Plenty of people around the world dream of setting up their own food business, but for those who are serious about taking the plunge and turning their dream into a reality, it can be very difficult to know where to start. They key thing to remember is that whether your vision is of a high-end restaurant, a bakery or a street food stall, the same basic rules apply.

While you can find out about all the practical and legal aspects of setting up a food business from the Food Standards Agency, as well as other online resources, we thought we’d put together this brief guide to help get you started. Get these top five tips right from the start, and you’ll be giving your start-up food business the best possible chance of success.

Carve out your nicheA Recipe for Success with your Start Up Food Business - image - woman chef in a kitchen

When you set up your food business, you’ll be competing against a myriad of more established companies, so what will make people go to you rather than the place next door? You have to know from the start what makes your product different to, and better than the rest. Is it a great name? Unique packaging? Is it organic? Whatever makes your food unique, make sure that your customers know about it.

Put together a business plan

This may be a less exciting aspect of setting up a business, but without a plan, your food start-up is unlikely to succeed. Generally, the most important things for you to do are calculate how much your start-up costs will come to and set realistic expectations of how much profit you will make. You can find plenty of information and tips online about putting together a business plan, as well as free business plan templates.

A Recipe for Success with your Start Up Food Business - image - innocent smoothie rangeTest out your product

The success of any food business will always be dependent on the quality of the food it sells, so make sure that yours is as good as it can be by getting as many people to try it as you can.

As well as asking for the opinions of friends and family, it’s a good idea to test your products at farmers’ markets and festivals. There are a large number of events that will give you the chance to make small sales on your products, meet customers and get feedback first hand. It’s exactly how some big food companies started…one of our favourites being the story of Innocent Drinks, A trio of friends from Cambridge tested their drink at a music festival in 1999 and by 2009 had a turnover of £105m.

Testing in this way can also be a great opportunity to interact with other food producers and small business owners to share tips on the trade.

Choose the right premises for your business A Recipe for Success with your Start Up Food Business - image - man wearing apron serves woman in shop

One of the most important aspects of setting up a food business is finding the right premises. Miranda Ballard, co-founder of the burger company Muddy Boots, says that “You’ll know where you should be by doing research into the market and your demographic. Go where your customers. This way, you’ll be surrounded by them and you can start selling to them.” As well as finding the right location for your customers, it’s important that you choose a property that is right for the type of food business you’re setting up and has enough space for the facilities you need.

It’s also very important that you familiarise yourself with all the legal requirements involved in setting up a food business before you rent or purchase your premises. These include registering your business with your local authority at least 28 days before opening and purchasing any necessary licences, such as for selling alcohol or selling from a van or stall. The best idea is to speak to your local authority about anything that you might need to do to make your business official, so you can be sure that everything is above board.

Get the right training

UK food handlers do not have to hold a food hygiene certificate to prepare or sell food. However, it’s usually preferred that they do. Furthermore, you are required by law to provide new staff with appropriate training in food hygiene and food safety. Check with your local authority as they may provide a formal training course, or contact one of the awarding bodies for food safety to see which qualifications they would recommend.

Find your Foodie Heroes

As with every Start-up business venture, finding the heroes in your Industry could help spark creativity and keep you inspired. Feeding your foodie passion can be as simple as watching, The Great British Bake Off, Nigella, Jamie Oliver or Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown…or it can be as personal as drawing inspiration from your background and history with food, dining, and what’s made you take a leap into entrepreneurship with food in mind! Whatever the source, keeping inspired is an essential ingredient in food business success.

Published Saturday January 25, 2014