Food-based Business
October 14, 2004 8:03 PM   Subscribe

So I'm thinking of starting a new small business... it involves food, though. My idea is to make a very small range of products -- say, baked goods -- and sell it at farmer's markets and upscale grocery stores. Since it involves food, I imagine I have to jump through more hoops than I might otherwise, but I don't even begin to know where to look about what all is involved. Health inspections? Licenses? Anyone have any experience in this sort of thing?
posted by crunchland to Law & Government (7 answers total)
I was just looking for information on this the other day. It's a state-by-state thing. In my state (New Hampshire), you have to contact the Bureau of Food Protection, which has a page of licensing requirements. They require two inspections and then an annual renewal, and they only allow certain types of things to be made in a residential type kitchen. It doesn't seem too hard -- not much more difficult than what you'd go through in general in terms of bureaucracy when starting any business.

By the way, you should read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential before embarking on any food-based entrepreneurship. It's very polarizing; it might change your mind, or galvanize you to really get it going.
posted by bcwinters at 8:55 PM on October 14, 2004

My mother did this for awhile. In Virginia, as in many states, it's regulated by the Department of Health, and you're required to have the kitchen equipment of a professional kitchen -- there are strict requirements for water temperature, dishwashing, food storage, refrigerator size and temperature, food handling, etc., etc. It can be a real pain in the ass, but it's the sort of a setup that you'd need if you were going to get into it serious-like, anyhow.
posted by waldo at 9:00 PM on October 14, 2004

I've also heard of some small-time food entrepreneurs renting professional kitchens from businesses that are closed at night. Might want to check into that since the kitchen would have already passed health inspection.
posted by falconred at 9:30 PM on October 14, 2004

I have a friend who has done exactly what you want. Email me and I'll pass it on to her; she may or may not respond.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:50 PM on October 14, 2004

If you get the Food Channel, check out Recipe for Success. I just saw one about a guy who started selling salsas at farmers' markets and turned it into a nationwide enterprise. Made me really want to quit the desk to try the same.
posted by Otis at 9:09 AM on October 15, 2004

1) (I suppose depending on where you live) cheap/free classes on starting your own small business are usually on offer at community colleges and adult education centers, as well as available from various government offices.

2) A lot of culinary schools offer curricula geared towards this sort of thing.

Probably a good idea to look into one or the other.

Plus, this book took me five seconds to find on Amazon. Doubtless, more abound.
posted by armchairsocialist at 6:24 PM on October 15, 2004

I hang my head in shame. I didn't even think to look on Amazon. I already run a small business, so I don't really need assitance on that end. I was looking more towards the food and the special sanitation loopholes necessary to leap through.

And I have read Kitchen Confidential, bc... I'll never eat eggs benedict again, unless I'm the one making it. But it doesn't disuade me from my idea, if only because it won't be a restaurant kitchen, but a production kitchen.

I'm going to talk to a potential financier this coming week. If he thinks it's a good enough idea to bankroll it, then maybe I'll be in business!
posted by crunchland at 7:48 AM on October 16, 2004

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