Meal Prep Business Startup Costs

With the rise of health-conscious individuals, the demand for meal prep businesses has increased in recent years. Like any other business, starting a meal prep business requires careful planning and consideration of startup costs. Read on to explore the various expenses involved in starting a meal prep business, from kitchen equipment and food supplies to marketing and insurance. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner looking to venture into the meal prep industry, this article will provide you with valuable insights and tips to help you navigate the initial costs of starting a successful meal prep business.

Expenses of Starting a Meal Prep Business

When starting a meal prep business, there are several expenses to consider, from formation and licenses to equipment and inventory. These costs can quickly add up and impact the overall success of your business. 


One of the first expenses to consider when starting a meal prep business is the cost of formation, including licenses and permits. Depending on your location, you may need to obtain a business license, health permit, and food handler’s permit, which can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.


You’ll need to invest in a commercial kitchen, appliances, and utensils. These expenses can easily cost upwards of $10,000 or more. Research and invest in high-quality equipment that can withstand the demands of your business and ensure the safety and quality of your food.


Managing inventory is a critical aspect of running a successful meal prep business. By carefully planning your menu and estimating demand, you can purchase the right amount of ingredients and supplies to minimize waste and keep your costs down. Keep track of your inventory levels and adjust your orders as needed to ensure you always have enough stock on hand to meet customer demand. This can involve tracking expiration dates, monitoring usage patterns, and developing relationships with suppliers to ensure you’re getting the best prices and highest quality products. 


The cost of operations includes reoccurring things like your monthly rent, utilities, car, and business insurance, and other ongoing expenses. Depending on your location and chosen business model, these costs can range significantly from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars per month or more. 


Unless you plan to operate a solo venture, you’ll need to consider the cost of manpower, such as hiring and training staff, paying salaries and benefits, and managing schedules and workflow. The cost of manpower is another expense that can vary depending on your location, labor laws, and business needs.

Advertising and Marketing 

You’ll have to invest in advertising and marketing to attract customers to your new meal prep business. This can include social media campaigns, email marketing, print ads, and other promotional activities. The cost of advertising and marketing varies depending on your strategy and target audience. You can truly control this category based on your budget. 

Other Costs

Starting a meal prep business is certainly an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s important to remember that there are also several additional costs and expenses to consider beyond the obvious ones like equipment and inventory mentioned. For example, you’ll need to factor in costs like legal fees, accounting and bookkeeping services, and other miscellaneous expenses. It’s also a good idea to plan for unexpected expenses and repairs that may arise, such as equipment breakdowns or unforeseen maintenance costs. While it can be challenging to predict every possible expense, setting aside some extra money in your budget can help you be better prepared for anything that comes your way. 

How to Start a Meal Prep Business in 11 Steps

Starting a meal prep business requires careful planning and decision-making. Let’s go through the steps to help you launch successfully.

1. Choose Your Meal Prep Business Concept

The first step in starting a meal prep business is choosing your concept. This involves determining your target market, menu options, pricing, and other essential elements. Conduct market research to understand your customer’s needs and preferences and identify any gaps in the market.

Consider dietary restrictions, convenience, and affordability when developing your meal prep concept. You may also want to explore various meal prep formats, such as subscription-based services, single-meal purchases, or catering options.

2. Write a Business Plan

You must create a business plan once you have decided on your meal prep concept. This will be your road map and assist you in obtaining funding from lenders or investors. A company overview, market analysis, marketing and sales plans, financial projections, and other crucial details should all be included in your business plan. It should also give a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of your company and outline your mission, vision, and values.

3. Choose Your Business Structure

Selecting the appropriate business structure is key to protecting your personal assets and managing your tax obligations. 

Sole Proprietorship

This is the simplest business structure and involves one individual who owns and operates the business. It offers complete control over the business but also exposes the owner to unlimited personal liability.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is a popular choice for small business owners as it provides personal liability protection while maintaining a flexible management structure. It also offers tax advantages and easier access to funding.


A partnership involves two or more individuals who share ownership and control of the business. It can be either general or limited and requires a partnership agreement to outline each partner’s responsibilities and profit-sharing arrangements.


A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners and can issue stocks to raise capital. It offers the highest level of personal liability protection but also involves more complex tax and legal requirements.

4. Get Funding 

Start by exploring different funding options, including loans, grants, crowdfunding, or investors. Look for opportunities that align with your business goals and values and ensure you have a solid financial plan in place to repay any debt or investment.

5. Register Your Business

Next, you’ll need to register your business. This involves choosing a business name and registering it with your state’s Secretary of State office. You may also need an Employer Identification Number (EIN), sales tax permits, and food service permits from your local government.

6. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Research the specific requirements in your area so that you have all the necessary permits and licenses before you start serving customers. Failing to obtain the proper permits and licenses can result in fines, legal issues, and even the closure of your business. 

7. Open a Business Bank Account

Opening a business bank account keeps your business finances separate from your personal funds. It can also help you track your expenses and income, simplify tax filings, and build your business credit.

8. Get Business Insurance

Getting business insurance is another crucial step to protect your investment and mitigate any risks. Consider getting liability insurance, property insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance, depending on your business’s needs.

9. Buy Equipment and Materials

Buy the right equipment and materials for your meal prep business to run smoothly. It’s more than just the obvious kitchen equipment – you’ll also need meal order software.

10. Hire Your Support Staff

As your business grows, you may need to hire additional support staff, such as cooks, delivery drivers, or administrative assistants. Consider the skills and experience required for each position and ensure you have a solid onboarding and training process in place.

11. Advertise Your Meal Prep Business

Advertising your meal prep business is critical to attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. You can explore various marketing channels, such as social media, email marketing, or local events. Consider offering promotions, referral discounts, or loyalty programs to incentivize customers to keep coming back. With these steps in mind, you can launch your meal prep business with confidence and start serving delicious, healthy meals to your customers.

Expert Help For Your Meal Prep Business

Starting a meal prep business requires a lot of hard work, dedication, skill, and attention to detail. With a solid business plan, a clear concept, and the necessary permits and licenses in place, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Of course, running a business also involves keeping track of finances and that’s where doola can help out. Their expert bookkeeping services allow you to stay on top of your finances, so you can focus on growing your business and serving delicious, healthy meals to your customers. 


Is a meal prep business profitable?

Yes, a meal prep business can be profitable if you run it efficiently and provide quality service. The demand for healthy, convenient, and affordable meal options is on the rise, and with the right marketing strategy and pricing model, you can attract a steady stream of customers and generate significant revenue.

How do I get clients for meal prep?

There are several ways to attract clients for your meal prep business. You can start by creating a website or social media presence to showcase your menu and services, offering free samples or trials to potential customers, and partnering with gyms, wellness centers, or other businesses that cater to health-conscious customers. Word-of-mouth marketing can also be effective, so encourage your satisfied customers to refer their friends and family.

How much should I charge for meal prep meals?

The pricing for meal prep meals depends on various factors such as your location, ingredients, portion size, and competition. Factor in the cost of ingredients, packaging, labor, and other overhead expenses when determining your pricing. Consider the profit margin you want to achieve and the value you’re offering to your customers. Research your competitors’ pricing in your area and make sure your pricing is competitive while still allowing you to make a profit.

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