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How to Sell Food Online

Whether you’re looking to sell specialty foods online, or build an online market for your brick-and-mortar grocery store or restaurant, it’s important to build a website and online store to drive your business. Here are the tips and tricks you need to start your online food business.

Invest in flavor and presentation

At the end of the day, the most important thing about selling food online is offering a product that people love. For food businesses, that means something delicious, decadent, or unique. If you're developing signature recipes for the items you'll sell, go through as many iterations as it takes to nail that perfect bite, and gather taste testers you trust to assess your product’s flavors, texture, and overall appeal. Once you know for sure that your product stands up to testing, you’ll be able to sell it to customers proudly and confidently.

Paying attention to package design is just as important as developing a brand or designing an impactful website. Eye-catching packaging can stop your audience from scrolling right past your social media post or tabbing over to a competitor’s online food shop.

Food photography goes a long way toward making customers’ mouths water, too. There’s a difference between taking a pretty picture and making something look truly appetizing; snapping a picture of a plate of food on your kitchen counter might not cut it. Instead, use helpful tools and apps that will allow you to get more out of your visual assets. For example, Squarespace’s Unfold app provides beautiful templates that make your photos shine on social media, and the Video Studio app puts high-quality video content in the palm of your hand.

Serve people a high-quality product

The process of getting food sold online into customers’ hands requires specialized attention. Temperature is often important, and so are packaging materials that will keep delicate items cushioned and insulated. Here are some considerations for getting your food from your business to your customers. 

  • Shipping: If you offer shipping through third party carriers, make sure your food items can make the trip. If your products aren’t shelf stable, include cold packs and insulated packaging to keep them refrigerated during the journey. That way you can be sure your food will arrive on customers’ doorsteps in the best possible condition.

  • Local delivery: Door-to-door delivery options aren’t new for the restaurant business, but they may work well for your food brand even if you don’t have a storefront that customers can visit. Platforms like Tock offer an all-in-one take-out and delivery system that you can integrate with your online food shop.

  • Pickup: If you prefer to have your customers collect their food from you in person, offer a pickup option. 

If you are able to support all three options, you can let customers choose which one is most practical for them on the checkout page of your online shop. If you want to get around delivery questions completely, brainstorm how you can digitize your expertise by offering non-physical products. For people in the food business, digital offerings could include virtual cooking classes, standalone recipes, or even recipe collections built around a theme or event.

Pull back the curtain

Many shoppers are interested in knowing where their food came from, how the ingredients were grown, who had a hand in creating it, and the working conditions where it was prepared for sale. While your website needs to tell the story of your food brand, it should also pull back the curtain on how you do business. 

Are you working with a respected commercial kitchen or a manufacturing partner? Are you sourcing ingredients locally, or using specialized ingredients that consumers might not have heard of before? These are all opportunities to be transparent about your business practices and engage shoppers with the philosophy behind your food brand. You can clarify your mission, vision, and values for visitors on your website, and share content on your social media channels to let your followers see how your business operates. 

Brush up on applicable laws 

Because laws about making and selling food vary across jurisdictions, check your local regulations to make sure your business stays compliant. Although people selling goods online may need to apply for some kind of business license, the food industry may be a little more complicated. Depending on how you manufacture your products, you may need to apply for a food handler’s or food establishment license, or submit to kitchen facility inspections. 

Ready to start your online food business?

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