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Old 07-23-2006, 04:18 AM   #1
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To anyone running their own food business...


I'm Mike from England, UK. Our food health & safety legislation may be slightly different from yours in the states, but I'm basically looking for any advice on starting up a food business.

I am proposing to start a bespoke ready meal manufacturing and delivery company. I have no experience in the food industry or even experience in starting and running a business!!! so I'm off to a good start!

I'd just like to hear from anyone who has experience of this or something similar to pass on their advice?

I will need to rent a premises, hire chefs to develop, test and manufacture the meals, transport, frozen storage, advertising, marketing etc....

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Old 07-23-2006, 05:33 AM   #2
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Hi Mike
First of all, have you done some market research into the area/type of food that will be accepted/ your competitors etc? Not having any experience at all in this industry may not be the easiest start, but thats not to say it couldn't work for you. But...you must have some feedback from potential clients otherwise you are risking an awful lot here!
An example: Recently, ( like 2 months ago) a Frenchman decided our city needed a specialist French Chef doing ready to heat and eat meals to take home, and gourmet foods delivered to offices for lunch. Now, I know what he is paying in rent as I had looked at the kitchen he is leasing for myself, he has on top of that his insurances, gas and power, staff, and every other day to day cost...excluding raw ingredients. I figured he would need to sell 600 of his gourmet sandwiches ( delivered) and 200 of his ready to heat meals each week, to a new market, just to meet the above mentioned costs!! Raw ingredients not included. He is now not in business. Within 2 months all he put into the biz has been lost.
That is absolutely not saying this would happen to you, but make sure you have done your research, have a business plan and a good accountant, and realise that even paying a professional to put some menus together and test them for you, will cost heaps.
Look forward to hearing more from you
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Old 07-23-2006, 06:27 AM   #3
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Make yourself a good business plan first - work out running costs, overheads, marketing costs, transport, employee costs, etc.
Do your market study to see what people really like to eat there.
Most important, go to the local Health Authority - I know from my brother's experiences in Sissinghurst that there are 100,000,000 requirements for food handling these days.
My kitchen here in Venezuela was inherited from a group who decided to make paella take -aways. They spent a small fortune, and lost it. Who eats paella every day? No one!
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Old 07-23-2006, 08:44 AM   #4
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Depends where you are in the UK.

My favourite local place is www.valvonacrolla.co.uk - I don't think anyone could compete with the likes of them! They do wonderful oven ready foods, as well as sandwiches etc.

I'm with the other posters, you need to research your market thoroughly and then make a decision based on reality, rather than what you think you'd like to offer!

Good luck, though
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Old 07-23-2006, 11:30 PM   #5
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Since you used the term "bespoke" I assume you are talking about meals custom tailored for your clients - rather than "off peg" meals that are just mass recreated stock meals the client chooses from your selection?

But, from the rest of what you said - it sounds like you're looking at something somewhere between a Catering/Personal Chef service to a full blown mass produced food production facility!

Here is some general info on Personal Chefs ... and here is some info on Personal Chefs closer to home in the UK. And, here is a place to start gathering information on how to start a food business in general.

Once you define what culinary niche you intend to fill ... it's a matter of researching the market, making a business plan, planning production and marketing, gathering 2-3 times as much capital as you think you'll need for the first 2 years ... and finding a big cache of luck! Oh, you'll also need to be willing to give it 18-hours a day, 7-days a week until it is up and running and you're making enough to pay someone competent to cover for you to take some time off.
"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain
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Old 07-27-2006, 03:15 AM   #6
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Thanks for the advice guys... After what you've said I've spent a bit of time thinking things through. I've come to the conclusion that my best plan of attack would be something similar to the following:

*Create business to show the cost of the following and clarify production targets.

1. Hire a team of nutritionalists to design the meals according to my requirements.
2. Employ a personal chef to cook the range of meals (approx 36 different meals).
3. Trial these meals personally over a period of time.
4. Repeat above 3 to fine tune the product.
5. Hire a mobile kitchen that meets/exceeds health standards.
6. Hire a chef to produce meals.
7. Arrange to distribute meals.
8. Eventually grow the business if successful!!

To answer a couple of your questions:

Yes these meals are bespoke in the fact that they are aimed at a certain gap in the market.
I have been performing research on my market and it is looking favourable, I know from experience also that this product is unique in the field of ready meals.

Thanks again for all your fantastic advice, it's really helped me.
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Old 07-27-2006, 04:17 AM   #7
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Hey Mike WEve spoken before.. I cant stress this enough

FIRSTLY before you start anything you need a licence.. go to the local health department

AND you need to apply for anything minimum 28 days prior to opening.!

You cant hire anyone with out the proper steps i.e trainning from health dept for food safety etc.

Youve got a lot of RED tape to come through first!
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Old 07-27-2006, 04:19 AM   #8
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Oh and you want to hire ppl to design meals to your requirement but you have no experience in this field. I would let the chef come up with things. Tell him what your looking for i.e

A beef dish with pasta

A chicken dish with rice etc etc etc

Nutritionalists dont design menus they simply look at what you got and tell you what your lacking or what you have too much of or how many veggies this fills towards the daily reccomended according to the British Health.
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