25 Food Business Ideas that actually work in India

If you are thinking of ideas to get into the food business in India, you should start by considering a few things – The time and effort it takes, the capital and market dynamics.

And that there so many options for you to get into the food business world without having to set up a full scale restaurant.

Here’s a list of 25 Food business ideas that you should look at to pick the right one for you. Includes low investment ideas to full-scale restaurants.

  • 13 Conventional Food business Ideas
  • Basic necessities for your Food business
  • 12 Unconventional, low-cost food business ideas

Conventional Food business ideas

Fast Food (QSR) restaurant

The food is prepared in bulk and served fast. The restaurants also have minimum table service and there is usually provision for both eating at the outlet and take-home. Popular examples of global fast food brands are Subway, Mcdonalds, KFC.

Typically the cost of opening one is in the range of 10 – 20 lakhs in India. Besides the usual costs needed for rent, infrastructure, kitchen equipment, a lot of money needs to be set aside for promotions.

Cloud Kitchen/Ghost Kitchen

A Cloud Kitchen or ghost kitchen is one that operates on deliveries alone. You might’ve heard the success stories of Faasos, Lunchly – companies which have made it big in India. Average investment needed for a Cloud Kitchen would be around 5-10 lakhs. Cloud Kitchens are low investment ventures – again a substantial amount of money would be parked for the marketing.

cloud kitchen online

 

If you want to dig into Cloud Kitchens, here are a few quick resources:

How to get started with a Cloud Kitchen

Cloud Kitchen – The Concept Breakdown

Cloud Kitchen business model – All you need to know

Fine dining

Fine dine targets a very select audience who are in the lookout for the best dining experiences. Fine dines must have impeccable on-premise set-ups, great ambience, great seating arrangements and excellent table service. In short, the customer experience should be top notch. The typical cost for 2 of a fine-dining restaurant is upwards of 4000 rupees. Fine dines succeed on 3 counts – great food, excellent customer experience and a good marketing strategy.

Fine dine

Cafes

A cafe is typically a place where snacks and beverages (such as coffee, tea and drinks) are served. The crowd it caters to might vary between corporate, college students, and locals. Typical cost for 2 here would be around 300-700 INR. The cost of setting up a cafe would be 10-15 lakhs the number varying from the area, to the kitchen equipment, type of decorations, quality of staff and more.

You could look to explore different kinds of cafes too – rooftop cafe and outdoor seating (alongside footpaths like the “Terraces” in the European streets).

Bars & Pubs

Bars and pubs are establishments where you’ll get a whole range of drinks – alcoholic and non-alcoholic, along with bar bites (finger food in smaller portions). Typically a bar or pub can cost anywhere between 1000-1500 per person hence the margins for the business owners are pretty high.

Bar setup
Breweries and beer-houses

Breweries and beer-houses as the names suggest largely serve beer and other alcohol. Depending upon the place and location, their costing would range from 60 – 70 lakh which is pretty comparable with that of a normal pub or bar.

Casual Dine/Fast casual

In a Casual Dine setup, your customers will expect a decent seating area, table service and a good ambience. Typically in a casual dining set up, the cost for 2 can be anywhere between Rs. 1000-1500. To start one you will have to choose a cuisine. Added to the investments on restaurant infrastructure, you might also want to add a delivery service, to multiply your revenue streams.

casual dine setup

Cafe meets Beer

Cafe meets Beer setups or beer-coffee houses are the alternative to Bars serving a wider selection of non-alcoholic beverages. Imagine a cafe that also serves booze. Beer cafes are a more popular concept in Europe and are gradually starting to become more popular in India. The idea here is to provide an alternative to bars that are more daytime friendly.

Bakeries and Patisseries

A patisserie is an establishment that usually sells pastries whereas bakeries sell all sorts of baked items such as cookies, cakes, bread, pastries. The idea of bakeries and Patisseries originates from Europe and is slowly becoming popular in India as well. They usually have seating and also deliver at your home.

