Do you love cooking? Are your secret recipes adored by your friends and family? If you have a flair for cooking, maybe it is time that you started making money off your culinary skills.
As you might already know, starting a restaurant requires you to have a significant amount as your startup cost. For this reason, most people have for a long time felt held back, however, today, things are changing and we are now seeing more people opting to run their food-based business from home.
This business is becoming more acceptable by the day as we see more people preferring to pre-ordering home-cooked meals as opposed to normal takeout. However, before setting out to start this business, you need to check with your local State Department of Health to find out what requirements you need to fulfill.
In most regions, health departments have become a bit linnet on the laws governing such business. While it might differ from one place to another, certain requirements tend to be common across the board. Some of these requirements include;
Before anything else, you should seek to find out the rules and regulations stipulated by your homeowner’s association. Not all homes are the same; while some might be okay with you running a home-based business, others have clear rules against such hence you must seek to find an alternative.
Before you can start selling home-cooked food to the public, you need to first register your business with the secretary of state’s office. You will need to provide them with your business name and type of business structure so that they can inform you of the appropriate business license for you.
Some licenses you will be required to register for include;
Food Handler’s Certificate
Before you are granted the go-ahead to start your business, you and any other person who helps in your kitchen might first be subjected to a health test. This test is to ascertain your knowledge in handling, preparing and storing food meant for public consumption.
We have all heard or maybe even experienced a case of food poisoning and we know how tragic it can become. Therefore, this is an important step while planning to cook food for public consumption.
If you are going to be making food and delivering it to your clients, you will be required to get a catering license. While at it, you might also want to acquire a zoning variance. This is especially important if you have clients who come to your home from other areas to come to pick up food.
The kitchen used for preparing food for the public has to be inspected regularly by health and safety inspection officers. Upon approval, you are going to be given a certificate of inspection. In case your kitchen does not meet the qualification, you can always opt to hire a public kitchen where you can prepare and packaging your food deliveries.
Some of the requirements necessary for your kitchen to be approved for making home-cooked food to the public might include;
- You need to have separate utensils for your business and those used for home use.
- There needs to be some sort of division, a door or wall, that separates the living area and the kitchen.
- No pets and children are allowed in the preparation room
- No smoking within or around the preparation area
- Testing of the water source to ensure the water is not contaminated
- Private sewage system inspection
- And finally, health inspection officers will need to see a food handler’s certificate from everyone involved in the meal preparation process.
Depending on the type of license you acquired and the state in which you operate, these requirements could either be more or less.
Making food from home does not exempt you from properly labeling your items. Same to other requirements, labeling requirements also differ from one state to another. However, generally, when labeling, you will be required to indicate the name of your operation, city, and zip code. You must also clearly indicate on the package that the item is ‘Made in a Home Kitchen’ as well as the ingredients used.
Why You Should Start Selling Home-Cooked Food to the Public
The first and very obvious reason is that it is cheaper than setting up a restaurant. While a restaurant requires a lot in terms of startup capital to cover the cost of renting a place, buying equipment and paying for overhead costs, a home-based business is more economical. This is because you are using what you already have at your disposal.
Secondly, it is an easy and convenient way of making money especially for private chefs, stay at home mums or even students who have a flair of cooking. You only need to set up systems that allow you to communicate with your clients.
Types of Foods That You Can Sell
Even though regulations are slowly being lifted as to how to carry on with this type of business, there are still some limitations that one has to make do with such as being limited on the type of home-cooked food you can sell.
In general, people are allowed to prepare, package and sell non-hazardous foods such as; baked goods, dried fruit, jams, jellies, nut mixes, fudge, pies, caramel, etc.
For such business, they are usually protected under the Cottage Food Operation law. This law is meant for individuals who intend on selling home-cooked food to the public on a small scale, hence by law, there is a limit as to how much sales you can generate in a given year under this law.
As a small business, if your business goes over those limits, then you will no longer be operating under Cottage Food hence will be required to register as a business entity. The limit in terms of revenues for businesses operating under the Cottage Food Operation is about $50,000 per year. This of course differs from one region to another hence you should seek to find out the limit in your area of operation.
Starting a business from home might be appealing because of convenience and its cost-effectiveness, however, it is not entirely easy especially when in the business of food production. Any slight mistake can land you into serious trouble hence you need to do your research carefully beforehand and always ensure high standards of cleanliness in your kitchen and adhere to set rules and regulations.