Best practices for shipping food

Packaging your perishables

This article was originally published on Sept. 21, 2018. It was updated on April 14, 2020.

Selling food out of your brick-and-mortar store is one thing. Selling it online — and shipping food all over the world — is another. Whether you own a bakery, an Italian restaurant that bottles its own sauces or a grocery store looking to expand its customer base, selling your goods online comes with one major concern: shipping.

Shipping food is one of the hardest parts of reaching consumers who aren’t anywhere near your physical location. It can be challenging, but it’s certainly achievable.

Related: 5 tips for adding an ecommerce shop to your brick-and-mortar business

4 best practices for shipping food

Before you start shipping food, you need a plan in place. Here’s what to do before accepting your first order:

  1. Do your research first.
  2. Test everything multiple times.
  3. Accept the realities of shipping food.
  4. Lay the groundwork before taking orders.

Let’s jump in.

1. Do your research first

Research is the first and most important thing you should do when considering selling your goods online.

Shipping food is a complicated process, and there’s a lot to think about before you decide if this expansion is right for your business.

Here are a few key considerations:

  • What will you need to buy in terms of materials?
  • Will boxes and packaging material do the trick, or do you need special packaging items that will keep your food tasting fresh as it travels?
  • What will all those pieces cost you, and where can you buy them?
  • Are there bulk rates available, and if so, is it worth it to purchase enough to save a few bucks?
  • Who will do your shipping, and how much will it cost? Are you going to stick with the bigger players, such as the U.S. Postal Service, UPS or FedEx?
  • How quickly will packages arrive at their destinations?
  • Are you going to keep things local by hiring a delivery person or working with a courier?

The research that goes into choosing whether or not to ship food at all can take a lot of time, but it absolutely needs to be done first.

Related: How to build a local food delivery website

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2. Test everything multiple times

Once you have a list of prices and shipping times from each provider, test your menu items. Find people in the locations you’re planning to ship food to and start sending.

Mail items many times over in order to ensure that when you do finally launch your online store, customers on the other end are happy with their purchases.

If you’re only working with goods that are in bottles, boxes or cans, you have a bit of an easier road ahead of you.

However, delicate items are notorious for failing the shipping test.

Baked goods with elaborate decorations might not survive the journey, certain products may not stay fresh long enough, and some foods may require such expensive shipping materials that it’s not worth it to mail them.

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3. Accept the realities of shipping food

Shipping Food Macarons

As you go through your testing phase, you’ll see that some products just can’t be mailed. That’s tough to accept, but doing so will allow you to move forward and grow your business, even if it doesn’t end up being as big of a step as you had hoped.

Perhaps there are just one or two menu items that don’t work, or maybe only a handful can be mailed. You don’t know until you try (and try and try again). Once you have confirmed what flies (or drives) and what doesn’t, accept it.

Don’t try to do more than you can if you can’t do it really well.

 

It’s better to simply refuse to ship half the foods people can buy in your store than to have them arrive in less than optimal condition.

Make it clear that there is a lot to discover if customers visit your physical location, and if you win them over with tasty deliveries, maybe they’ll reward you by doing exactly that.

Related: Returns and refunds policy templates for online shopping sites

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4. Lay the groundwork before accepting orders

Once you decide that you’re ready to begin shipping food, prepare for every aspect of the process.

For instance, do you know about how many online orders you’ll be filling? Develop some predictions before you invest in shipping food.

If you start accepting orders without enough people to make them, prepare them and get them out the door, you either need to rethink your plans or hire a few new employees.

You’ll also need the right supplies and a proper website that can securely accept money and keep track of orders.

GoDaddy Website Builder Food Template Page

GoDaddy’s all-in-one Online Store solution makes it easy for you to accept all major credit cards, PayPal and Apple Pay for back-end payment processing.

Plus, Online Store comes already protected with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), so it won’t be an additional cost on you or your business to keep your website safe.

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In conclusion

Shipping food can add a valuable revenue stream for your brick-and-mortar business. It’s also a great way to take a love of food to the next level as an online business. You just need to be prepared and make sure you have the resources available to handle the demand from the moment your food delivery service goes live.

To recap:

  • Research your available shipping and packaging options, plus associated costs.
  • Make test shipments for various locations.
  • Refine your product offerings based on test results.
  • Make some sales projections. Get set up with an online presence, preferably a dedicated website that can accept orders.

By taking the time for some advance planning, you’ll be well on your way to successfully shipping food to happy recipients.

Hugh McIntyre
Hugh McIntyre is a freelance journalist who has covered the music industry for dozens of publications throughout the years. He primarily contributes to Forbes, where he covers anything related to music. He has also written for Billboard, MTV, Noisey, Huffington Post, Hollywood Reporter, Fuse and many, many others. He is originally from Boston, and currently resides in New York City.