Cottage food start-up sales, aided by food incubators, have soared from $5 billion annually in 2008 to over $20 billion annually in recent years. Chances are if you can make it, there is a market that will buy it – provided you are prepared to do more than just deliver the goods.
The benefits of bootstrapping a food start-up come from being able to dive right in without significant upfront costs, while the downside is a lack of resources that will allow you to grow consistently. However, food incubators offer a solution to a lack of resources so that you can have your cake and eat it too.
If you are known as the local chili specialist or have the chocolate lava cake recipe everyone is always asking for, then a specialty food business might be ripe for future success. While some homegrown food start-ups will grow to regional distribution in under a year, others will struggle to get out of the local farmer’s market.
What they have in common is that all food startups are started by real people with a concept they believe in. The difference between the two is strategic resources.
Photo Credit: Peerspace, Bite Unite Commercial Shared Kitchen
What Is A Food Incubator
To begin with, most cottage food businesses will be making high-value goods in low quantities, a sure recipe for quality but one lacking in a plan for scale and growth. No matter how good the idea is, you’ll need to front the investment for commercial space or a licensed home kitchen (depending on state law), equipment, and possibly most time-consuming, find your way through laws, licensing, and insurance.
The average start-up cost for a food business can easily be in the neighborhood of $100,000 before you’ve even labeled your first hot sauce.
The solution? Enter the food incubator model of the 1980s; a communally licensed and shared kitchen space. To “incubate” a business idea is to give resources to a fledgling idea before it leaves the nest.
Food incubator, shared kitchen, cloud kitchen, and ghost kitchen all refer to a magical place to start your food concept without the need for a big investment. These licensed commercial kitchens have been a place where small food business renters have the umbrella of shared preparation space, storage, and commercial equipment while sharing the costs with other creators. Kitchen incubators have allowed tens of thousands of “foodpreneurs” to start with minimal resources. These spaces can be rented hourly or monthly with limited contracts, allowing foodpreneurs who outgrow the space to move on and scale up without the liability of a long-term lease.
SAPi APP is an example of how a platform can make a great food incubator for a new business.
Kitchens aren’t the only business incubators available to hustling food entrepreneurs. A food APP platform, like Save A Plate (SAPi) , can also can address meaningful resource gaps as you grow. Food start-ups are more than the product. You can have the hottest biscuit in town, but without the ability to market, show proof of concept, and connect with your community, your biscuit will get cold.
This is where a digital platform, like a food APP, can help you fly. A crucial part of any operating budget is in marketing and sales. SAPi is a food incubator in the sense that it provides a shared platform of resources to reach a broader customer base. It also advertises for you, connecting your food concept to a local community looking for unique, fresh plates and products.
A food APP gives you the exposure you need without the legwork that usually follows. An APP also provides an organic marketing opportunity where the product pitch is coming from an established platform instead from just the creator. It also gives you a level of professionalism that is naturally associated with aligning yourself with a well-respected platform.
Utilizing a food incubator APP like SAPi will help you:
Reach new audiences.
Give you a place to trial concepts.
Save money on marketing costs.
Save valuable time.
Allow you to focus on the details of your product instead of sales.
Join the SAPi APP as a vendor, or find your local plate here.
How To Stand Out And Sell More At Your First Farmer’s Market
Photo Credit: Coastside Farmer’s Market, Half Moon Bay, California
Last year was the first that every state in the US offered some kind of cottage food law, the regulatory framework that allows small food businesses to sell legally from a domestic kitchen. These laws also made it easier for new foodpreneurs to enter the market via Farmer’s Markets in their local area.
Check out our article here about why the Farmer’s Market is a great place to test a concept or menu as you scale your food business.
Rolling into your first Farmer’s Market may feel intimidating, but fortunately, most are full of like-minded people who value the community aspect of the market. These events are a good place to launch your new food business for several reasons.
They attract a diverse group of people.
A market offers a place to test your concept and get honest feedback.
They are a way for people to meet YOU, the maker!
Your market table offers a great place to take pictures and use them for marketing.
It is an invaluable forum to network with potential customers and future collaborators.
Markets are a place that encourages communal growth, with vendors helping each other learn the way.
