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New Business and Health Dept.

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone,

 

I am a chef with a catering and assisted living background and am trying to open a new business.  It is meal delivery service focused for special dietary needs of seniors in my county (in California).  The basic idea is to bring the food program I have been running in my assisted living facility to those who are in need, but still living at home.  Meals are made fresh daily, never frozen, and delivered directly by my employees to ensure their satisfaction and well-being.

 

I have a commercial kitchen that is already outfitted for permits, but upon trying to obtain my health permit I was told I would need to get a Processed Food Registration from the state instead.  I have gone back and forth with the county inspector (no help) and directly with the state rep as to the reason for this, but have not been given much help.  I see myself as a caterer, but I think they just see me as a frozen mail order service.  This license is more expensive, slower to obtain and most importantly requires FDA food labeling witch will be time consuming when you are tailoring meals to individual diets and tastes.

 

I will gladly give more details as necessary, but wanted to keep it short enough to digest.

 

Has anyone had an experience with this license? Any advice on what my options might be?  Or if this is not as bad as I fear?

 

Thanks

post #2 of 13
Strange what you described does seem like a drop off catering business, but there must be something they consider it to be setting it apart. You in the southern counties, Orange/LA/Riverside/SanBerdoo, or
up north?
Regardless, I would screw the county and get your answers from the state, by asking them exactly when a food delivery service requires a processed food license and when it doesnt. Seems odd,
after all youre a kitchen, not a dang factory.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Its in Ventura County.  The county inspector has basically responded "because my bosses say so".  Her only hint is that she thinks its because I am not delivering food that is to be "immediately" consumed.

 

I am delivering meals daily that have been fully cooked, chilled and placed in microwaveable containers to be reheated at their convenience.  Depending on the order, customers may be receiving breakfast, lunch and dinner at one time, and therefore storing food in their refrigerators until they decide to reheat it.

 

I have talked with the state and their response has been to get the food process registration, but with no reasons why or how I can adjust to avoid this designation.  It just feels when talking to them it could be arbitrary, like if I had worded it differently it would be different...or if it was a different day it would have been a different answer.

 

Obviously, this may be my reality, but I'm comfortable with the Retail Code regulations, the state and FDA codes was not something I was prepared for.

post #4 of 13

If you have a "Meals on Wheels" program in your area, I would suggest calling them for advice. It seems that this is exactly what you are doing providing ready to eat meals for Seniors.

 

Also note that the fact that you are providing meals to Seniors requires a few more hoops to jump through in that the HD takes a special look at food  being prepared for them.

 

Good luck

post #5 of 13
Good call CheffRoss. I starting feeling there was something familiar about the procedure,
Meals on Wheels is exactly it!
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

Same, but different.  Meals on Wheels is a program for low income senior and the meals are frozen and look like cat food.  My plan is for meals made fresh with better ingredients and delivered the same day.  Also tailored for specific medical dietary needs, which theirs are not.

 

Either way, healthcare professionals I've talked to believe there is a profitable market for this, I just fear this Processed Food Registration could be crippling for someone bootstrapping a new business.

post #7 of 13

I would say do what they ask. The only pain in the ass is the food ingredient labeling.I wonder because you are working with different diets if you would need a dietitian involved in the process. With people staying in their homes longer this is a great idea. I would just jump through the hoops now. They have software available to handle the labeling. Over time you will have all you menus in your system ready to be processed with the labeling needed for each food item.........

post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Pantry View Post
 

Same, but different.  Meals on Wheels is a program for low income senior and the meals are frozen and look like cat food.  ...

Where does this idea come from? I looked at the senior nutrition website and menu for my county (El Dorado Co., Calif.). The meals are delivered hot, not frozen. While they may not compare to restaurant quality, the menu looks okay. I may even drop in one of the centers myself. Locally, the county only delivers to those who are "medically or physically disabled, 60 years of age or older." If you are able, you are supposed to eat the lunch at one of several senior center in the county.

 

Your idea has merit. I would not give up on the meals on wheels route of exploration. It seems ludicrous to me to require licensing by Sacramento in order to accomplish your goal. Assuming you are able to acquire a health permit, have you considered how low income seniors (assuming that's your target; it may not be) will pay for the service?

 

Since you plan to deal with medical diets, how are you going to handle patient (client) dietary assessment? A registered dietitian (or someone under her supervision) performed that function in the assisted living facility. I'm not sure a RD would be needed for your business model, but it is a consideration. Are you going to accept the client's word that he/she needs a particular medical diet? As you know, in a facility the doctor writes the diet order, not the RD or chef. This is food for thought.

 

I know a chef in Birmingham, Alabama that prepares fresh healthy meals. His business is called Fit2Eat (http://www.chefbob.com/fit2eat/). It is a similar idea with weekly pick up, not delivery. And their target clientele are healthy folks, not those on medially required diets. Take a look at the website. It is a different state, definitely not California! They also do a lot of catering.

post #9 of 13
Meals on wheels is also a volunteer operation.

They also tend to have constrained operating areas with immutable boundaries. Not sure why that is but my mother-in-law just happens to live in a no-mans land between three m- o-w programs. None will yield.

What do you think the reasonable operating area of your kind of operation could be? I'm sure there are folks willing to pay for better quality meals, maybe even some who aren't elderly or disabled.

Here's what they serve in my area. My old Auntie is quite happy with what she gets and her meals are tailored for her distressed renal system.

https://stvincentmow.org/about-us/inside-meals-on-wheels/
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

I'll check some more on the Meals on Wheels, but my understanding is that the client has to be home-bound and it has income restraints to be eligible.  Mine will be marketed for those with more disposable income and can be used as a tool to keep their independence and stay in their homes longer.  I certainly won't be doing anywhere near the volume of Wheels, but if its marketed and sold right, there is still money to be made.

 

I have a dietitian ready to work on contract to approve menus, have incorporated and have the insurance ready.  I'm staying local in Ventura County for now as the driving is my biggest cost.

Biggest thing is I can't blow it with the state, or I'll never get to test my little scheme.

 

I'm almost 50 and its getting harder to see myself working 15 more years in a kitchen for someone else.

post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 

...and thank you all for the advice.  Taking a risk with your meager chef savings has to be done wisely. :eek:

post #12 of 13
Best of luck to you, Silver Pantry.
post #13 of 13

I work as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and Head Start at the local town hall.

 

I KNOW the food is fresh, and hot when delivered.

 

I think each city may have their own rules about who is and who is not eligible for the program.

 

I see seniors of every type and income eating at the town hall at lunch. T

he meals here are not just for low income people.

It is available to ANY senior regardless of income.

The delivered meals increase on those snowy days when the seniors are home bound, but mostly the delivered ones are for invalids regardless of income

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