News: Bombaykerry, one of India’s top bakery houses, opens its Delhi branch

Bakery business

Pop-up restaurants

You would find Pop-up restaurants during special occasions or festivals. They operate from homes, vehicles or any open space that might be available. They are low-cost investments and take advantage of peak demand and ‘something new’ in an area.

Popup restaurants is not just a thing in India but has become quite the thing in countries in Europe and America. Saison, Fondue Tram, Claudia are few of the many successful examples of popup restaurants in the US.

popup restaurant USA
Food truck

A Food truck is basically a mobile restaurant which can be set up by using your vehicle – a truck, car (or cart). This is a very cost-effective approach because you do not need a lot of capital to set one up, and you don’t really need to worry about the seating arrangements around or pay heavily on rental costs. However, you would need all the licenses and legal documents to start one (just as in the case of a traditional restaurant). You could open a food truck at a price point of 10 lakh. You would have to set aside a large part of that for marketing and promotions of the food truck as that is what will make your brand knows (at least to get you started). This would include a number of things – website and app, online order platforms, contact and affiliate building, digital and offline ads and so forth. On the revenue front, the typical cost for 2 can range from anywhere between 300 to 500 rupees in India. You should have a well-decorated truck, a creative menu and of course, great food to reach out to a large audience.

A Complete guide to food trucks here

Food Truck business picture

Juice Bars

Juice bars are shops where you can find a large assortment of fresh fruit juices, sometimes served with ice-cream scoops. They are typically situated near college campuses, gymnasiums or busy streets and market places, where a lot of people can see them.

Ice cream parlours

They are shops similar to the Juice shop discussed above. You must have eaten at a Giani’s the popular ice cream parlour. Ice cream parlours typically have a cost for 2 of anywhere between 300-400. They are a small 500-1000 square feet area with a seating space of around 4-5 four-seater tables.

ice cream parlour business

Dhabas

Dhabas are typically low budget restaurants which specialise in serving hot Punjabi food…Parathas, naans, butter chicken, kebabs and more. These dhabas are typically set up in highway roads or nearby petrol pumps and are frequented by travellers wishing to have a quick bite midway.

The budget needed to open a dhaba might vary depending upon the location, the seating, and the quality of infrastructure. Giving you an estimate, opening one would cost you somewhere between 5 – 10 lakhs quite easily.

A small checklist to go along with the above ideas

Once you have decided what kind of food business you wish to open (out of the 11 ideas presented above), you should be keeping a close eye on all the basic ‘next steps’. Here we have compiled a quick list for you.

  • Legal requirements
  • Infrastructure spends
  • Technology
  • Marketing and promotion
Legal Requirements – Licensing, Documentation and Official paperwork
  • License from municipal authorities – You would need permission from the local bodies and get a license for space or area where you’ll set up your restaurant.
  • FSSAI– The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) makes it mandatory for you to have a 14 digit FSSAI number. The typical cost of an FSSAI license is around Rs 5000 to 10000.
  • GST Registration- Restaurants are required to register under GST and get their GSTIN Number for tax purposes
  • Liquor License- You would need a liquor license if you are planning to sell alcohol at your restaurant.
  • Business Registration- Needless to say, you must officially register your business and file your ITRs.

All the 11 licenses you need to open a restaurant in India

Infrastructure, Capital  and other costs to evaluate

When you set up a restaurant you are looking at a lot of costs. Below we have given the major cost segments that you should be aware of.

Food cost – Raw material or inventory cost that you must incur on a daily basis.

Infrastructure Costs– these costs are the overheads that are mostly incurred one time (during set up) or periodically (payable monthly, annually)

We have listed them out below for your quick reference.

  • Rent- The rent covers a significant part of your restaurant costs. How much this cost is will depend upon where your restaurant is situated.
  • Interiors– You can decide on the interiors based on your restaurant concept and theme, and your budget.
  • Kitchen equipment – Your kitchen should be equipped with all the essential kitchenware – cooking vessels, gas stoves, boilers, plates etc.
  • Technology costs – You would have to invest in POS, Online ordering software, marketing automation packs and more.
Technology Requirements

If you are opening a restaurant, you’d need to invest in some software. This will ease the restaurant operations and management process. The kind of technology you’ll need will depend upon various factors.

