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How to start a cooking business

The ultimate recipe for starting a cooking business.


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Building your cooking business is a lot like cooking the perfect meal, so it's essential to follow the recipe closely. With a pinch of time, a dollop of dedication and a smidge from the right guide, you can start your cooking business. But don't forget to season it with some creativity.

What skill or requirements do I need to start a cooking business? What courses or qualifications do I need to complete?

Before you begin your business, be knowledgeable of the food safety skills regarding the preparation, storing and distribution of the meals you cook. You are obligated to abide by the Food Authority's standards on food safety, food premises and equipment, and proper labelling of the food.

Even the premises where you cook your food will need to meet specific standards with its design. Consider enrolling in a food safety course which goes over the food safety laws and responsibilities, how to maintain a clean workplace and food safety programs. The Australian Institute of Food Safety has an online course for $99.95.

Nominate a food safety supervisor. If your food business is in Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory or Victoria, you are required to nominate at least one Food Safety Supervisor. Local councils judge the Food Safety Supervisor requirements of each food business on a case-by-case basis.

Promoted offer a wide range of courses to master your culinary prowess.

    Equipment and software needed to start a cooking business.

    cooks in the kitchen

    The tools you require depend on your niche. For example, if you are selling cakes, you will need cake decorating tools and a good oven. However, all cooking businesses need some essential tools to get started:

    • A menu with prices
    • Labelling for food
    • Appropriate transport with refrigeration
    • Commercial mixers and blenders
    • Serving dishes and beverage dispensers, if catering
    • Packaging and shipping materials, if delivering.

    Regarding software, an inventory management app will keep track of your incoming and outgoing supplies. Some available apps are Sage, MYOB, BevSpot, Zoho Inventory, GoCanvas, Kounta and MarketMan.

    Data indicated here is updated regularly
    Name Product Price Free Trial? Available on
    Sage Inventory Management
    Sage Inventory Management
    $13.79-$34.48 per month
    QuickBooks Inventory Management
    $10.34-$21.38 per month
    From $29 p/m

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    If you feel confident about your meals, you can choose to set up an e-commerce store for cookbooks or weekly meal prep guides.

    What business structures do I need to consider before starting a cooking business?

    Consider whether you will be selling your meals directly to the consumer. You can cook for catering, charities or volunteers, cafes or restaurants, markets or temporary events or school canteens. Once you have decided on your market, decide on your business structure:

    • Sole traders. If you want to be the owner and in control of your business, register as a sole trader. You can employ workers in your business and you can easily change the business structure if your business grows.
    • Partnerships. Register as a partnership if you want to start up a business with two or more people. Consider using a partnership agreement to protect you and your partner.

    It is critical to have all your license and permits in place before opening up your business. Here are some you'll need:

    • Business license. Register as a Food Business with your local council. The registration fee applies depending on the risk classification of your business. Once you are approved, register with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN).
    • Food handler's license. Also known as a Food and Safety Certificate. You can get certified with organisations such as the Australian Institute of Food Safety.
    • Liquor license. If you intend to serve alcohol, you will need to apply for a liquor license. You are obligated to serve alcohol responsibly to help minimise alcohol-related harm.
    • Compliance with food labelling requirements. You will need to know how to properly label your food to comply with the Australian New Zealand Standards Codes. Labels should have information on the food identification, warning statements, advisory statements and declaration, statement of ingredients, date marking of food for sale, directions for use and storage, and characterising ingredients and components of the food.
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    Get legal templates for any business type in Australia.
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    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $199 per month (bill monthly)
    Some documents are free to download. Get access to all documents with a membership.
    Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.

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    What services can I provide with a cooking business?

    Starting a cooking business gives you many options regarding how you can sell your food. You can consider:

    • Preparing food for sale at markets or at a pop-up
    • Serving food at school canteens
    • Working as a personal chef in a domestic kitchen
    • A chef for bed and breakfast accommodation
    • Home-based child care involving the provision of food
    • Home-based catering businesses

    You also don't have to limit your services to selling meals. Expand your brand by creating:

    • Branded kitchen and serving tools
    • Recipe books
    • Branded merch
    • Gift cards
    • Complimentary food products

    Search for discount codes on printing services before you buy to save on costs.

    How much should I charge my customers?

    The average rate for a personal chef can be up to $500 per week while a meal prep chef can earn between $20 and $25 per hour. However, there is no one size fits all for food costs.

    To work out your rate you will need to determine the cost of serving of each ingredient that goes into your dish. Include the condiments, seasoning, cooking oil and garnishes as well. Then, calculate the cost of overhead charges which includes your time and effort, delivery, tax, rent or lease, equipment lease, electricity, water and other expenses. Determine what the overhead cost is per day, the price per serving and how much profit you want to make to arrive at a figure that will help you break even.