Whether you sell only to friends, on an online plaform, or through a food app like SAPi, Farmer’s Markets are a great place to connect with the public once a week. Your product may be the best available in town, but that’s not always enough to grab the attention of new customers or set you apart from the competition. Your first foray into the market should be bold and polished.
So we’ve created a list of where to start, how to make your brand stand out, and sell more.
8 Ways To Stand Out & Sell More At The Farmers Market
Farmer’s Markets are a feast for the stomach AND the eyes. Walking in, weekend markets can be full of hustle and bustle and people who know what they want. Your job is to be the pleasant new addition to their shopping list.
When it comes to catching the eye of potential new customers, you’ll need to go bold and prepared. While some markets may have just ten vendors, other more competitive markets may have 150 vendors or more. This creates massive competition over the attention of a potentially large amount of foot traffic that you hope to convert to loyal customers.
We love a “fake it til you make it” moment in foodpreneur. We’re not talking about dishonesty; we’re talking about showing people that you are serious about your product, that you have a cohesive vision, and that your product is boldly the best through clean branding that can be more effective than food samples.
While you might think that just dipping your toes in a market environment to test a product out doesn’t mean thinking about a branding strategy, the average consumer doesn’t want to wait for you to believe in your own product.
Coming with matching table clothes, color-coordinated signage, and proper labeling are imperative to building a subconscious experience for new customers. The truth is, humans are visually drawn to and psychologically driven to go towards products that look polished and proven.
2. Clean Signage & Pricing
Clear signage with pricing may seem obvious, but customers like to know about pricing. Not all customers feel social enough or want to wait to have a conversation with you about the pricing of your goods. A clear sign with pricing goes a long way to silently communicating to your customer base, speeding up transactions, and can even be a place where you further explain your product.
Hopefully, you’ll find yourself too busy at your market table to be able to answer every question. When this is the case, signage about ingredients, sourcing, and contact information that can answer customer questions! Also, consider popping a QR code up for people to quickly access a landing or social media page to see your products in action or answer commonly asked questions.
In regards to pricing, do your market research (no pun intended) and make sure that you are competitive with other like minded vendors. Too low and you’ll undercut the competition while potentially making your product look low in value. Too high and savvy shoppers will move on from sticker shock.
3. Stay Clean and Organized
The organization of your Farmer’s Market booth provides insight into your food business operations. While a busy day for a market vendor may mean some chaos may happen with boxes flying, empty sample trays stacked in the back, and marketing materials being blown around, do your best to have your booth represent your brand.
4. Come Prepared
Ensure you bring more than enough stock, marketing materials, sample packaging, and takeaway packaging. The latter is a big one. Imagine having an excited line of new customers and no packaging to serve your product in!
However, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to run out. Let us explain. There is nothing more intriguing to a consumer than a “sold out” sign.
“Was it THAT good?”
“How can I get it?”
“I’m coming early next time!”
It’s the good old crowd that attracts a crowd principle.
5. Everyone Loves A Free Sample
Building on the “crowd attracts a crowd” principle, nothing attracts a crowd like samples. Don’t be precious with your product, especially the first few times into a public forum. Letting people try your product gives them a risk free way to experience your goods rather than weighing a purchase to try.
Be prepared to chat with people, and receive honest feedback. Keep a notebook! Customer trials are a great barometer for what flavors people reach for most, whether you need to tweak a recipe, and if they fully understand the product. It is a valuable, free, real time research opportunity.
6. Founder Representation
Show up. Don’t leave your booth to a teenager who is just trying to make an hourly wage. Selling is an art and authenticity is a gold that should come directly from the Founder’s mouth. No one cares more about your product than you do. No one will be able to answer questions, upsell, and make strong connections better than the maker of the product.
Letting people see you is important in establishing that real local face that is behind your product.
7. Create A Call To Action
Your job isn’t done after the sale is complete. Asking people to become ambassadors in an organic way can create a domino effect in attracting and retaining customers. A call to action (CTA) can be as simple as a sign that says:
“Tag Us On Social Media”
“Follow Us On Instagram”
“Come Back Next Week To Try Our New Flavor”
“Enter Our Contest To Win a Free XXX”
Catching the attention of your audience and convincing them to continue interacting with your brand is the key to food business sustainability.
