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Serving up success: How to start an online food business at home

Calling all foodies! The folks at Statista predict that the Online Food Delivery market will hit a staggering $1.02 trillion of revenue in 2023. There’s a global craving for convenient, tasty meals. 

So, if you want to get food delivered to people’s doorsteps, your dream of making delicious dishes in a flour-covered apron may just have a mouthwatering business opportunity behind it.

Try Dropbox
A person checks their phone while preparing food in a commercial kitchen.

In the US, the Meal Delivery segment is set to reach 189.40 million users by 2027 and the average revenue per user in the Grocery Delivery segment will amount to $1.36k in 2023. Yummy!

As the potential is projected to rise like a perfect soufflé, we’ll show you how to leverage some of this and start an online food business from home. All you’ll need is your Dropbox account.

Table of contents:

Why start an online food business?

The online food industry can be a home-based hustle, which is nice for solopreneurs. It’s simple, cheap, and practical to create culinary wonders right from your home kitchen.

But the online food business is truly for everyone—and a wise operation for people who just want to test the waters, as you’re not starting your business adventure with overly complex products. 

These awesome benefits will make the prospect of an online food business more enticing:

  • No pricey restaurant overheads and paying big bucks for physical premises
  • Mind-blowing market growth potential, thanks to the tech-enabled era we live in
  • You can start from home and expand or create an online-only food service business plan
  • Simple to team up with suppliers and delivery partners to cover production and distribution

You can use this guide to start a home business but also to kick-start your gastronomic adventure in a fancy commercial space.

Low costs, bloating markets, convenience, and partnership potential. It’s the perfect hobby-turned-business for foodies or those just interested in trying their hand at a venture with big potential.

Understand the law when it comes to selling food online

You can’t just dish out success, you have to take it one mouthwatering bite at a time. The first is to ensure your food venture stays on the right side of the regulators. 

Bone up on the FDA’s guidance if you’re in the US, if you’re not—make sure you look up the local food laws.

You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with the "Cottage Food Laws", which vary between states. They include regulations on storage, cross-contamination prevention, and other safety checks.

This is for low-risk foods like jams, baked goods, dry mixes, or candies. Safety first! But there's more you need if you’re serious about a new online food business. Here's a checklist to tackle:

  1. Get a state business license, visit the Small Business Administration (SBA) website to apply
  2. Get zoning clearance and permits from your local government—always make it official, and remember you’ll need to look up your local government for specific permits in your area
  3. Prepare for annual kitchen inspections, which is a food safety check-up for your business, check out this FDA resource for some more information on the inspection process
  4. Make safety a team effort with food handling training for the whole team, or even just yourself

Mistakes can put your business—and your customers—at risk, so it's crucial to keep an eye out for new guidelines in your state. Rules can change as quickly as you can burn butter.

The legal side is bland yet essential, but it doesn’t mean you can’t stand the heat. Your attention is mostly going elsewhere, but staying informed can ensure a safe, successful online food business.

Producing food vs buying from a supplier

Whether you’re whipping up food with your own ingredients or working with a supplier to produce a recipe at scale, it’s a fine balance of what’s right for your business.

Not sure about the best option for you? Consider the following points:

  • All food preparation and kitchen spaces need to follow guidelines to a T
  • You’ll not only have to source the ingredients for your creations but find proper storage as well
  • Your finished products will require safe, reliable storage too

If you're not working on wonders yourself, your main job will be curating a fantastic stock, nailing down perfect prices, and working out how to get those goodies to your hungry customers.

How to start an online food business from home

Hungry for success? Follow this recipe for launching an online food business from the comfort of your home. It’s tough, but if you’ve got the appetite you’ll give yourself the best chance.

You can stir up a storm with Dropbox Paper, it’s the ultimate ingredient to bring a business idea to life—so dig into the launch plan template and get started.

Step 1: Find a niche

To find your foodie calling consider the following:

  • Embrace your culinary expertise, like if you’re a baking superstar or a sauce-making savant
  • Celebrate your heritage and culture, such as secret family recipes the world needs to taste!
  • Put your passion into your business by selling the foods that you love to eat yourself
  • Do some market research to see what's missing from your area and find an opportunity

If you have no ideas or are worrying you’ll bite off more than you can chew, consider the following:

  • Bake it till you make it with pastries or other baked goods, which are easy to scale up or down
  • Spread happiness with jams, jellies, or sweet preserves, which you can make one jar at a time
  • Create homemade candies that will make mouths water—and last a long time in storage
  • Make products that cater to specific diets like vegan, gluten-free, or other special treats
  • Try selling homemade sauces and condiments, which are simple to make, store, and ship
  • Package delicious and nutritious snacks, which can be smaller and more convenient to create

Take a culinary passion or a tasty, practical idea online. Decide and get ready to say bon appétit!

