Want to Start a Food Business? Here’re Your Favorite Spots…

By Bill Acholla December 11, 2018

Everyone has to eat.

This is the primary reason why food businesses are quite popular and enticing ventures.

Year after year, the food and dining industry faces different challenges. Sometimes, entrepreneurs feel that starting a food business can be risky and too ambitious. Other times, success seems to come easy.

I have a friend who really loved cooking and all things related to food. She didn’t have a degree in culinary arts and could not pursue her dream of working in a Michelin star restaurant.

But she always loved having friends over and giving them a taste of the delectable, healthy dishes she whips up.

Soon, we began inviting her to cook for our families on different occasions. She worked from home and catered to birthday parties, baptisms, anniversary celebrations and the likes. But she only had a few friends in the city and shortly, she ran out of clients.

Sometimes, you can have all the skill and passion in the world but without an opportunity opening up for you, you won’t be able to realize your dream.

She was a single mom who had to make ends meet. She couldn’t reach this big dream all on her own.

Until one day, one of the visitors in our house gave her a good offer. She could put up a food stall in one of the buildings he owns, rent-free for the first two years of business.

Turns out that the visitor is a philanthropist and her story touched his heart.

My friend started selling healthy boxed meals, and in just a month’s time, she gained a sizeable following. Today, she operates three food stalls across the city and even has a food delivery service.

It is true what they say, when you have the right passion and you are at the right place at the right time with the right people, such a breakthrough for success will be opened up for you. The dream can become a reality.

My friend’s story is indeed touching and inspiring. Admittedly, it may not happen to everyone. But it’s not an impossibility.

Strong Support for Food Entrepreneurs

Take a look at what’s happening in Brooklyn. A lot of people are being given the opportunity to get into the food business.

The collaboration of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) gives NYCHA residents the chance to become entrepreneurs.

Through a food program, they can set up a food business kiosk rent-free in a space called Local Bites.

This kiosk program allows the budding entrepreneurs to avoid red tape as they start their business, gain experience, and earn a modest income.

The program also helps them avoid getting frustrated over the details that need attention before they can get their business running.

The hub offers opportunities to sell goods, food and drinks. Not only does the program offer free use of space, it also connects the entrepreneurs with lawyers to help them develop contracts and learn about intellectual property rights.

Setting up a food and dining business is quite challenging and in reality, a lot of entrepreneurs go belly up within the first year.

Having help when it comes to operating within the law, coupled with free rent, will help an entrepreneur’s business come to pass.

It is true that having capital, planning, passion, perseverance, and business acumen will get your business off the ground, finding the best location to set your business up is equally important.

When you are in the best place to sell your hometown dishes, Asian, Western, European or Indian cuisine, you can operate and grow your food business fast.

Location is King

In choosing the ideal location, you identify your target market, competition and the best prospect to get a market share you can sustain.

It is also good to know the business permits and licenses required in a state before you decide to set your business up.

Which states are the best ones to operate a food business in?

Which state is the least feasible for a food business?

I’ve made a Map and list under the following categories to help you:

  • Favorite
  • Good
  • Average
  • Less favorite.

See below:

food startups

Let’s dive right in…

1. Favorite Spots

The following states are considered the top favorite spots to open up your food business:

a. Austin

The capital of Texas is ranked as the second-fastest growing city in the US. If you ask people today where they want to move if they are given the chance, two out of five will probably say “Austin”.

The city has the some of the best food scene, nightlife, jobs, housing, fashion and jobs.

Statistics show that Austin is home to the best-dressed and coolest people in the country.

You will find a number of taco shops, food trailers and food joints amidst the growing number of high-end restaurants.

The best thing is that Austin is a diverse city with a great population. These two factors make it a very appealing option for new food ventures.

A lot of entrepreneurs have made it big in the city—you could be one of them.

b. New Orleans

New Orleans has been referred to as “a small city with an extra-large appetite”. For the people in the city, there is a love for both local dishes and new cuisines.

New Orleans is the only place in the country with its own cuisine. The Cajun/Creole is loved by all.

There is also a respect for tradition in the city. Nevertheless, locals are open to fresh ideas and welcome new gastronomies.

New Orleans is not called the food capital of the country for nothing. Here’s a trivia, although the claims still have to be proved: New Orleans was home the first restaurant in the country, Antoine’s.