8. Consider A Market Promotion
The sky is blue, the grass is green, and humans love a good deal. If it’s your first few appearances at a market, start with some goodwill! A two-for-one deal that includes a new product is a great way to incentivize people to buy more and try new products. A sales promotion is a marketing activity that is designed to increase sales, encourage customer loyalty, or generate brand awareness.
Farmer’s Markets are an incubator for new food businesses, a place to grow and learn in equal measure. The connections built and feedback given are incredible assets to a new business. Start small; just start!
Sustainably Delicious: 8 Ways To Run An Eco-Friendly Food Business
As we face mounting pressure to reduce our environmental footprints, the food service industry will take center stage in sustainably feeding our communities. Running an eco-friendly food business can have many benefits for profit, planet, and plate.
The food and beverage industry is embracing greener measures to show that feeding consumers don’t have to cost the earth. Instead, a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit is possible through a few conscious shifts towards earth-friendly business strategies.
What Does It Mean To Be An Environmentally Friendly Food Business?
A study by consulting firm Deloitte reveals that more consumers are proactive in adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. This means choosing brands with ethical or environmentally sustainable practices and values or no longer purchasing certain products because they are concerned about the brand’s ethical or sustainability practices or values. 2.
Sustainability in the food sector refers to practices that minimize the business’ impact on the planet. Solutions like sustainable sourcing, monitoring food waste, eco-friendly packaging, and digital administration strategies can significantly lighten your food business’s carbon footprint.
Adding sustainability into your day-to-day business is not only responsible but also gives customers a window into your value system and an opportunity to contribute to these positive efforts.
The Benefits of Sustainable Food Business Practices
Sustainable is more than just a token social media post; it is long-term leadership that will impact current and future generations of diners.
Finally, all food businesses, whether you are a five-star dining experience or the neighborhood’s hottest food, need to stay profitable in their pursuit of doing better for the planet. The good news is that leading in sustainable practices will give you the edge over the competition, showing you’re putting the planet before the plate.
Demonstrating a priority for sustainable food business practices brings various benefits to your business. Adopting a sustainable strategy can also be a worthwhile investment for your business.
1. Brand loyalty.
When your company’s values align with people, they will likely be repeat customers. People like to feel like their money contributed to a positive difference in the world and actively seek ways they can be impactful with purchases. It also increases the chance that they’ll post about their good deed and, in doing so, will spread the word and create a powerful organic marketing campaign.
2. It’s Good For Business
With an increased gain in your customer base, you’ll organically find your profits growing. In addition, many sustainable practices, such as minimizing food waste, can go a long way to helping the bottom line.
4. Employee Morale
In the same way, customers want to know their dollars are helping a greater cause every time they purchase from a restaurant or food app; employees want to know their clock serves a bigger purpose. Demonstrating a central mission to feed the people and protect the planet can boost employee morale, increase motivation, and keep them around for longer as they feel they are part of a purposeful organization.
5. Establish Yourself As a Leader
No matter how small, your sustainable practices can serve as an example of what is possible. You are creating the bar for your competitors.
6. Improve The Quality Of Your Menu
Sustainable food sourcing – using organic, local, and seasonal ingredients – can lead to a more high-quality menu. Quality, showing your commitment to other local businesses, and clean ingredients will naturally lead to more business.
Implementing sustainability strategies may be easier than you think. You don’t have to tackle them all at once. If you are a food startup, consider implementing these practices out of the gate to reduce time-consuming and costly transitions. Lastly, remember that change takes time, and communicating your progress via marketing can help customers understand the bigger picture.
All food businesses can adopt sustainable strategies. Start where you are, do what you can. Just start. Begin by building your knowledge about more sustainably ingredient options, one ingredient at a time.
Look Local To Reduce Mileage
Choosing local suppliers will naturally lead to lowering part of your carbon footprint. That’s right; you are responsible for your supplier’s gas mileage and the impact that has on the environment. Minimizing the carbon trail of your business means sourcing ingredients, packaging, and marketing materials, as locally as possible.
Sourcing is key to reducing your impact on the environment as a business. Ask questions, do your research, and demand better from your vendors. Using food ingredients that are local, organic, fair trade, or produced using sustainable farming practices all help to reduce your overall impact.
Packaging – especially in food APPs, food trucks, and takeaway-centered business models is a key place to analyze your carbon footprint. Eco-friendly packaging is often recyclable, compostable, lighter-weight, reusable, and ideally compostable or biodegradable. Using less packaging is even more critical to reducing landfill waste.