Try the brainstorming template in Paper and plan your ideas with scrumptious precision.

Step 2: Create a menu

Once you've picked a category or theme, it's time to plan a drool-worthy menu. Start small with a few delicious but cost-effective options that can be produced with consistent quality.

Paper can be your sous chef, helping you organize your menu in the recipe collection template.

Step 3: Set up your kitchen

Time to prep the kitchen for your online food business. Ensure equipment is ready for the job and remember to get the legal certifications you need to produce food—tick all the regulatory boxes.

For ingredients, try wholesale suppliers for the finest options at a lower rate than supermarkets.

Step 4: Create branding, packaging, and labeling

Captivating designs are crucial for a small online food business. Create visuals that are eye-catching, enticing, and memorable. Ensure you follow FDA regulations on ingredient disclosures. 

Need software? Dropbox integrates seamlessly with Adobe Creative Cloud, making the packaging design journey a piece of cake.

By using Dropbox with Adobe you can you can let the flavors of your branding overpower the competition:

  • Share links with high-quality previews to anyone, whether they have Adobe or not
  • Add comments/annotations to refine your packaging ideas, and keep all feedback in one place
  • Send all your work with a few clicks, for a faster workflow

And if you want to share your tasty designs, recipes, or ideas for feedback, Dropbox makes collaboration a breeze—with full control over permissions and password-protected sharing:

  • Share files or folders easily, and securely, with anyone
  • Organize your files with easy grouping options and sync changes for all users to see
  • Keep all your files safe with powerful online cloud storage

Step 5: Set up your virtual storefront

It's time to open your virtual doors and let the world savor your culinary creations. Explore local food delivery apps and services to find the perfect platform for your online food business.

Compare the options, as each platform has different customization levels and fees. Remember, customers will salivate with product photography, descriptions, and professional branding.

Ready to embark on your delicious online food business journey? Get your apron on, open Paper, and launch your new venture like a culinary genius.

A person takes a break from baking to check their Dropbox account on a their phone.

How to grow an online food business and take it to the next level

You've set up shop and are ready to unleash your delicious offerings but there's more to it than opening the virtual doors. Here’s the secret sauce of making your online food business thrive.

Pricing food to tempt taste buds without breaking the bank

Keep your eyes on the competition—near and far. What are other online food businesses charging? The sweet spot is where customers feel they're getting a delicious deal. 

If sales aren't sizzling as you hope, consider lower prices or irresistible promotional offers for first-time purchases—then the food can do the talking, and keep calling your customers back.

Promoting your online food business by frying up some social media magic

In online food startups, social media platforms make an appetizing ally. Get views on Instagram and Pinterest by showcasing food photos that leave your followers drooling over your brand.

For the perfect social media plan to season your strategy, we've got you covered with a social media plan Paper template—so you’re equipped to cross spatulas with the best in the business.

You can also join forces with food enthusiasts and local suppliers to spread the word. Explore partnerships with stores that could carry your food products and build a culinary network.

Keeping the flavor flowing by managing your operation

To keep the momentum rolling, organization is key—whether that’s a team of kitchen wizards or a solo chef. Dropbox serves up a simple recipe for success with the following Paper templates:

Other ways to make money with your online food business

You can dish out more than just food and take your business model to new heights. Selling non-food items helps you get more from your online food business and satisfy customers differently.

Capitalize on your awesome branding by selling merchandise

When branding becomes an obsession, why not allow fans to embrace it? Cook up some exclusive merchandise, clothing, or even memorabilia that you can sell in an online store.

Let your loyal customers proudly wear your brand on their sleeves and show the world they're part of your culinary family. eCommerce can dovetail with your social media promotion strategy.

Share your culinary secrets by selling cookbooks

Your creations have won hearts, and now it's time to share your knowledge. Empower your fans to recreate your delectable masterpieces with their own twist. 

Sell cookbooks or just share your favorite recipes on social media, letting people savor the magic of your culinary expertise globally. It's like they have your kitchen in their home!

Turn your idea into an oven-ready business plan, with Dropbox

Dropbox helps you keep organized and productive in any type of business venture. So keep those pots simmering and your apron ready, because the world is hungry for your culinary delights.

There’s a tantalizing potential for growth in the online food delivery market. Grab a saucepan and prepare to fillet your piece of the online food business world today.