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Commercial Kitchens: The Next Step in Growing Your Food Business

May 31, 2023

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March 2, 2023

Working in a commercial kitchen could be the next big step to growing your business, but how do you even get started? What are the requirements? How big does your business need to be? Where can I find a kitchen? Wow — this is overwhelming.

Many of you have reached out about references for commercial kitchens or how to get started in one! We’re so happy you want to expand and we're here to help! Here are some of the things you should know about preparing to work in a commercial kitchen, finding a commercial kitchen, and more.

What are the requirements to use a commercial kitchen?

There aren’t many requirements you need to meet to use a commercial kitchen. Commercial kitchens are meant for anyone who needs a space to work out of or extra room to grow their business. Businesses of any size can use a commercial kitchen, which makes them an amazing space for networking, growth and community. 

Shared kitchens provide most of the tools you need to make your food products, like refrigerators, ovens, cooling racks, other equipment and cleaning supplies, which can be a great opportunity for new businesses. Since kitchens are licensed and insured, all you need to do is focus on the food! 

Every commercial kitchen has its own list of requirements to join, but generally they’ll require that you: 

  • Are a licensed food handler
  • Are a licensed/registered business with your state
  • Are covered by your own liability insurance policy

Am I ready for a commercial kitchen?

There is no perfect timeline for moving your business into a commercial kitchen space because it's YOUR business. You’re the only one who can decide whether it’s time to expand and when it's right for you. 

The fact that you’re asking yourself this question is probably enough for you to start considering making a move into a commercial space, but there are some signs that might indicate it’s time to consider a commercial kitchen. 

You’ve outgrown your home kitchen

The amount of equipment, supplies and ingredients that go into running your own business is immeasurable. If you’re finding these items are falling out of your kitchen cabinets, or interpreting with your home life, it might be time to store them elsewhere. Most shared kitchens provide storage lockers or some storage place to keep your items secure and safe. 

You want to grow while reducing risk and saving time and money

As your business expands, so does the time, money and risk involved in growing. Using a commercial kitchen can help mitigate all of these! Commercial kitchens are inspected and licensed, so you don’t need to worry about laws involved in home kitchens. Commercial kitchens also provide you with equipment, so you don’t need to spend your money on expensive machinery. Chances are, you’ll be able to cut your prep and cooking time in half using their bigger equipment, too! All of this together creates a recipe for food business growth and success. 

Your kitchen doesn’t meet cottage food law requirements

Although you might want to cook or bake from home, there are quite a few legal requirements that come with selling from a home kitchen. Cottage food laws in most states limit the types of food you can sell to non-hazardous goods, which eliminates most items requiring refrigeration. 

On top of that, expanding your home kitchen is time-intensive and expensive, especially when you’re running your own business. 

Using a commercial kitchen may be a great option for you as they are commercially licensed, taking much of the operational work off your shoulders. However, it's crucial to know your state's food laws and make sure you're following them! 

You want to get out of the house and meet other bakers 

Running your own business comes with many perks, but it can also be lonely not having coworkers to talk to throughout the day. At a commercial kitchen you will meet other bakers and cooks that share your passions and entrepreneurial spirit. They can be a great resource for tips, marketing and just someone to spend your days with. 

At Castiron, we’ve also created a Facebook group called The Kitchen where you can network with food business owners from across the U.S. and beyond. 

You’re priced appropriately and selling a high enough volume

Before you rent a commercial kitchen, you need to understand your costs. 

Before you invest any more in your business, are you actually covering your costs? Are you making a profit? Is your order volume high enough to cover your commercial kitchen rent, the time you’ll spend at the kitchen (and traveling to or from it), your ingredients, and other costs?

You often have to spend money to make money, but make sure you have a solid plan in place before investing heavily in a shared kitchen.

What are the advantages of a commercial kitchen?

There are a ton of benefits that commercial kitchens offer that many don’t realize. Some kitchens even offer services and resources that only their customers can take part in. Here are just some of the benefits we’ve compiled to help guide you:

Scheduled times 

Since kitchens are a business themselves, you can guarantee they will run in a timely manner. Food business owners go in at their scheduled time, and leave when time is up. That means you can effectively plan out your weeks and add a set schedule into your routine. 