If your food business relies on the packaging, compostable is the way to go. It is often made from renewable plant-based materials like corn, wheat, fiber, and sugarcane and uses fewer resources, produces less pollution in production, and won’t hang around in landfills for thousands of years like plastic.
Get Plants On The Menu
Last year, a study found that 48% of consumers seek “plant-based” foods and 70% of those have tried plant-based meat alternatives. You don’t have to adopt a fully vegan or vegetarian menu to be a plant-forward food business. You only need to offer options. Doing so may even have a surprising impact on your profits as more people are shifting their lifestyle to include a “Meat Free Monday” or just healthier eating habits. It doesn’t have to be a salad. Plenty of plant-based beef, chicken, and seafood is available to supply the commercial food industry with mouth-watering alternatives to carbon-intensive animal-based protein.
Reduce Food Waste
The energy and natural resources that go into growing the food are wasted if they don’t serve a purpose. Food waste also breaks down in landfills to create greenhouse gasses that are exacerbating climate change.
In the United States, roughly 133 billion pounds of food is wasted annually. This contributes to a growing carbon footprint where the food industry is responsible for 84% of food waste ending up in landfills. So what can we do as a food business to mitigate food waste? Keep a close eye on stock, educate staff, and compost if possible (you can also donate food waste to a local farm).
It’s time to join the digital revolution that is happening in the food industry. From paperless receipts to APPs that track inventory, we can digitize operations and save reams of paper, petroleum-based ink, and appliance energy by moving systems into a cloud. Digital record-keeping, QR code menus, and delivering receipts by email all help to cut down on office supply impact.
Ideally, you’ll first work on minimizing overall waste before recycling comes into play. However, it’s better to do things imperfectly than hold out for perfection. The first step in sustainability is making it easy and accessible for you and your customers. You can do this by providing the proper recycling bins for tin, glass, plastic, or cardboard and partnering with your local waste management company to see that it may live another day and reduce waste. Don’t forget to create educational signage to remind people how to recycle and why it is important.
Publicize your efforts.
Messaging is a big part of reaping the payoffs of your sustainability efforts. Make sure that all stakeholders, customers, employees, and the public know the sustainability efforts you are working hard to implement.
Don’t be humble; your actions may go a long way in inspiring others in the food community. Be sure to share updates, statistics, progress, and initiatives via marketing channels.
When you are well on your way, consider joining sustainable food business alliances that will vet your efforts and bring validity to your efforts.
Do Better When You Know Better
Lastly, adopting sustainability is a transformational process that may take time. Even the greenest food business can always do better as new innovations make being a green business easier. As you find more environmentally friendly options, research, train your staff, and implement them. Include your customers and future customers on your journey to put the planet over plate and acknowledge where you may fall short but are trying to improve.
We aren’t robots; we are real people trying to make the earth better for each other! Progress isn’t always linear, small efforts go a long way, and we can continually improve our sustainable strategies.
The Ultimate Guide To Mobile POS Systems For Your Food Business
Connect POS, a Shopify Compatible APP
Aside from seeing happy customers, being fulfilled within your life’s purpose, and selling out your inventory, the next best thing about having a food business is getting paid. For cottage food businesses, home-based commercial kitchens, farmers market regulars, and food trucks having a reliable mobile point of sale system (mPOS) is a must.
Mastercard revealed that 82% of customers surveyed believe that contactless payment is a safer way to pay. The transition away from cash payments is picking up pace. Mobile and contactless payments are expected to grow by 221% between 2022 and 2027.
Where once cash was king, cards have taken the crown. We are quickly moving towards a cashless society, and adapting to consumer spending habits is part of keeping up with contactless payment methods should be a top priority.
The Benefits Of A Mobile POS System
Whether you are tethered to a brick-and-mortar kitchen at a fixed address, or you are ruling the city in your moving food mobile on wheels, a portable mPOS system should be a top priority investment.
They can help streamline payments on the go at farmers’ markets, festivals, and private events.
You can eliminate a bulky register and use your phone or smart tablet instead.
You can accept contactless payments.
Your payment information is safely stored in the cloud and accessible anywhere.
Commerce is paper free. Receipts are stored and can be emailed quickly.