Eating out is such a custom that after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, it was the restaurant businesses that first bounced back.

Dining is a way of life in the city. With so many food enthusiasts, you will not have a difficult time gaining your own following.

c. New York

Apart from the gainful prospect offered by the partnership of the NYCHA and Navy Yard in Brooklyn, you will find that New York is a place where you can establish a food and drink business with ease and great chance of success.

A lot of people will insist that New York is the best city when it comes to everything—tourism, destination spots, fashion, nightlife, and food.

Maybe you are thinking, there are already too many restaurants and food carts in the city—and that is true. But you have another option.

You can start a home-based food business. The important thing is to be aware of and abide by basic legal requirements.

The state allows the following products to be prepared in your home kitchen for selling: baked goods, traditional fruit preserves, candy, snack items, repackaged commercially dried herbs and spices.

You don’t have to go out in the streets to sell. You can market your products on Instagram and offer food delivery within the city.

You can market your products on Instagram and offer food delivery within the city. Click to Tweet

2. Good Spots

The following states are considered good spots to open up your food business: Chicago, California, Portland, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

a. Chicago

Chicago is ranked high in terms of tourist destinations, food, sports, and even skylines. It is home to first-class eateries and is famous for its desserts, tacos, steaks, and of course, hot dogs.

The food scene in the Windy City is amazing, making it a viable option to start up your own food business.

Chicago also offers the most varied transportation network, so you won’t have a difficult time with food distribution and bringing products in.

Moreover, the state has a Restaurant Start-Up Program wherein the city partners with entrepreneurs to make setting up food businesses easier.

b. California

If you are looking to establish a farm-to-fork food business, California will be the best scene for you.

It is a good place for entrepreneurs who believe in making food that is “decent, clean and fair for all”.

California is popular for its lush farms, charming vineyards, scenic landscapes and sunny skies. The state draws in all kinds of tourists and consumers.

c. Portland

Ah, Portland—ever famous for its beer and fitness. How the two can be associated is a charming mystery.

Portland is also known for its inclusive food scene. Veganism is not shunned upon, but taken into account.

Despite having a lot of fast-food outlets in the state where milkshakes and burgers are popular, the city lacks fine-dining establishments.

Looking for a city to make that dream restaurant happen? Visit Portland, bring your flavors and be a trailblazer.

d. San Francisco

San Francisco is a city that is included in many top 20 lists when it comes to health, being livable, best dressed, and fittest.

The people of the city are also obsessed with food! They buy, cook, eat and talk about food!

It is a good place to establish communal tables and open kitchens. The food scene is avant-garde and there is room for a friendly competition of cravings.

Do you have a new food idea or promote a festival of flavors? Then set up shop in San Francisco.

e. Philadelphia

Famous for its cheesesteaks, Philadelphia scores high when it comes to nice hotels and food. It is also home to many Italian and BYOB restaurants.

Philadelphia is a good place to become a food blogger. There is a love for beer in the city, as well as vegetarian fare.

Aside from Italian cuisines, you will also enjoy a lot of modern Jewish gastronomy in the neighbourhood restaurants. Philly is a city full of variety and charm.

Philadelphia is a good place to become a food blogger. Click to Tweet

3. Average Spots

The following states are considered average spots to open up your food business: Seattle, Washington D.C., Houston, Minneapolis, Boston, and Nashville.

a. Seattle

Seattle is a hothouse of sensational and flourishing restaurants. Even if the city does not come up on lists of cities that have great weather, there are a number of tourist destinations and food businesses that attract both locals and visitors.

But in our list, Seattle is only ranked as an average place to set up a food business because it is one of the most expensive and most difficult places to set up food trucks and food stalls.

That means you will encounter some restrictions when getting operating licenses and permits.

b. Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is a city that is ranked number two when it comes to being home to the healthiest residents in the country.

You will enjoy a wide range of gastronomy in the nation’s capital, from fine Spanish tapas to sumptuous Indian cuisine.

Locals are socially conscious and love the concept of community, supporting locally-grown fare.

They also prefer fast-food concepts, so if you are thinking of setting up an unconventional food business, this may not be the ideal location for you.

c. Houston

Want to set-up a successful food business that promotes Asian cuisine? Go to Houston. The people of the city love Chinese and Vietnamese menu.

