MEHKO Start Up Guide For Home Cooks In Santa Barbara County

 

It is now legal to sell home cooked food in Santa Barbara County

Home cooks…this is not a drill. It is now legal to start your very own Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO) in Santa Barbara County. On May 11, 2021, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved home kitchen operations, effective June 15, 2021. By following a few simple steps and obtaining the right certifications, you can start legally selling your delicious homemade meals to local hungry customers in your neighbourhood, right from the comfort of your own home kitchen. So don’t fret. This MEHKO guide for home cooks in Santa Barbara County will walk you through step-by-step on how to start your home food business and launch your own home kitchen. Stay with us. 

 

CheckStep 1: Download The HomeMade App

First things first, before we can get rocking and rolling on this MEHKO start up guide for home cooks in Santa Barbara County; download the HomeMade App on Google Play or App Store. Your profile on the app will become your premium portal for connecting with local foodies in your community who want to eat your tasty home cooked dishes. With the HomeMade app, you’ll have a virtual storefront for your home-based cooking business to attract hungry neighbors, plus access to real-time data on sales and earnings which you receive after completed transactions. 

 

HomeMade App for home chefs

 

CheckStep 2 : Is your planned food menu allowed at a MEHKO?

The planned menu for a MEHKO must NOT have: raw oysters, prepare dairy products (yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products can be served but NOT made in the MEHKO), and cannot make nondairy foods that emulate dairy (can serve nut milks or nut-based cheese-style foods but can’t make it in the MEHKO).

For more info on dos and don’ts, check out Page 6 and 7 on MEHKO FAQs here.

MEHKO permit food guidelines in Santa Barbara County

 

CheckStep 3 : Check with your landlord to see if you can have a home-based business at your residence.

If you rent your home, you will need to reach out to your landlord to make sure it’s okay to have a home-based business at your residence. While you do not need a written statement/proof that you may have a MEHKO at a rental property, you do need to 100% be sure that you can operate a MEHKO at your location.

Smiling-young-ethnic-lady-cooking-in-her-home-kitchen

 

Check Step 4 : Contact your City or County to apply for a business license.

The business license application must be filled out, printed, signed, and sent with the appropriate Business License Tax payment for processing. The amount of the fee to be paid is based on various classifications as set forth in Chapter 5.04 of the Santa Barbara Municipal Code and as listed on page two (2) of the application. Payment is due on or before the commencement of business and must be renewed yearly. Payment must accompany your application. Allow 5 working days for receipt of your business certificate. Business License Certificates should be posted in a conspicuous place.

A home chef applying for her MEHKO business license in Santa Barbara County.

To apply for a business license in Santa Barbara county, click here: BUSINESS LICENSE APPLICATION (santabarbaraca.gov)

If you have questions about the amount to submit,  contact (805) 564-5346.

Check Step 5 : Contact the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration about sales tax

MEHKO engaged in business in California must register with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) and pay the state’s sales tax, which applies to all retail sales of goods and merchandise except those sales specifically exempted by law.

Click here to obtain a sellers permit: https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/taxes-and-fees/sutprograms.htm

 

Buisness Tax for MEHKO Home Chefs

 

CheckStep 6: Get Your Food Safety Manager Certification

Before you can sell your first meal,  you must take a course in food safety and handling. The course is 8 hours, costs between $50-$90, and the certification is good for 5 years. You can click the link below to find all of the information you need regarding the Food Safety Manager Certification, as well as a list of accredited organizations that offer food safety management certification training. 

Click here for more info:  Food Safety Manager Certification

 

CheckStep 7 : Complete the Santa Barbara County MEHKO Standard Operating Procedures Form

You can fill it out online by simply clicking on each box and typing your responses. We know it’s a bit lengthy, but it’s important that you fill out every section accurately to ensure that you can get that certified stamp of approval as a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operator with minimal fuss. Once you’ve completed the form, save the document as a pdf file on your computer.

You can find the MEHKO Standard Operating Procedures Form here: English Version

 

Application

 

CheckStep 8: Complete The Santa Barbara County Plan Check Application

Now  it’s time to get approved with the Environmental Health Services of Santa Barbara County. Approval of your Plan Check Application is required before you can apply for a Health Permit and open/operate a MEHKO. There’s an application fee (non-refundable) of $255 and a Plan Review and Inspection fees of $161/hour, so make sure so have all your information necessary before filing the application. *Allow 20 business days for the initial review of plans.