Type of restaurant – Say you wish to go in for a Cloud Kitchen. For that, you’d need an online food delivery network. You could either use the services of a Swiggy or a Zomato (reputed online order aggregators) or you could set up your own online food ordering system, in the case of a dine in, you would benefit if you invest in complete table reservation software (integrated to your website and app). POS, inventory and Data Analytics software packs you would need regardless of your restaurant type.

POS

Budget – A budgeting exercise is something every restaurant needs to do. Allocating your budget between several functions – operations, marketing, analytics is key. Technology enables almost all functions and careful investments in technology across functions will be a significant value add for your food business.

The number of resources – How many resources do you want to hire at your restaurant. More the hands, less the dependence on technology. Technology helps you automate a lot of the work.

For a complete guide on technology for your restaurant, do give this a read – Restaurant Management Systems – a complete guide

Marketing and Promotion Activities

In order to get people to come to your restaurant, the marketing and promotion game should be on the money or you could be looking at cash flow woes.

An omnichannel marketing strategy is what you should look at – both digitally and offline.

Digital promotions

  1. Get listed on online food aggregator websites
  2. Consider making your own online ordering platform – website and app
  3. Be active on Social Media
  4. Run ads on Google and Social and get closer to your target audience.
  5. Run SMS and email campaigns to keep your customers coming back
  6. Run loyalty programs to reward your customers

social media marketing for your restaurant

Offline promotions

  1. Print posters and pamphlets and circulate in your neighbourhood and nearby areas
  2. Set up small programs, occasions at the restaurant to create a buzz
  3. Create attractive messaging to draw the crowd
  4. Tie up with establishments who could promote you for a fee

To tackle marketing more holistically, we have compiled a list of 16 marketing ideas that will help you structure your food business marketing better.

Now, some of the newer ideas.

12 Unconventional, low-cost food business ideas

So we have given you a list of the more traditional ideas to enter the food business industry.

One thing you might’ve noticed in it was the investment needed for each type of food business idea. One is the monetary investment which typically ranges from 5 lakhs and up. Two is the investment of time and effort that must be put in to make your restaurant a success. Not everyone will be inclined to take on that much risk to start things off.

Keeping that in mind, we have compiled a list of cool, relatively lower cost ways in which you can make a living in the food business.

Dinner club/Supper club

You might have heard of the Bohri Kitchen – a concept in which guest are invited over to the owner’s premises (based on a lucky draw).

In a dinner or a supper club the customers submit their interest of dining at the premise, the supper club then evaluates all the applicants and gives particular time slots to the selected customers. It isn’t very expensive but there is this charm of ‘exclusivity that makes a supper club stand out from the rest!

Bohri Kitchen all set to open its first outlet in Malad

Also,

Asma Khan on Netflix’ Chef’s Table started out with a supper club.

Catering

This is an excellent way of starting a small food business from home. The trick to success is to develop a niche for a certain kind of food say Chinese or Thai, build a few contacts and cater to them during specific events or functions. You might still need to register your business in a category that is in line with your annual revenue, file your taxes. Also, you would need an FSSAI license, once you formally register your food business.

Nutritionist/Dietician

With people becoming more diet conscious demand for nutritionists is on the rise. Different people have different health goals – lose or gain weight, keep off sugar from the diet. If you want to make it big as a dietician, a few ways in which you can make your food business gain more popularity might be to:

  1. Tie up with a few health and fitness centres, pay them a cut for every client referred
  2. Get a certification or a degree to add more weight to your resume.
  3. Make a social media page or a website and direct traffic towards it through content and ad strategy.
Baking from home

If you are fond of baking cookies, cakes, biscuits then you might wish to consider this one. There are many entrepreneurs who have built a good side food business through their baking skills. Also if you are well connected to the food shops that let you put your items on the shelf, that’d help too. Additionally, you could try selling them online by connecting with already existing online bakeries or set-up your own platform and promote it via search-engine and social media.