    You should also analyse your competitors. How much do they charge for a vegetarian meal or a snack? What are their delivery costs? Adjust your prices accordingly. If you find that your calculations are higher than your competitor's pricing, you may want to consider finding a better-priced wholesaler.

    How do I build my customer base?

    As your business grows, you will need to change and evolve your marketing strategy. Once you are clear on your target audience and the current market, focus your attention on the best course of action for your business. You can build your customer base by:

    • Networking with vendors
    • Renting a booth or pop up at malls, markets and trade shows
    • Posting flyers, pamphlets and business cards
    • Establishing retail partnerships
    • Hosting a tasting event
    • Creating a business website
    • Starting an Instagram account with lots of food pictures
    • Providing meal tutorials on YouTube
    • Advertising on Facebook marketplace, Facebook community groups and GumTree

    Read More: Find a range of marketing tools to help grow your online presence.

    Provide discounts or get help from friends and family for testimonials and referrals. Post about your business on Airtasker and TaskRabbit which connects you to customers in your local areas.

    Compare personal loans to help kickstart your business

    Why compare personal loans? If you're starting a business it can be hard getting approved for a business loan. Lenders usually look for a business that has been operating for at least a year and is making over $10,000 per month.

    While with personal loans lenders look at how likely you'll be able to repay the loan based on things like your credit score, employment history and your existing debts. Before taking out a personal loan make sure you can afford to make the repayments plus any additional fees or charges.

    Data indicated here is updated regularly
    Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Application Fee Monthly Service Fee Monthly Repayment
    Harmoney Unsecured Personal Loan

    From 6.99% (fixed)
    3 to 5 years
    $575 ($275 for loans of below $5,000)
    You'll receive a fixed rate between 6.99% p.a. and 25.69% p.a. based on your risk profile.
    Apply for a loan up to $50,000 and repay your loan over 3 or 5 year terms.

    ⭐Finder Exclusive: Receive a 100% rebate up to $575 on your establishment fee when you apply and accept your loan offer through Finder plus use the promo code FINDER by 30 November 2020. T&Cs apply.
    Plenti Fixed Rate Personal Loan

    From 6.49% (fixed)
    3 to 5 years
    From $149 to $599
    You'll receive a fixed rate between 6.49% p.a. and 11.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
    A flexible loan with amounts from $2,001 and terms starting from 3 years. Interest and comparison rates calculated for a loan term of 5 years.

    ⭐Finder Exclusive: Receive a $200 credit to your loan account when you apply through Finder by 30 November 2020. T&Cs apply.
    Alex Personal Loan

    From 6.95% (fixed)
    6 months to 5 years
    $0 (waived $295)
    You'll receive a fixed interest rate from 6.95% p.a. to 19.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
    Borrow between $2,100 and $30,000 from 6 months to 5 years. Benefit from no ongoing fees. Note: Waived $295 establishment fee and complimentary first repayment of up to $500. Ends 1 December 2020.
    Symple Loans Personal Loan

    From 5.75% (variable)
    1 to 7 years
    from 0% to 5% of the loan amount
    You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 5.75% p.a. to 21.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
    Borrow up to $50,000 to pay for what you need.
    NAB Personal Loan Unsecured Fixed

    From 9.99% (fixed)
    1 to 7 years
    You'll receive a fixed rate between 9.99% p.a. and 18.99% p.a. ( 10.88% p.a. to 19.83% p.a. comparison rate) based on your risk profile
    An unsecured loan up to $55,000 you can use for a range of purposes and pay off over up to 7 years. Note: Majority of customers will get the headline rate of 12.69% p.a. (13.56% p.a. comparison rate) or less. See Comparison rate warning in (i) above.

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      Frequently asked questions

      Does a Food Safety Supervisor need to be on the premises all the time?

      A food safety supervisor does not need to be on your premises at all times; however, the food handlers and authorities should be able to contact them whenever necessary. You can hire two Food Safety Supervisors in case one of them is away on holiday or falls ill.

      What should I include in my cooking business website?

      Opt for photos of your meals and product packaging. Make sure you get close-up details to show customers the texture of your food, the serving and pairing of food. Use product page copy to describe your product's taste and texture in detail and include ingredient and allergy information in full. You can also think about adding e-commerce to your website for easy sales.

      Do I need insurance for my cooking business?

      Yes, insurance will protect your business in the event of food poisoning, allergic reactions, fire damage and theft. The insurances you will need are public liability insurance, alcohol liability, employment practice liability insurance and motor vehicle insurance.

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