Please keep in mind, the following items must be included in the MEHKO plan check application:

  1. An easily readable floor plan of your proposed MEHKO. These may be drawn by hand and must include all areas used by the MEHKO, such as food storage areas, restrooms, kitchen, food service areas, and refuse/trash areas. Please describe the types of flooring and wall coverings (wallpaper, paint, etc.) in each area, and any equipment/appliances that will be used (refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, stove, BBQ, etc.).
  2. Proof of residency at the MEHKO location.
  3. If you will offer delivery from your MEHKO using a motor vehicle, a copy of a valid driver’s license for your MEHKO’s delivery driver is required.

Click here to begin your Santa Barbara County Plan Check Application.

 

calculating taxes and fees for MEHKO permit application

 

CheckStep 9: Prepare Your Home Kitchen for Onsite Inspection

 Before you can sell your first meal, you must pass the Environmental Health Specialist’s inspection first. Prepare your home kitchen for inspection day by making sure that your kitchen is in top notch shape. 

Home chef sanitizing her kitchen in Santa Barbara County for MEHKO permit inspection.

 

CheckStep 10: Apply for a Health Permit, and pay the annual health permit fee

Once you home kitchen passes inspection, you must pay all your remaining Plan Check fees before you can apply for a health permit.

 

CheckStep 11: Create your Menu on the Homemade App

Congratulations, you’re officially in business! Now you’re ready to build your very own foodie tribe on the Homemade App by creating a unique menu of home cooked meals that’ll keep nearby customers coming back for more. (How to Create the Perfect Menu for Your Home Based Kitchen Restaurant (homemadefood.app). Once you select your featured dishes, double check that all of your ingredients are MEHKO-approved, and snap some food selfies, you can use the Homemade App to tell the world about your tasty dishes on social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 

HomeMade App Launch in App Store and Google Play

 

*If you get stuck at any point along the way,  feel free to reach out to us with any questions about downloading the app, customizing your menu, or if you just want to find out more information on how to get started. Drop us a line by clicking here.

 

 

 

For more questions on MEHKO start up guide for home chefs in Santa Barbara County and other information about health permit requirements please email EHS at:  [email protected]

 

Keep the conversation going by following us on InstagramFacebook, Twitter, and stay informed about the latest HomeMade updates, industry news, and more.

 

6 Simple Tips For Menu Pricing For Home Chefs

So you’re thinking about becoming a home chef? Or maybe you are, but have never taken the time to sit down and calculate your food costs. Menu pricing for home chefs isn’t something that most home chefs jump up and down to do; but it is a critical part of running a successful, profitable home kitchen. So kick up your feet, pour yourself a glass of wine and let’s get this home chefs guide to menu pricing started!

Food costs are a crucial part of knowing how much you should charge for an item; not to mention where to position it on the menu (more about that later). Once you take the time to know how much a dish costs you and how much time you are spending on creating the dish, this will give you the numbers that you need to simply calculate. And viola, your have your price point for your dish. 

Mind you, some home chefs also like to equate how much time and energy goes into shopping and prepping when it comes to menu pricing but that all depends on you. Either way, it’s important to take the time to sit down and put some effort into this. Selling your home cooked food and starting a home kitchen is a business. And businesses are in the business to make money.

 

homemade food menu pricing
A quick guide on how to price your food items

Now, we get it; pricing your menu can be a daunting task for any home chef. Especially if you’ve never done it before. But no worries, HomeMade is here to walk you through step-by-step on how to do so.

Food Cost

Food cost should be between 20-35% of what you charge the client. Cost is calculated by simply adding up the total cost of the ingredients used to make the dish. Let’s say you are making Fettuccini Alfredo for example. First, calculate the total for all the ingredients. (Keep in mind this example is for one serving size.)

Fettuccini Alfredo:

Fettuccini pasta $.34
Cream $.61
Butter $.33
Parmesan cheese $.54
Romano Cheese $.44
Total: $2.26

If you are looking to keep you food costs at 25%; take the total of $2.26 and divide it by .25 (change this according to your food costs percentage) to come up with the total amount of $9.04 per dish.

Again, some chefs like to include how much time and energy goes into making the dish (shopping, prepping, etc) but that is entirely up to you. 

