Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Yaneek Page | Here’s what you should know before opening a cookshop

Published:Sunday | November 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM

QUESTION: I'm thinking of opening a cookshop. Do you think $150,000 is enough to start?

- Brian

BUSINESSWISE: $150,000 may be enough to get started however the only way to be sure is to take the time and write a plan for how the cook shop will attract customers and not just earn money, but make a profit.

The biggest concern you should have when starting a business is not how much cash you need or where you will get it, but actually whether there is enough demand, at a viable price point, on a consistent basis, for the food establishment to be financially viable.

The worst thing you could do is launch a shop to help earn more but end up losing all you invested and gaining debt. Instead of a great start-up, you are left with a terrible setback.


Start with Opportunity


I am going to list some of the upfront expenses your cook shop may have to help you determine whether $150,000 is enough to get started, but first, I want you to consider some critical questions to help you avoid setbacks:

- How many people live, work or attend school within one to two miles of the location in -which you plan to start your cookshop?

- Where do people in the area get breakfast, lunch, and snacks now? How much do they spend?

- How many food establishments are in the area? What is their pricing and sizing? Are they doing brisk business?

- Who is your ideal or main customer? How often will he/she buy and at what time of day?

- How will you keep in touch with your customers where and how will you save their names and contact details?

- What will your signature meals be? How will you maintain consistent standards?

- Where will source your inputs to ensure quality at an affordable price?

- How will you be different from and better than other cook shops in the area?

- Can you manage bulk orders for offices or institutions? How would you receive those orders and deliver?

- How many meals do you need to sell each day to break even?

The questions above are the starting point in your business-planning process. They are meant to help you understand the environment in which you operate, the prospective customers, their needs and pocket, the competition, and how you stand out and win customers to make profits.

Some of the answers to these questions can be found in the Survey of Living Conditions, which is published by the Planning Institute of Jamaica. They have a public library, which you can access for a small fee.

The Mona GeoInformatics Institute may also have data on the numbers of people who live and work nearby, food establishments in the area, and so on.

However, those sources are not enough, so be prepared to walk around and do on-the-ground research, walking through the community, observing the people, what they do, where they shop, what they buy, etc.

Other factors to consider are training, whether you enjoy engaging with customers, have a passion for food, and the long hours involved in operating such a food business. Purchasing, set up, meal preparation, meal service, handling and securing cash, pulling down, cleaning and sanitation are gruelling, and you will need help.




In order for you to legally operate a cook shop, you need a food handler's permit as prescribed by the Public Health Food Handling Regulations 2000.

The cost is $500, but it does require that you be trained in food safety and achieve at least 70 per cent on a related test to ensure that you have mastered the key principles.

To operate in the corporate area of Kingston, you must apply for various licences from the KSAC, depending on your offerings, signage and so on, which also come at a cost.

The NSWMA also requires that you make special arrangements for the disposal of your garbage as a commercial operator, which is an additional cost depending on your location and amount of waste.

The other start-up costs may include rental or purchase of a stall or container, electricity, water, sanitation especially for food safety and storage raw materials for at least week one, equipment such as a deep fryer, deep freeze, cooler, pots, pans and utensils, a cash register or cash pan, lunch boxes, napkins, bags, telephone, garbage disposal, and plastic utensils.

Even if you purchase used equipment and are fortunate to receive an appropriate stall, it is likely to take at least $300,000 to get started and undertake critical promotions, such as printed flyers, a standing menu board and so on.

I know what I have outlined is complex and perhaps even overwhelming. Unfortunately, that is precisely the reality of business. There are many factors to consider, several moving parts, and it is near impossible to do it alone.

One resource that may be useful in helping you create a plan and identify sources of funding and start-up support is the Jamaica Business Development Corporation. Good luck!

Good luck and one love!

- Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer, and creator/executive producer of The Innovators TV series. Email: Twitter: @yaneekpage Website: