Step-by-Step Guide to Starting a Food Business

Many food-lovers dreams of opening their restaurant. It is not easy to start a food business. It takes a lot of business operations skills to get started.

These steps will help you understand the requirements for starting a food business and what you need to consider before diving in.

 Steps to starting a food business

Step 1: Evaluate your skills

We can assume you have an idea for a food business you are interested in starting. That’s great! Although interest is the most important step in starting your business, it’s also important to assess your abilities and assets before you jump into the business world.

Although passion can go a long way in a business, it’s not enough to make it a success. You also need to be able to work hard and have business sense. Although many business owners aren’t experts, they can find resources to help them when they encounter problems. This is a valuable lesson that you need to learn quickly.

Although many concrete steps are involved in starting a small food company, such as choosing a business structure and funding, there is also the question of “Are you ready and capable of doing this?”

Before you begin, take some time to reflect on your strengths and consider your support networks. Next, brainstorm your resources.

You will need to be able to manage a food business.

  • Payroll
  • Fire and hire employees
  • Buy from suppliers
  • Marketing
  • Create a menu
  • Real estate
  • Equipment purchase
  • There’s so much more…

Now it’s time for the concrete details.

Step 2: Develop a business plan

Your small food business can reap multiple benefits from a business plan. It is a great way to put your ideas and plans down on paper. This can also be useful as you go along the journey of opening and running your business. A business plan is a great idea if you are looking for financing to start your food business.

SCORE offers great resources to assist you in writing a business plan for a food business. Although it can be daunting to create one, if you are researching how to start your own food business, you likely have many great ideas to add to your plan. Here are some steps to follow when creating a business plan.

1. Make a budget for your business

The business budget is an important part of any business plan, especially if it’s seeking funding.

The business budget includes all costs associated with the start-up of the business. It also covers the funds required to run the business after it is up and running.

Here are some examples of costs and considerations when starting a food company:

  • Which type of food business are you starting?
  • Cost of management and employees
  • Equipment
  • The initial investment in food products
  • Real estate
  • Design for a physical space

2. Examine your competition

When you are putting together your business plan, you should look at your competitors. The food market is highly competitive, and many markets are saturated. Before starting your small food business, it is important to find out who and what they are doing.

When you are looking at your competitors, be sure to evaluate what they have going for them. This will help you identify the gaps in your business.

It’s a great time for you to look at prices and assess the costs of running a business and the actual amount of money you can make.

3. Find a gap in the market

A gap in the market is the ideal place to start a food business. Is there a customer need that is not being met? It doesn’t matter if no one else is doing it. To make a profit, customers must want it and be willing to buy it.

You can identify a gap in the market and decide what type of food to sell. You have many options when it comes time to sell your food.

  • Meal delivery
  • Other food establishments can purchase baked goods
  • Food business from home
  • Food truck
  • Catering for special events and weddings

4. Choose a concept

It is important to choose the type of food business that you want when starting a food company. There are three main options: a brick-and-mortar restaurant, a food truck or a home-based catering company.

Each option is viable for starting and running your business. One type of business might be preferred over another in the hope of eventually moving to another. While a food truck and a home-based catering company have their challenges, they require less capital than full-fledged brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Step 3: Start your business.

After you have done your market research, identified the gaps in your market, and created a business plan, it’s time to start your food business.

1. Select a business entity

First, you must choose a business entity to start your food business. There are many options available and, depending on your needs, the right one for you.

Co-ops, sole proprietorships and LLCs are small food companies’ most popular business entities. There are also options for partnerships, S-corporations and C-corporations.

Sole proprietorship

The sole proprietorship is one of the easiest business structures. A sole proprietorship is a simple business structure popular with food establishments. However, it has limited protection. If someone becomes ill from eating your food and wishes to sue your business, they would have to sue you. They could also pursue your assets for compensation.


An LLC is one level above a sole proprietorship. An LLC, or limited liability corporation, is a legal entity that separates the owner and the business. An LLC reduces the personal liability of the business owner. An LLC provides tax efficiency for businesses and is simple to set up. This makes it ideal for food business owners who want to have some control over taxes but also be protected.


A cooperative, also known more commonly as a cooperative, is a business structure owned and managed by multiple individuals. Each owner or member of the cooperative owns a part of the business. Co-ops are a common type of business and are very popular among food businesses, particularly those producing and selling food at grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Choosing the right business structure to support your future food business can be difficult. If you decide you have the wrong business structure for your new venture, you can change it. You can consult a business lawyer to help you choose the right structure for your business.

2. Register your company

Registering for an EIN (federal employee identification number) from the IRS is a good idea if your company plans to hire others. You can apply online for one in just minutes. This step is highly recommended.

You will likely need to register your company with the state where you operate. The exact rules for doing this vary from one state to the next, but you can find this information on your state’s secretary’s website. Before you register your business, make sure to search for business names in your area.

3. Register for all licenses required

It is important to ensure that you are legally licensed to sell and prepare food. Food businesses require many licenses and certifications.

Important to remember that licenses are required for different establishments, including those selling alcohol. There may be slightly different requirements for food establishments in different localities.

You may need these types of certifications and licenses to operate a food business.

  • A food handling permit
  • For your restaurant, a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is required
  • To sell alcohol, a liquor license is required.
  • You can get a food license to sell and make food from your home
  • To be able to buy wholesale ingredients, you will need a resale licence

You will need permits and licenses, no matter what kind of food business you are starting. The local government office can help you determine which licenses are required for your business type.

4. Get insurance

You need insurance for your business if you have employees or a physical location that hosts customers. You might consider:

  • General liability insurance
  • Business auto insurance
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Insurance for commercial property
  • Mobile food vendor insurance

5. Separate your finances

It doesn’t matter what type of business entity you choose for your business; keeping your personal and business finances separate is important. This will make it much easier to calculate your taxes and expenses.

You can open a second bank account to help your small business start. You can do this with your current bank account, but you may want to open a business checking account online.

You can also apply for a separate credit card to be used exclusively for business purposes. You can build your credit by using a credit card for business purposes. This will allow you to increase your credit score (assuming you pay your bills on time and use them responsibly). It could also help you get a loan.

Step 4: Search for financing options.

One of the most important concerns when considering starting a food business is how much money you will need. Starting a business can be expensive and take many months or even years before it becomes profitable.

Many new food businesses need funding to get started. They can seek loans or money from investors. Although banks are often reluctant to lend money to new business owners, bank loans can be one option. You can also look into other lenders.

1. Equipment loans

An equipment loan can be a great choice if you need expensive equipment or are considering buying a food truck. An equipment loan is simple: The equipment acts as collateral, and you receive a loan to purchase the equipment. The equipment may be repossessed if the loan is not repaid.

This loan is much easier than other types.

2. Family and friends can borrow money

Your family and friends are the best people to help you start a food business. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are saving money to start your business. Make sure you have a written loan agreement with your lender and stick to it.

3. Line of credit

line credit can be a great option for someone starting a food company. A line of credit allows you to access a pool fund. The fund allows you to borrow up to its limit anytime. This is a great choice for cash-strapped businesses that need to borrow for short periods.

4. SBA microloan

The SBA microloan is available to food businesses that want to open a food truck or a restaurant that needs extra cash. The SBA microloan, which is up to $50,000, is guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. The SBA loan is the best on the market because of its flexible repayment terms and low-interest rates.

Step 5: Invest money in products and tools.

To start a food company, you will need more than cash and a business entity. It would help if you also had equipment and food supplies.

1. Research suppliers

Your suppliers are one of the most important relationships you can form as a food company owner. Your suppliers are the people who ensure you have the products and food you need to run your business.

You might be able to buy equipment and furnishings from a closed restaurant or purchase an excess stock that they have saved. You can often source your food locally, and trade magazines or professional organizations like the National Restaurant Association can help.

Find reliable suppliers to ensure that you get your supplies at the lowest price and on time. Your source of food can be a selling point for your food business. Sustainable companies are becoming more attractive to customers in recent years.

2. Point-of-sale system

Point of sale systems, also known as POS, is the modern equivalent of cash registers. The POS allows your waitstaff to take down orders, charge customers and collect payment from customers.

Many restaurant POS systems are available that provide enhanced functionality for staff.

  • Clover POS
  • Square for Restaurants
  • TouchBistro POS
  • Lightspeed Restaurant POS
  • Toast POS
  • Loyverse POS


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