The one thing that is constant in this crazy, busy world we live in, is people need to eat. It seems the busier families get, the more they rely on eating out as their means to get a meal. While sometimes it might be quicker, it can be detrimental to even the loosest planned budgets, and sometimes our health.
Since our society doesn’t look like it will be slowing down anytime soon, maybe it is time to create a solution to help ease the burden of figuring out what to eat! Planning out menus in advance is a great way to answer the age old question of “What’s for Dinner”, but oftentimes busy families just can’t find the time or creativity to create their own menus. Creating those menus and starting a menu planning service just might be a great way to earn some extra cash, while saving other families time and money.
What do you need?
You don’t need anything fancy or top notch to get started. Your basic home computer and internet service will help you to get your online menu planning service started. Above that, you will need a website to direct your future customers to, so you will need to purchase a domain name and pay for hosting fees. This can run you anywhere from $100 and up, annually.
Wordpress is a popular blog platform that can be customized rather easily, either by a professional or sometimes yourself (if you’re versed in HTML). The good thing about Wordpress is that it allows the use of plugins, one of which is the WishList plugin that allows you to add the membership option to your site, which would allow you to charge users for your menu plans.
You can also try a Blogger hosted blog (like this one), as it does come with the benefits of being integrated with G+ and YouTube.
If you wish to use another platform, SubHub is a good option. It offers either monthly or yearly billing and it also covers the hosting, bandwith and maintenance, with no limit on subscribers or storage. There are also free templates to choose from and everything is mobile responsive.
Establish your Brand
Just like any other brand or company that is out there, you want to establish your name (or brand) so that you are recognizable. Come up with a catchy name that describes your meal planning service or what your service to fulfill. Try to keep it short and sweet. You will want to use this business name in your domain name and also on any business cards or printed material you print. Also, since a large amount of the population uses social media to share content, it would also be a wise decision to secure your business name across all social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. (See more info on mastering your social media voice in our expert articles.)
Gather and Organize Recipes
Most meal planning services choose to offer just dinner menus, however you might decide that you want to include breakfast, lunch and dinner. This choice is completely yours. Whatever you decide, you will need to create a directory of various different menu options, as well as the shopping list of ingredients that correspond with each menu.
You also might decide to offer different menu options, such as Paleo, Gluten Free, Vegetarian or Vegan or even Budget-Friendly Meals.
You will also want to research other meal planning products to see what they are offering, then be sure to develop some plans that fill in a gap. Is everyone doing slow cooker meals that require fresh ingredients? How about trying some that use pantry items or dried foods? Find some areas that haven't been done yet and be sure to add these unique ideas into your plans.
Once you have your website built and all of your menus and shopping lists created, it is time to get started. It is not recommended that you jump in with both feet all at once. Test out your new menu planning service to a test market, whether it be your friends and relatives or members of your mom group. Allow your test market to either have a free or deeply discounted membership in exchange for their honest feedback on your service, as well as social media attention. This will give you a chance to work out any kinks that you might incur, as well as receive valuable suggestions from the demographic that you are wanting to serve. They just might be able to offer up priceless advice! This will also start building your presence on social media and help to build excitement about your brand and menu planning service.
Market your Product
Now that you have the kinks worked out, it is time to let the world see the best ever menu planning service! Build enthusiasm about your product and offer promotions up to or just after you do your official launch. Share testimonials from your test group so that future customers know that other users have found value in your services.
Contact your newspaper or local TV reporter and let them know about your new service, they just might be willing to do an interview or piece on your new business which would give you great exposure. (Get more tips on free media placement, in our tutorial on using HARO.)
Hand out flyers to daycares, local businesses, mom groups or any other place where you think they might find your menu planning service beneficial. Don’t be pushy!
Have you started a meal planning service? Be sure to share about your experience in the comments below.