How to start a takeaway food business

The key steps to launch a successful takeaway food business from scratch.

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Takeaway food service is a strong business option in the current climate, given the increase in demand for fast food and delivery. Opening a takeaway business can be very demanding, but also rewarding and profitable. As with any business that involves food, it's important to understand the Australian food industry regulations and develop a business plan before you start.

Read on to learn the key points of starting a takeaway food business in Australia.

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What skills, knowledge or requirements do I need to start a takeaway food business?

While there are no formal requirements needed to open up a takeaway food business, having experience in food and hospitality is highly valuable to all aspiring business owners. Whether it is serving customers, washing the dishes or preparing meals, even a few shifts will give you a taste of what it's like to operate a takeaway food business.

To thrive as a food business owner, you will need:

  • Food skills. Even if you hire chefs, you'll need to understand how to achieve consistent quality of cooking with fast delivery.
  • Business skills. Operating a takeaway food business requires making decisions in purchasing, finance, people and operational management, marketing and lots more.

One of the first major decisions you'll need to make is what type of takeaway food business do you want to start. With so many different options available, it's important to do your market research and create a business that stands out amongst your competitors.

Given the competitiveness of the industry, it's vital to create a business plan that outlines what your business is about and how you'll run it. Learning how to market your business is also critical when you launch and as you grow your customer base.

Takeaway food business

Licences

In all the excitement of setting up a takeaway food business, don't forget that there are licences and registrations you need to obtain first. The licences protect consumers and help you abide by the food hygiene and safety standards.

Every state will have different licensing requirements. As a general rule of thumb, you will need to notify and register your business with your local council or relevant health agency.

As part of the registration, you'll be asked questions like what types of food you'll be serving, who will be consuming your food, whether you have pre-packaged food, what type of food business you'll be running etc. You will also need to pay a fee and renew your licence every year or every few years.

Visit the Australian Business Licence and Information Service to find out the process and forms you need for your takeaway food business.

As well as that, see below list for the relevant governing body that handles food licensing and regulation.

StateOffice
Australia Capital Territory
New South Wales
Victoria
Western Australia
Tasmania
Queensland
South Australia
Northern Territory
Access Canberra
Food Authority NSW
Health Vic
Department of Health WA
Department of Health TAS
Queensland Health
SA Health
Northern Territory Government

What courses or qualifications do I need to complete?

All employees working in the food business are legally required to complete a Food Handler Course, which covers basic food safety and food handling. You can enrol in the course via:

  • Online or classroom-based accredited training courses
  • In-house training through an accredited consultant
  • The use of manuals to instruct staff.

In many states, such as NSW, VIC, QLD and ACT, it is also mandatory to have at least one trained Food Safety Supervisor working for your business. You can receive training and certification as a Food Safety Supervisor online or through a Registered Training Organisation.

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    Equipment and software needed to start a takeaway food business

    Setting up a takeaway food business requires a significant investment in assets upfront, starting with leasing or buying a building space to set up shop. The various equipment that you're likely to need may include:

    • Commercial kitchen equipment, such as range, oven, walk-in cooler, freezer, cooking utensils, etc.
    • Takeaway utensils, such as takeaway boxes and plastic forks, spoons, knives, etc.
    • Fire extinguisher and other safety equipment
    • Cash register
    • Tables and chairs, if you intend to provide seating.

    To operate the business efficiently, you may also consider software for managing tasks such as:

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

    To register your company, you have to pick the type of business you're operating. The most common business structures in Australia are Sole Trader, Partnership and Company (Public or Proprietary).

    How much control you want to have over the business, costs and tax implications are among the important factors for your business structure.

    It's important to have some legal documents in place before you start your company. These agreements can work to safeguard your firm and in many cases, clarify your responsibilities as a business versus that of your customers or employees.

    Documents that you may need to set up a takeaway food business include:

    • Wholesale Agreement you'll most likely be buying in bulk so a wholesale agreement will be helpful in outlining the terms and conditions of your relationship, such as prices, quantity and quality of your orders.
    • Insurances, such as public liability insurance, building and contents insurance, employer's liability insurance.
    • Employment agreement if you're planning to employ workers.
    • Website disclaimer to protect your liability and copyright.
    • Privacy Policy. An important notice that sets out how a customer's information will and won't be used.

    You can access a range of free templates and guidelines for writing your own documents. You can also get free legal quotes through websites such as:

    Data indicated here is updated regularly
    Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Any free legal documents?
    Lawpath
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $79 per month (billed monthly)
    Essentials: $288
    You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
    Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
    LawDepot
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $7.99 per month (prepaid for one year)
    $59.88
    You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
    Get free legal documents in five to ten minutes.
    Sprintlaw
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $699 (or choose a free template)
    $699
    Some documents are free to download. Get access to all documents with a membership.
    Pick between a fixed-fee package from $99 and a 12-month plan that unlocks a host of membership benefits for $699.
    Legal123
    Legal123
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    Varies per template
    N/A
    No
    Get legal templates for any business type in Australia.
    LegalVision
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $199 per month (bill monthly)
    N/A
    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.
    Law Central
    Law Central
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides, Legal advice
    Free for the Silver membership
    Gold: $99
    You can view samples and create your own document for free with the Silver membership.
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    How can I build up my customer base?

    From social media pages to online reviews, there are many ways you can grow your customer base and in turn, sales. Some practical, easy to implement ways to do this include:

    • Sign your business on a third-party food delivery app, such as UberEats, DoorDash, Menulog, Deliveroo, etc.
    • List your business on Google Maps, with all the key information linked to your firm
    • Social media engagement through Facebook, Instagram and others to attract and engage customers
    • Word-of-mouth offers another effective way to increase your customers.

    How much should I charge my customers?

    How much you charge your customers will depend on a variety of factors, such as the cost of wholesale supplies and labour. As a general rule of thumb, the cost of the wholesale food supply should make up a third of what you then charge the customer. For example, if you pay $5 for the ingredients to a particular dish, then you might charge around $15 to the customer. While this may seem like a lot, remember that you are factoring in the costs of having someone prepare and serve the food as well as other expenses like electricity, water and gas.

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    Frequently asked questions

    Is owning a takeaway food business profitable?

    According to Restaurant & Catering Australia, the average profit margin of the restaurant, cafe and catering industry is 4.2%. Competition and costs are the main drivers for the industry's low profit margin. However, the good news is that takeaway food businesses have the distinct advantage of keeping its operations leaner and costs lower compared to a full-service restaurant.

    Ultimately, the success of a takeaway food business comes down to many factors, such as high-quality food and service, pricing, brand/reputation, cash flow and so on.

    How can I grow my takeaway food business?

    The most surefire way to grow your business is to provide exceptional customer service. Marketing is also key when you're just starting out and this can be as simple as updating your social media accounts or handing out flyers. Another effective way to grow your business is to reach out to your customers for reviews and referrals.

    Should I sign up with a food delivery app service?

    Consumer demands for convenience, accelerated by COVID-19 has increased the popularity of food delivery apps like UberEats and Menulog. If you're considering partnering with a food delivery app, make sure you research all the options available in your locale. Consider the percentage that the food delivery app charges from your business to see if this is a viable option for you.

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