How many of you have had this moment? You’re eating at a restaurant, watching a cooking show or browsing Instagram and all of a sudden think: “I should start a homebased food business.”

With the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve seen a surprising spike in home-based food businesses. From delicious desserts to savory meals our social media feeds were quickly bombarded with ads of pandemic-era food businesses. Instagram, Facebook and Viber quickly became everyone’s go-to platform for figuring out what to eat next. And just by filling out an order form, paying through online payment gateways and booking your delivery rider, you get a new dish to try out almost instantly!

But is starting a food business from your very own home really all that simple? What does it take to go from having a brilliant idea to fulfilling your orders? We spoke with Chef Brando Santos and Chef Paulo Sia of Unilever Food Solutions’ culinary team to figure out what the secret ingredients are to become a true and successful food business owner. They had several valuable insights that we’ve narrowed down to just 5 steps. Consider this your checklist, and once you’ve ticked all the boxes, it’s time to turn up the heat in your kitchen!

Know what you’ll be cooking

Pretty much everything that needs to be executed must start with the concept. The same goes for food businesses, whether they be home-based or with a physical outlet. At this point, you’re free to let your imagination go wild as you try to think up what the next best thing could possibly be and what will get you excited to start. "It's really the motivation behind why you're starting your business," Chef Brando says. But after jotting down multiple ideas, it’s time to trim the list down. You also have to remember that you should stick to something that you’re capable of doing and something that’s feasible in the long run.

When coming up with your concept, there are several layers that need to be considered. First, what kind of cuisine would you want to stick to? Is it purely Filipino, Western, or even a fusion? Second, what kind of cooking or baking are you most confident doing? Chef Brando also adds, "The concept is what determines the longevity and the acceptance of your restaurant."

As a hypothetical example, let’s assume that you enjoy cooking Filipino food. From there, the third consideration would be which cooking method you are most comfortable with. Is it frying, roasting, or smoking? Once you’ve figured that out, the fourth point would be the kind of ingredients you want to use. Will you be cooking with meat, seafood, vegetables, or all of the above? This part will be necessary when you begin sourcing your ingredients.

Your fifth consideration is how you can make your concept stand out from the rest. Think about who you want your customers to be and what their preferences are.

Lastly, what will your business be called? Make it original and easy to remember!


Evaluating your kitchen

With your winning concept, it’s now time to think about the operations side of things. While running a food business from home seems convenient, there will still be a few challenges that you’ll need to prepare yourself for. It’s best to first evaluate your space and think of several scenarios. During the holiday season, will you have enough space for all your orders? This is when you can begin designing the flow of your kitchen to make prepping, cooking, and dispatching a lot more efficient. 

You can then take a look at the equipment that you have. Most likely, your kitchen appliances are meant for home use and not for commercial use. While there are drawbacks when it comes to the capacity they can handle.

But when it comes to buying new equipment, Chef Pau says, "Don't invest in equipment right away. When you eventually start your business, try accepting a few orders first to assess how your operations will go. From there, you can tweak your system, add more equipment, and maybe even get a hand or two to help you out when things get busier!"


Sourcing your ingredients

In order to bring your food business to life, you would need food. Finding the right partners is vital in making sure your business runs smoothly. As soon as you’ve pinned down your concept and figured out what the storage situation will be in your kitchen, you will need to begin searching for suppliers. Take note that this could take a while because you might need to test each and every ingredient out to see if they fit the taste you’re after and the ideal budget that you had in mind.

When you have your must-have ingredients lined up, you can also start figuring out how you can maximize each one. Later on, when you decide to add dishes to your menu, it would be best if you can still use the basic ingredients that you already have to lessen any added costs.

You can look into the wide range of products offered by Unilever Food Solutions. Ingredients from iconic brands like Knorr Professional and Lady’s Choice are basic enough to use for different recipes but delicious enough to make your food stand out. Plus, the commercial-sized packs let you save more without sacrificing quality! 


Computing your capital

Speaking of costs, some might assume that just because a food business is based at home, it means funds don’t need to be spent. Our chefs say that that’s not exactly the case. "If you're doing this out of passion, you still have to fund your passion project," says Chef Brando. Before you start accepting orders, you will need to stock up on your ingredients and your packaging requirements. Apart from this, you would also need to compute the added electricity and water consumption from your business. All these must factor into your computations when you start doing your costing.

If you’re unsure about how to price your dishes, the Unilever Food Solutions site has an entire module that teaches you how to properly price your dishes in order for you to earn a profit. Everything from knowing which ingredients to source out and how to maximize them to how much your markup should be can be found there.


Introducing your business

When you’ve done all your taste tests, finalized your operations, and fixed your costs, it’s time to start planning your big launch. Start setting up your social media pages and filling them with mouthwatering content! This is also the time when you can come up with your logo and the fundamental look of your business. Building a solid brand identity make you more memorable! If your budget permits, you could hire a professional food photographer to capture your dishes. If not, there’s definitely no problem with photographing your food on your own. Doing so also allows gives you the freedom to take as many pictures as you’d like!

Your social media pages will also be your platform for taking orders. Make sure your menu is accessible and that you have your very own order form to make organizing your orders a lot simpler.

One last thing to fill your social media pages with would be reviews! As soon as a customer posts good feedback about your dishes, reshare them or create your own posts based on what they say! But should there be any instances that you receive complaints, always remember to listen to your customers and try to see how you can improve your food or your service.

Starting your very own food business could be daunting but the moment you know the 5 important steps you should be taking in order to bring your concept to life, you’ll already be well on your way to becoming a successful home-based food business operator. Good luck!

Unilever Food Solutions offers commercial-sized products from well-loved brands like Knorr Professional and Lady's Choice. But apart from offering ingredients, the website contains helpful resources and recipes that food businesses of all sizes can learn from. You can also subscribe to the Unilever Food Solutions newsletter so industry-related content can be sent straight to your inbox.