It makes your business accessible to customers who don’t carry cash but have their phone on hand for contactless payment.
Perhaps most importantly, mPOS systems can help expand your revenue streams and allow you to be in multiple places simultaneously. In addition, because the mPOS systems are cloud-based, you can access business information anywhere, anytime, allowing you to untether from your computer, creating higher productivity and efficiency.
How Do Mobile Payment Systems Work
The learning curve for mobile payment systems is a relatively easy one. They are typically uncomplicated, allowing both employees and customers a smooth experience.
Getting your mPOS system up and running will require choosing a software provider, downloading the app, and connecting your card reader to the mobile device. After that, the only limiting factor is a strong WIFI or data connection.
Even without a signal, some mPOS offer an offline mode that lets you continue to accept payment even if you’re without a connection. In contrast, others won’t allow payment but will still provide some functionality while offline.
Using a mobile POS system can allow your business to be in more than one place at a time.
What To Look For In A Mobile POS System
Mobile POS systems can have a wide variety of features and operating modes catering to an equally wide variety of needs.
mPOS systems can process a variety of payment types, including:
Knowing what kinds of payments you want to accept will help you make an informed decision on your mPOS system.
In addition, you’ll want to keep in mind which features work best with your business model. Here are six features that might help you decide which mPOS system is right for you.
Many mobile POS systems will allow you to create and process coupons, gift certificates, and loyalty programs, in essence operating as both a payment portal and your marketing department.
Secure payments are crucial for both you and your customer. Therefore, your mPOS should be PCI-Compliant which will help you keep transactions secure and protect you from disputed charges.
Reports are essential to analyzing sales figures, inventory, and buying trends. Knowing when your customers are most active, what they are buying and how they are paying will help you optimize your business.
4. E-Commerce Compatibility
As your business grows, you may consider integrating other platforms like websites, to sell products. An all-in-one concept like Square that will provide you with mobile POS hardware and website-building software that works in sync and can become a centralized place to manage your food business.
5. Third-Party Integrations
New food start-ups are often lean operations with one or two people at the helm. For example, using third-party programs for advanced accounting, inventory, and staff management that integrate with your mPOS system will help keep the juggling act smooth.
6. Employee Management
Some mobile POS systems will allow for multiple employee profiles to help you resolve human error issues or track time. You will also be able to set different roles and permissions using unique profiles.
How Much Does an mPOS Cost
There are typically three areas of the cost associated with an investment into a mobile POS system: hardware, software, and payment processing fees.
The physical hardware can cost between $0- $800 whether you choose an mPOS that will work with your existing smartphone or tablet (Poster) or you invest in one that has its own unit (Square).
Software for mPOS systems can also vary greatly, with some being free with the purchase of a portable terminal and others upwards of $270 per month.
Payment Processing Fees
Payment processing fees average 2.6% and are usually accompanied by a flat rate per transaction fee. All around, mobile payment systems tend to be cheaper than their traditional counterparts.
The Best Mobile POS Systems
There is really no ‘best’ mobile POS system; there is only the best mobile POS system for your specific needs. Here are a few of the most popular entry-level mPOS systems on the market.
Clover is a mobile POS system with several different options for mobile units. (Source: Clover)
Per Merchant Maverick: Clover has several mobile Android-based and purpose-built POS hardware solutions to choose from, but the most mobile-ready Clover device is the Clover Flex.
The mobility of the $499 Clover Flex makes it easy to line-bust, sell on the floor, or even outside the bounds of your brick-and-mortar store with a data plan. In addition, the Clover Flex has a built-in card swipe/chip/tap payment reader, receipt printer, and barcode scanner.
Suitable for any business type
Monthly Fee: $0-$290/month
Processing Fee: 2.3%-3.5% + $0.10
Square Mobile POS coordinates with an APP and a backend capable of managing analytics.
Square Point of Sale is a mobile POS system available for iOS and Android devices. Key capabilities of the Square POS system include online payment processing, sales reports, inventory tracking, digital receipts, email and SMS marketing campaigns, eCommerce, insights/analytics, and more.
Suitable for any business type
Monthly Fee: Free
Processing Fee: 2.6% + $0.10
Shopify Mobile POS system works especially well if you also want to develop E Commerce
Reviewers report that one big draw with Shopify POS is how easily you can upgrade and scale as your business grows. Shopify is also versatile in that you can use it on any mobile device or laptop and has various pricing plans.
