Business Overview

Meals-to-go businesses prepare and deliver home-cooked meals to busy customers who prefer to save time on cooking and grocery shopping. They can afford to bring home or have delivered great meals for their family. What they do not have is the time it takes to find and select quality ingredients, spend the time cooking the meal, and then prepare a meal that is hot and fresh for their families.

The most successful meals-to-go organizations provide delicious and nutritious food according to diet planning that moderates the unhealthy choices and leans towards healthier choices. This is where the big successes in this business are now coming from. Companies that provide these great meals are making records profits.

Who is this business right for?

You should really like to cook. You should like to explore the ingredients that go into making a great meal and especially enjoy serving such a meal to others. The state of the art in this business is not based on the fast food model. Instead, in order to be more profitable, it is based on a quality food model that is prepared in advance and is delicious and nutritious.

What happens during a typical day at a meals to go business?

The most successful business owners in this sector take to time to hand-select the best ingredients. They get up early to go to the wholesale markets and pick out the very best things that they can find in order to prepare delicious meals.

One of the greatest challenges in this business is to buy enough materials to make the food that is ordered and at the same time control waste. Since many items are perishable the balancing act is to get enough supplies and sell out the food, without having to throw much of it away. Controlling waste is a big issue because it can be as much as 20% of the raw materials cost.

Another big part of your day is to make sure there is sufficient staff given that your business employs multiple people, and if that is the case, owners must make sure that employees show up on time. Food preparation is very time dependent and being late is not acceptable. There is a tremendous rush to prepare orders at certain times of day and being short-staffed during those periods of heavy daily activity can cause a disaster.

What is the target market?

The preferred customers are those with disposable income who like good food and do not have the time required to prepare it for their families. They do not want to go to the trouble to visit a restaurant and they find fast-food less than satisfying. They are willing to pay more for the quality of food that is made using better types of ingredients.

How does a meals to go business make money?

Meals-to-go businesses prepare home-cooked food for customers, and sell these meals (often with a delivery service). In any food preparation business, there is a markup on ingredient costs and labor costs with some allowance for waste. For example, if the ingredients for a meal cost $10 and the labor to prepare it costs $4, and then we add in a contribution to overhead and allowance for waste the meal should sell for about $24 to include some profit for the business owner. This is a great price for a quality gourmet meal for two people. Delivery charges are usually factored into the price of the meal. Selling wine to make extra revenues and deserts as an up-sell item, makes the profits go up.

What is the growth potential for a meals to go business?

Each meals-to-go operation will serve a local area that has a limit of its geography because the food cannot be taken further away and still remain hot and fresh. Because of this need for localization, it is possible to expand the operations to other nearby areas to grow the business. There are plenty of national franchise chains that started out with a single location and expanded in this way to serve other communities.