Once you figure out how much you want to charge, keep in mind never to use a whole number. Take the fettuccini pasta dish for example; you would not want to charge $9.00 for a pasta dish, price it at either $8.99 or $9.95. Studies shows that people feel like they are getting a better deal and will more likely purchase the item at $8.99 or $9.95 versus $9 or $10.

Keep in mind, just because something is more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more profitable. Hence why calculating food costs is an important exercise home chefs should do when they are coming up with menu pricing.

 

homemade food menu pricing
Expensive food items may not mean more profits.

Get Descriptive

If something isn’t selling at the price point you want, don’t change the price just yet. Play around with the name and food description. For instance, if you have “Crab Cake” on your menu and it’s not selling, try changing it to “Jumbo Lump Alaskan Crab Cake” or something more descriptive. A simple swap in the name can make a huge difference if an item is selling or not regardless of the price. 

Don’t forget to get creative when writing the description for your menu item. Customers love a good story. Talk about what inspired the dish, family traditions, fun facts about the ingredients, so on and so forth. The better the description, the more the customer will be inclined to purchase it. 

 

food menu pricing
If something isn’t selling at the price point you want, don’t change the price just yet.

 

Location

The next thing you need to keep in mind is where an item is located on the menu. If it’s the third one down try placing it first. Believe it or not psychology plays a big role when it comes to customers purchasing items. Location, description and even colors impact a purchase decision.  Play around and have fun with it. It takes time to know what works for your customers.

While we are on that note of psychology, use psychology to your advantage in regard to your menu. While you can’t change the color in your actual menu titles and descriptions on the HomeMade app, you can incorporate it in your food photos. So here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when styling your food pics:

  • Green: reminds people of nature and tends to trigger thoughts of healthy and fresh food. It’s also been known to linked to good flavor. 
  • Red is an attention-grabber. You can use red to guide people to the dishes you really want them to order.
  • Yellow and orange stimulate appetite.

 

homemade food menu pricing
Keep in mind is where an item is located on the menu

 

Now that you’ve got the basics down for optimizing your menu and food costs; here are some other tips and tricks to help maximize your profits.

Carbs

Incorporating carbs into your dish is a great way to increase your profit margin and simplify your life. Carbs are relatively cheap, taste good and fill people up; not to mention are easy to purchase in bulk and store. Pro Tip: purchasing in bulk is another great way to increase your purchase margin. Cha-ching!

 

homemade food menu pricing
Purchasing in bulk is a great way to increase purchase margin.

 

Farmers Markets

If you are lucky enough to live in a town that has a farmers market, use it. Not only is the produce fresh, loaded with flavor and a lot healthier; it’s also is a great opportunity to score some amazing deals. Many vendors will drastically cut their prices towards the end of the market. Let’s say the Farmer’s Market runs from 12-4. Try going within the last 30 minutes or so. Many vendors will be offer discounts such as 1/2 off and 3 for 1 deals. They’re not in the art of wasting time or money and neither should you. So take advantage of it.

 

homemade food menu pricing
Head to the farmer’s market!

Buy Whole Items

As a home chef who is trying to minimize your food costs and maximize profits with your home kitchen, you might want to thinking about purchasing whole items that your recipes call for. Let’s say a dish you are making requires chicken. Buy the whole chicken versus just the breast or thigh.  Break it down and use the breast for salad, the thighs for another entrees and the carcass for broth. Breaking down the item yourself will save you money hence increase your profit margin in the long run. 

If you don’t use all the pieces right away, freeze it and save it for later. That way it saves you time and money from running out to the store again so that you can focus on what you need to be focusing on…cooking. And again, editing your menu on the HomeMade app is super easy. So play around with you. Find out what works for you.

 

homemade food menu pricing
If you don’t use all pieces right away, freeze and save it for later.

 

Are you a home chef? If so, comment below on any tips or tricks that you’ve learned along the way. We would love to hear from you.

 

About the HomeMade App

HomeMade is a whole new way to eat! We connect local home-based cooks with nearby hungry customers who can browse unique menus and order fresh and healthy homemade food. The HomeMade App is free to download on the App Store and Google Play. For more information, please visit the HomeMade website at https://homemadefood.app/.

 

Sources:

https://restaurantengine.com/psychology-of-menu-design/

https://medium.com/@ashley_howell/understanding-colour-psychology-for-restaurants-brands-dbb7ffbcecae

https://pos.toasttab.com/blog/on-the-line/how-to-calculate-food-cost-percentage