central location accessible via public transport
Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Food Delivery Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “food delivery” or “home-cooked meals”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “QuickBites” over “SushiShipper”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Food Delivery Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: A concise summary outlining the business’s mission, goals, and key strategies for success.
Business Overview: A brief description of the food delivery business, including its mission, vision, and target market.
Product and Services: Details about the specific food delivery services offered, such as types of cuisine, delivery options, and any unique features.
Market Analysis: A comprehensive examination of the target market, including demographics, trends, and potential for growth in the food delivery industry.
Competitive Analysis: An evaluation of competitors in the food delivery sector, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting the food delivery service, acquiring customers, and maintaining a competitive edge in the market.
Management Team: An overview of key individuals responsible for the business’s success, including their roles, expertise, and contributions.
Operations Plan: A detailed plan outlining the day-to-day operations of the food delivery business, from order processing to delivery logistics.
Financial Plan: A comprehensive financial projection, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, and profit margins.
Appendix: Supplementary materials, such as market research data, legal documents, or additional information supporting the business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to food delivery businesses.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your food delivery business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company(LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a food delivery business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your food delivery business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Trackin, POS Bistro, or Castiron, to manage your recipes, orders, deliveries, and payments.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your food delivery business, the marketing strategy should focus on showcasing the convenience, variety, and quality of your service. Emphasize the range of restaurants or food options you offer, the speed and reliability of your delivery, and any unique features like eco-friendly packaging, real-time tracking, or partnerships with popular eateries.
Professional Branding: Your branding should convey speed, reliability, and a passion for good food. This includes everything from your logo and app design to your delivery bags and driver uniforms.
Direct Outreach: Partner with local restaurants and food vendors to expand your service offerings. Participate in local food festivals and community events to raise brand awareness.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and App: Ensure your website and app are user-friendly, visually appealing, and optimized for easy ordering. Implement SEO best practices to rank well for local searches related to food delivery services.
Social Media Engagement: Utilize platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to promote featured restaurants, special deals, and customer reviews. Engaging content like behind-the-scenes looks at popular eateries can also attract followers.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Food Blog: Share blog posts about local cuisine trends, interviews with chefs from partner restaurants, and articles about the food delivery industry.
Email Marketing: Regular newsletters can inform customers about new restaurant partnerships, menu updates, and exclusive offers.
User-Generated Content: Encourage customers to share their food delivery experiences on social media, tagging your business for a chance to be featured on your channels.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Local Partnerships for Events: Collaborate with event organizers, offices, or universities to offer catering or special delivery rates for events.
Tasting Events and Pop-Ups: Organize tasting events or pop-up booths at local fairs or markets to showcase the variety of cuisines available through your service.
Collaborations and Community
Joint Promotions with Restaurants: Work with partner restaurants to create special promotions or bundled deals exclusive to your platform.
Community Engagement: Participate in or sponsor local community events, aligning your brand with community initiatives and causes.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Loyalty Rewards Program: Implement a program offering discounts or rewards for frequent customers.
Referral Incentives: Encourage existing customers to refer friends by offering them discounts on future orders.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Online Advertising: Use platforms like Google Ads, Facebook, and Instagram to target local audiences, emphasizing the convenience and range of your food delivery service.
Local Media and Influencer Partnerships: Collaborate with local influencers or food bloggers to reach a wider audience and add credibility to your service.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your food delivery business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your food delivery business could be:
Delicious gluten-free meals delivered to your door
Home-cooked meals delivered daily
Enjoy fine dining in the comfort of your own home
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a food delivery business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in food delivery for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in food delivery. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a food delivery business include:
Sous Chefs – help prepare meals
Drivers – deliver meals
General Manager – scheduling, staff management, accounting
Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run a Food Delivery Business – Start Making Money!
Food delivery is booming, which means this is a great time to put your kitchen skills to good use. You can start from home for a very small investment, and eventually rent out a commercial kitchen and maybe open your own restaurant. The key is getting in on this $70 billion industry.
Now that you’ve got the business part down, go ahead and prepare your menu and start cooking and delivering your way to success!
Food Delivery Business FAQs
Can a food delivery business be profitable?
Yes, a food delivery business can be profitable. You just need to markup your delivered meals enough from the cost to make them to have a healthy profit margin.
How can I deliver food safely?
You need to keep hot and cold food containers in your vehicle in which to place the food. You also need to make sure that you keep your vehicle secure.
What is the most popular delivery food?
Pizza has long been a delivery favorite, but with the emergence of food delivery apps, items like burritos and tacos are taking over. Burgers are also becoming a favorite.
What are some ways to differentiate your food delivery business from competitors?
You can differentiate your food delivery service with speed and reliability. You could also position your company as a lower-priced alternative.
How can you ensure that your delivery drivers are properly trained and equipped to handle food deliveries?
You should provide them with specific guidelines about how to handle food and how to provide the best service to customers.
How to Start a Food Delivery Business
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Food Delivery Business Name
Create a Food Delivery Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Food Delivery Business Licenses and Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Food Delivery Business - Start Making Money!
Food Delivery Business FAQs
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