Houston is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, in population and waistline! Not only is Asian fare popular, the locals dive in to some Mexican seafood cooking.

d. Minneapolis

The Twin Cities is a popular place to bring your food truck business in. Throngs of people line up for diverse menu options from food trucks during lunch time.

Looking to serve Middle Eastern cuisine, East African goodies or organic food? Go for it! Even though the food scene in Minneapolis may be limited to the popularity of food trucks, this could be the starting point for you.

e. Boston

Boston is known as one of the most difficult places for food truck or food stall businesses. It is quite expensive and challenging to offer different kinds of food fare on the road.

Even if the city has been ranked as one of the top ten in various lists including most livable, most visited and coolest, it does not mean that it makes business easy for food entrepreneurs.

Often, the complaint is the difficulty of finding talented and dedicated hires.

f. Nashville

In 2017, a lot of independent restaurants in Nashville closed down for various reasons. Because of this, the city in only ranked as average when it comes to ideal location for food businesses.

While food will always remain to be a basic necessity and a profitable venture, it may not be the right time to set up shop in Nashville this year.

4. Least Favorite Spots

The following states are considered least favorite locations to open up your food business: Denver, Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, San Jose, Albuquerque, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Phoenix, St. Louis, Baltimore, and San Antonio.

While the food scene in the aforementioned states are not exactly bad, they are considered least favorite when it comes to food entrepreneurship because of the following concerns:

  • Lack of availability of staff to hire
  • Lack of availability and abundance of financing resources
  • Lack of local food movement
  • Not a great place to test concepts
  • Affordability of talents
  • Lack of transportation and distribution services

In addition, Denver is not exactly popular for its food scene. It ranks high in beer and is also famous for other intoxicating substances.

If you would like to set up a bar or brewery, Denver may be an ideal location for you. If your passion is real food and sharing the experience of gastronomy, this is the least ideal city for you.

On the other hand, Los Angeles has a big food scene. All over its sprawling map, you will find almost anything you want to eat. The city is also famous for fine dining that is best enjoyed on the comfortable side.

There are already so many places to eat in Los Angeles as well as grocery stores. So if you can choose a location other than the city, then you may have a great chance to succeed. The same is true for Indianapolis and San Antonio.

Meanwhile, Detroit is a city is known for its major professional sports teams. But it is also renowned for having a great number of restaurants that pop up all the time!

Detroit is a popular food destination. In addition to fine dining restaurants, you will find that local bakeries, salad bars, and pizza joints abound.

If there are already so many food choices, maybe it’s best to check out other locations for your business.

St. Louis is one of the most exciting food scenes in the world. It’s fast becoming a food destination.

The locally grown seasonal ingredients offer an inspirational take on the city’s hospitality.

Before there were Italian restaurants and steakhouses, but the restaurants have been revamped.

You will easily find restaurants that have been nominated for the James Beard Award.

However, the hospitality does not extend to entrepreneurs as it is not easy to obtain operating permits and licenses.

In Atlanta, Phoenix and Cleveland, the best food business you can set up is a home kitchen.

Yes, cooking from home seems like the best option. You just need to seek licensing to operate one.

You can sell breads, cookies jams and jellies, candies, dried fruits, nuts, granolas, herbs, vinegars and popcorn.

However, you cannot supply to retailers or restaurants and you cannot sell food that needs to be refrigerated.

If you are thinking of starting a food blog, Oklahoma City and Baltimore are good choices for exploring the food scene.

If you can’t establish your own food business, you can get paid while tasting and writing reviews the diverse cuisine in the city that fits all tastes and budgets.

In addition, the culinary experience that San Jose, California offers should not be missed.

Now Its Your Turn

Personally, I would love to have food near me all the time. That is why I appreciate food kiosks and food trucks, especially those that offer healthy cuisine. I also feel that it is good to support small business entrepreneurs.

Setting up a food business creates jobs, especially for the locals. Not only can you fulfill your dream, you will also provide employment and contribute to society.

Let me leave you with this quote: pursue the vision, not the money! While you may want to set up a food business to earn money, your business can be more than that.

Your business can be a testament of your passion, your skills and your perseverance.

And when you pursue the vision, there will always be opportunities that will come your way.

If you are a food entrepreneur and you have some tips on how to start a food business, please feel free to share them in the comments!

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