The entry-level service plan, Shopify’s Starter Plan, comes at a reasonable monthly fee of $5/month and provides access to the POS system as well as invoicing and limited online selling tools — embeddable buy buttons to sell on your existing blog or website (supports WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Tumblr, and more).
Suitable for retail
Monthly Fee: $9
Processing Fee: 2.7%
Using a mobile POS system will soon be the future of frictionless payments. Even if you feel you don’t need a mobile payment system yet, it’s worth looking at for the future scalability potential one offers.
Starting your own food business usually begins with a dream you can’t seem to shake – and a call to join the 30,000-strong food trucks across the United States may be part of your journey.
As the pandemic changed how foodpreneurs viewed their culinary ambitions, food trucks became a wildly popular solution to decreasing overhead, maintaining flexibility, and streamlining operations. Food Truck startups have been so popular that new operations grew by 8% in 2022, adding to a $1 billion mobile food business industry.
So you’ve decided food truck life is for you. You have the perfect idea for a mobile dream to feed the masses! But first, you need wheels.
For all the dreamers and, more importantly, for the doers, we’ve created the essential guide to purchasing a food truck.
Everything You Need To Know Before Buying a Food Truck
There are many ways to go about a food business startup. Starting a catering business or home-based commercial kitchen are also significant jump-off points to growing your dream. There are also some very encouraging statistics that make a food truck a smart entry into the commercial food industry.
According to Off The Grid, 34% of food truck owners report that a small mobile operation has given them a place to test out menu ideas and new concepts on a variety of audiences.
While brick-and-mortar restaurants, on average, experience 2% growth, food trucks have experienced 7.3% growth annually since 2007
One of the biggest advantages to starting a food truck over a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant is a low barrier of entry – start-up costs are typically much lower. However, start-up costs for a food truck vary greatly depending on several variables, and you can expect to invest $28,000 to $114,000 on average.
The vast majority of expenses will likely go to the purchase and outfitting of the food truck itself, and we are here to break down the finer points of your central investment.
According to Food Truck Empire, you can expect to pay anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 dollars for your mobile food business wheels. Other experts estimate $50,000 to $200,000 for a new truck, while other new business owners report finding used trucks for $15,000 or less.
The bottom line is the price can vary drastically depending on whether the truck is new or used, news to be gutted and built from scratch, or just updated. Either way, you’ll also need to invest in “wrapping” the truck with your branding, insurance, and maintenance.
When exploring your options to get your food truck business off the ground, you are bound to compare the advantages and drawbacks of getting one new from the manufacturer vs. used.
New Food Truck Pros
A manufacturer in your state will know and comply with all construction regulations to ensure your food truck is legal and guaranteed to pass code inspections.
Brand new everything means less initial maintenance.
New food trucks usually come with a great warranty.
New Food Truck Cons
Bigger upfront investment.
It can take time for customization and build-out.
Used Food Truck Pros
Barring any major maintenance, they are ready to be used immediately.
Many come already outfitted, reducing your commercial kitchen installation costs.
Less decision-making because the equipment is already there.
If purchasing from a dealer, there is usually some kind of warranty.
Used Food Truck Cons
Unknown wear and tear and possible fixes.
Equipment already has a lot of use.
Less ability to customize.
Less life expectancy.
What To Look For Before Purchasing a Food Truck
Whether you are purchasing a food truck from a private seller, the manufacturer, or a dealer, go in prepared. Knowledge is power and may help you negotiate a better deal or warranty.
1. Thoroughly inspect the engine and equipment.
Bring a qualified mechanic with you to do an internal inspection of the engine. Ask for maintenance and service logs. When logs are in order and come with receipts, you know the owner has taken care of his investment.
2. Do manufacturer research.
Don’t take the owner or dealer’s word for it. Due diligence will save you time, money, and headaches. Check reviews and ratings online as well as food truck forums. Nothing is more valuable than first-hand experience from other owners.
3. Check the odometer.
If buying used, take a look at the odometer. In all reality, a food truck shouldn’t be clocking in too many miles. If the mileage is relatively high, use it as a bargaining point. If you opt to purchase a used road warrior, ensure the extra miles are insured with a warranty.
