The kitchen is an open place for stories and creativity among all ages and backgrounds. Whether it’s a family recipe passed down from generation after generation, a friend who just graduated from a culinary school, or a neighbor who does it for the pure love and joy of food, each person brings a unique purpose at the kitchen counter. And the one thing that unites each cook is the pursuit of great taste!
Today the Internet creates a social space for cooks and consumers to connect. There is now a way to get yourself noticed and paid, for your cooking talents.
If you are deciding to sell food online, it may feel like a daunting task at first. Here are some tips on what to consider before preparing for your first online customer.
1. Educate Yourself on the Laws
If you’re in the U.S., there are certain “cottage food laws” that allow you to make certain types of food from your home kitchen. It’s best to consult CottageFoods.org to understand what you can and can’t do at home. Additionally, a lot of states require a current copy of a Food Manager's Certification through a nationally recognized organization, like ServSafe. The program offers online and in-class courses on food safety. ServSafe training and certification is recognized by more federal, state, and local jurisdictions than any other food safety certification. These courses help you also understand the packaging and storage of food too. Since you are working on online deliveries of food, the quality of your food products will suffer when exposed to extreme cold or heat.
If you’re in the European Union, read the EU food laws and regulations and check with your local departmental officials. In other parts of the world there are courses designed to help understand other certifications and licenses such as a catering license, food production license, and food distribution license that may also be required. Thinking of selling food in China? The EU SME Centre offers comprehensive workshops to help educate budding food professionals on how to start.
Lastly, in addition to food safety it’s important to know about the taxes. Generally speaking, you will be required to collect and report tax if the food is sold in the state or country where you live. If it’s a sale outside the state where you live, then you don’t have to charge sales tax. It’s best to visit your state’s comptroller’s website to have a better handle of what are the expectations.
2. Improve Skills
Perhaps this is the time to consider enrolling in a culinary arts school to fine-tune your skills and get noticed in the industry. There are a number of online culinary schools that offer the foundational base including food safety, science, hygiene and cost control. The Keiser University, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and Le Cordon Bleu are all accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accreditation. It also might be a great time to grab an apprenticeship under the supervision of a chef with experience.
3. Promote Yourself & Connect
Develop your online presence by building your profile using BChef2Me and social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and SnapChat. By using these platforms, you can post content around what you’re working on in the kitchen. Building content will help prove your trust with customers. Additionally, business cards can help establish a connection with your customers when you make your sales.
4. Label Your Meals
According to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, all food products should include labels with complete disclosure of ingredients, net quantity, and weight of total ingredients, as well as the name and location of the maker of the packaged goods. It’s a good idea to read about the food labeling laws in your country. Proper labeling also shields you from reducing any risk of customers reporting allergies and other dietary restrictions. When posting your products online, be sure to take good clear pictures and accurate descriptions.
5. Reengineer Your Meals
After developing a good rhythm of delivering a consistent meal offerings, you should take time to reflect and refine your recipes once in a while. Share what makes your recipes unique by writing short articles on the web or posting a video of what you’ve been experimenting in the kitchen.
6. Get to Work!
Make a plan for where you will cook. Look around for incubators in your area or visiting church kitchens, school cafeterias, and community centers which may allow you to work off-hours. Know if your kitchen needs to be inspected by the health department before starting your creations!