Cooking classes

If you like both cooking and teaching you could start your own cooking classes. You could select a target audience (for example – Cooking for beginners or for the more experienced) and build your promotions around it. Your channel could be online or offline, both ways you would need to build an audience. If you wish to have a teach online then you could benefit via a significantly larger reach. You could record your videos and upload them on YouTube to get started. Having a few customers to begin things (who would also be willing to share testimonials) would be great. Building an active social media channel and a website will expedite your food business growth.

Example – the Bong eats the cooking channel.

Cooking classes on YouTube
Source: Bong Eats YouTube channel
Local delivery network

If you do not wish to be involved in the cooking process, you could try out setting up delivery networks. Your job would then be to connect the cooks/ restaurants to the people who are looking for tiffins and catering services. This would be fairly easy if you have a good network base of both caterers and people looking for food. To make this a success, you may want to consider tying up with PG managers, grocery shop personnel and other everyday offline customer touchpoints. In addition to this, you may also want to be a part of relevant social groups and post your ads there as well.

Food Critic

Food critics are professional who critique food and write reviews. They inspect the intricate aspects of food – smell, taste, texture, visual presentation. Their take on food carries weight and gets published on popular platforms for everyone to see. A good review from a critic helps food businesses get more popular and that brings more customers to the restaurant.

Tiffin Systems

Home made food is high in demand particularly in commercial hubs where a lot of corporate employees, both young and old, work far away from home and are constantly in the look out for homely food. You could have a few clients and you could charge them a weekly or monthly fee to regularize the payment stream of this food business.

Tiffin business
Source: Google Images
Food stylist

The core job of a food stylist is to prepare food for the purpose of photography, or video shoots. They can be either hired full-time or work on specific projects as a freelancer. They must work close to the chefs and cooks, the writers and the creative teams. Such professionals are often from culinary, hotel management or gastronomy backgrounds.

Food cart

Cart or thela is a small business which you could consider if you specialise (or hire someone who is a specialist) in making a specific kind of food. It could be fruit drinks, fast food like samosas, pani-puri and more.

You could hire a worker slash cook who’d manage the food business for you.

Food Blogger

If you love food then this one will come naturally to you, a food blog. Through your blog page, you could easily post pictures of the dishes you cook at home, write about your favourite dishes. One way you could monetize this effort is to divert traffic to your page through a sound social media strategy. You could make use if Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook to run both organic and paid promotions to your website, As your traffic base (and follower) increases you could become an affiliate and promote related businesses on your website and charge an amount per click (ppc)

YouTube Food Channel/ V-logger

YouTube is the second most viewed search engine after Google. People are increasingly switching preferences from articles to videos and this is one more area you can tap into. You could take videos of your cooking, give it a personal touch. Remember the end objective must be to add value to your viewers. Even if you wish to spin already existing videos or content, do ensure to give it your unique flavour. That will increase your chances of success of your food business channel.

Here are some ways you could promote and eventually monetise your food blog and vlog

  1. Create social media creatives – Make use of catchy headlines , attractive images to increase clicks. Take them to your blog site or video channel
  2. Set aside a monthly budget to run ads on all the important social media channels. Evaluate ad performance using tools like Google Adwords. Track key metrics like Click through rates, time spent on website.
  3. Set-up remarketing modules for people who visit your website to target them even once they are off your website
  4. Create a list of companies you could be affiliates for. Reach out to them and communicate the value you could drive to their websites.
Youtube food business channel
Source: Tasty YouTube channel

Summing Up

We hope this article was informative to you. Helped you zero in on a food business idea, one from which you could earn a living from. That’s all for now. See you on the other side 🙂

 

Aditya Sarkar

Aditya Sarkar

Aditya Sarkar is a Marketing Manager at LimeTray. When he isn't being a Marketer, he likes solo-travelling, playing all kinds of sports and chilling out with friends! He's reachable at aditya.sarkar@limetray.com