4. Check your city’s size restrictions.
You’ll need to check your city’s food truck size restrictions before you purchase. Some cities, like Washington D.C., have limitations of length and height that you should consider before purchasing. In addition, if you know where you will be selling from, measure the parking spaces to ensure you will fit.
5. Will it fit your staff?
If your operation requires several people in the kitchen at once, take stock in your operational space. A too-small space may hinder your efficiency and future scalable growth plans.
6. Know what to ask a food truck builder.
If you are opting for a new and shiny straight from the manufacturer’s food truck, come prepared with questions. How long will the build take? Do they deliver? Have they built a concept like yours before? Can you talk to some of their other customers?
A reputable builder will be able to answer all these questions and provide references for past builds.
7. Check fuel and power specifications.
Checking fuel and power specifications may seem trivial, but can add to your bottom line. Deciding between diesel and gasoline is important when considering your monthly fuel bill. While gasoline is more cost-effective, diesel can mean greater fuel economy. In addition, gasoline-fueled vehicles are often easier and cheaper to maintain and repair.
Typically, food trucks operate their power of diesel-fueled generators. Purchasing a new or used generator should involve a deep dive into the manufacturing specs of the generator and, if it is used, the wear and tear and remaining lifespan of the equipment.
Whether new or used, there are a wealth of resources online to research your new food truck purchase. Once you have narrowed down your needs and non-negotiables, consulted food truck forums, and created your concept, it’s time to start shopping.
We have already established that no matter if you are buying new or used, the mobile kitchen will likely be one of the highest upfront costs to your food truck ambitions.
There is one way to circumnavigate this initial high-cost investment: leasing. Opting for lower monthly payments can allow you to build your business more rapidly, as you’re startup funds can be diverted to marketing, equipment, and other costs. This is an excellent option if you want to test a concept first or need additional time to bank funds to reinvest.
On the downside, when the leasing period ends, you will have to weather transition-related hassles such as uninstalling equipment, a lag time in the switch to a new vehicle, and loss of momentum. To avoid this, be sure to check the lease agreement for renewal and lease-to-own clauses that may help you avoid this scenario.
Food Truck revenue can range from $250,000 to $500,000 annually.
Your Food Truck Dream On Wheels
Food trucks can be the best entry into your foodpreneur journey if you’ve done your research. What starts with a well-researched vehicle can grow into a fleet of favorite mobile establishments, serving as a helm of community gatherings and events for your local area.
Whether you are selling your famous oatmeal cookies or artisan sourdough bread, at some point, after the millionth question you’ve received about ingredients, calories, or volume, you’ll want a label whether it’s required or not.
Laws in every state have been written to help companies referred to as; home-based kitchens, cottage food businesses, or homestead businesses to comply with food health and safety while allowing commercial operations in domestic locations.
We’ll dive into the ins and outs and food labels and the reasons that this information is always good to have on hand, whether it is mandated by state law or not.
In this guide to Cottage Food Business labeling, we’ll explore the following:
Who Requires Labels
Examples of Home-Based Food Production Labels
Why You Should Have a Label, Whether It Is Required Or Not
Resources To Help Create A Label
Each State’s Cottage Food Law For Labeling
Who Requires A Label
Most states require some version of labeling for home-based food products. However, the actual contents can range from essential to complex depending on the stipulations of Cottage Food Laws in your state.
Suppose you decide to partner with, for example, a local coffee shop to sell your baked goods, a farmer’s market, or a retail outlet. In that case, they may also have their own standards to ensure safety regulations are met and to minimize liability.
Some states have exemptions for:
Hot, ready-to-eat foods
Simple Items with low nutritional value; coffee, tea, etc
In all cases, you should check our guide below for what each state’s Cottage Food Laws mandate. Below we indicate typical information asked to be included on home-based food labeling.
Typical information found on food labels includes:
(1) The name of the food product located on the primary panel.
(2) The name, city, and zip code of the Cottage Food Operation (CFO) that produced the food product. (A contact phone number or email address is optional but may be helpful for contact in case a consumer wishes to contact you.)
(3) You must indicate it was prepared in a home kitchen by one of these statements, depending on state regulation, in 12-point type on the principal display panel:
“Made in a Home Kitchen”
“Repackaged in a Home Kitchen”
“This food is made in a home kitchen and is not inspected by the Department of State Health Services or a local health department.”
(4) The registration or permit number of the CFO who produced the cottage food product (if applicable).
(5) The ingredients of the cottage food product, in descending order of weight, if the product contains two or more ingredients.
(6) The net quantity (count, weight, or volume) of the food product, stated in both (pound) units and metric units (grams).
(7) A declaration on the label in plain language if the food contains any of the major food allergens such as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans.
Regarding allergens, there are two approved methods prescribed by federal law for declaring the food sources of allergens in packaged foods: a) in a separate summary statement immediately following or adjacent to the ingredient list or b) within the ingredient list.
Examples Of Cottage Food Labels
If you’d like to know what it looks like to create a label for your products, many states provide mockups for what meets regulations.
Why You Should Have a Label On Hand No Matter What
You may be a part-time home-based food producer who only sells on the weekends at the farmer’s market or to friends and think, I don’t need labels!
If no one requires you to have a label, why should you bother investing effort, time, and money out of pocket? There are a few benefits to having this information on hand that goes beyond meeting regulations. Even if you don’t put it on the physical product, keeping information on hand about nutritional values, ingredients, and sourcing can come in handy when you least expect it. Here are five solid reasons to make creating labels a priority.
1. Streamline Questions From Customers
People will ask all the questions. What are the ingredients? Do you know the caloric content? Is it gluten-free? Does it meet an allergen requirement you may have never heard of?
Consumers have a right to know all of the above, and even if they are satisfied with your answer, you may not want to answer the question several times over. You also might not be available if you end up hiring staff to answer every question, and a label can help your staff point the customer in the right direction.
2. Free Marketing
So you make the best BBQ sauce this side of the county? What better advertisement is there than a label on your product while it goes to a family get together or event? Never miss a free marketing opportunity by having your product do the talking when you aren’t around. Adding your social media and contact information is also a great way to get leads and gain momentum in your customer base.
3. Levels Your Business Up
Intuitively customers trust a brand that looks polished and professional. Your product might be made in a home kitchen, but if you put effort into making it, you should communicate that passion in the packaging. When you make social posts, a sleek labeled product will help separate you from the pack.
4. Shows You Are An Authority On Your Product
Adding nutrition, allergen, and health benefits information shows that you’ve put thought into your products. While you may not need all categories of information (check your state’s regulations in our guide below), adding it demonstrates that you know your product intimately and have done the research.
5. Opens The Doors
Building on all of the above, a labeled product infers that you are ready for partnerships with retailers, events, and expansion. A polished label will open the door to opportunity in a way that an unlabeled and “green” looking product may not.
Resources To Create Your Own Food Label
The good news is, you don’t need to be a graphic designer to put together your own labels. There are plenty of easy-to-use tools online that will help you put together the needed information, design, and print them with ease.
Nutrient / Nutrition Labeling and Analysis
You don’t need a lab to do your ingredient analysis and create a professional-looking nutritional label. Each of these online generators has free options. All you need is a set recipe with defined measurements, and the generator will do the rest. You can save the nutritional information box generated and pop it into one of the design programs below.
In addition, these platforms are a great way to experiment with recipes, especially if you have a health target like a “low calorie” product. Adjusting ingredients will help you envision where the recipe needs to go to achieve the goal.
You don’t need to have knowledge in complicated design programs to throw together your first label. If you feel intimidated, reach out to design friends or try freelance sites like Upwork, Envato, or Fiverr to hire someone. Freelance designers can range in price depending on experience, but it’s not difficult to find an economical option.
Here are several sites to design labels on your own.
Forming a relationship with a local printer is always helpful for a number of reasons. You can work together in real-time on location to get your label locked in perfectly. In addition, there is also generally faster turnaround and lower minimum order quantities if you explain that you are a new business and want to grow with them. Plus, it’s always great to support a local business.
However, this isn’t always an option. You could opt to print your labels at home. Conversely, as you scale your business, the pricing may be better with larger online companies, albeit less personal. Here are a few options for online printing services.
Below we have curated a list of resources for Cottage Food Laws in each state. When possible we listed the government link for the Cottage Food Law in that state. The regulations, labels requirements, and exemptions vary from state to state and are essential to understand before launching your food business.