Affordable rates 

Each Kitchen operates differently and uses different pricing models. Generally, Kitchens charge an hourly or daily rate. Some kitchens charge a monthly rate, allowing you to use it whenever you need, while others charge a per session rate. You’ll often pay for a set amount of time per month, so it’s up to you to actually use the space. 

Note that “affordable” means different things to different people, so do your research before choosing a commercial kitchen. Commercial kitchen pricing varies greatly depending on location, amenities, the age of the kitchen, the number of kitchen tenants, and the other services that the kitchen offers.

Community atmosphere 

Shared kitchens are great places to meet fellow chefs and bakers and grow your community. Owning your own business can get lonely so this is the perfect way to get out of the house and meet with people who will support and assist you. 

Networking is a critical part of growing your business and making people aware of your brand. It’s also a great place to learn tips and gain experience from those around you.

Who knows — your commercial kitchen coworkers could present an opportunity to collaborate on products, co-market, or create an entirely new food brand!

Peace of mind 

Because you’re working out of a commercially licensed space, the burden of health department inspections is taken off your shoulders, allowing you to only focus on your business. This also reduces a lot of the operational costs you might incur by DIY-ing a kitchen space!

Additional resources and training 

Many kitchens offer additional benefits for using their space. These could include food safety training courses, access to mentors, bookkeeping classes, networking opportunities and other resources to help you grow your business. Each kitchen is different and will offer you different opportunities so it’s important to pick the right one for you.

Commercial kitchen alternatives (proceed with caution)

We understand you might want to consider your other options before jumping into a commercial kitchen. This is your business and you need to figure out what works best for you. While there are good options for your to consider, we have to warn you: they all come with a grievance or two:

Renting out a restaurant kitchen

When looking to expand, many consider renting out space in a restaurant’s kitchen. While this may seem like an equal substitute, restaurants are very hard to get time at and inflexible with availability and money. Many food business owners lose their time slots if the restaurant needs their space back. This would be a great option for the occasional large order you get while working from home, but it's not the most reliable option to expand your business. 

Expanding your own kitchen

Many business owners consider this option, but quickly terminate it when they see the price tag. Renovating your home kitchen is a very expensive option, and many don’t realize they’ll have to stop baking while their space is reconstructed. If you can expand your own kitchen, consider using a commercial kitchen while building is in progress.

Plus, many states don’t allow cottage food operators to install commercial kitchens in their homes. On top of that, some homeowners insurance policies can be invalidated if you install commercial appliances in your kitchen.

These are all major risks to your business and your home life, so do your research before making any decisions.

Commercial Kitchens We Recommend

Picking a commercial kitchen can be nerve-wracking. After all, renting a kitchen is an investment in your business — real, cold, hard cash is being exchanged. That’s why we always recommend touring a kitchen before committing to it.

Since many of you have been asking for commercial kitchen suggestions, here are some of our favorites to get you started:

Commercial Kitchens in New York

Nimbus

Located: Lower East Side and Downtown Brooklyn, New York 

Nimbus is an innovative shared kitchen company on a mission to bring dark kitchens to the light. By combining hourly and long-term kitchen rentals with events programming, Nimbus allows businesses to launch their concepts, scale production, and nurture relationships with their customers with little risk and minimal capital commitment. Nimbus has kitchen facilities in the Lower East Side and Downtown Brooklyn and works with leading brands including DoorDash, noma, Netflix, and Jose Andres Think Food Group, and cult favorites like Roberta’s Pizza, Milk Bar, Red Rabbit, and Best Damn Cookies.

Cypress Hills East New York Community Kitchen 

Located: Brooklyn, New York 

Welcome to the Cypress Hills East New York Community Kitchen! We now have a brand new state of the art kitchen rental space located in the heart of Cypress Hills Brooklyn ran and operated with the mission to help companies grow. We offer a host of free classes, workshops and events with both cold and dry Storage space available on site makes production convenient and seamless. Whether you would like to become a chef, help grow your local food business, or become an entrepreneur within the food industry, our Community Kitchen is the place to start. Below are the programs and opportunities offered at the Community Kitchen.

Cook Collective 

Located: Brooklyn, New York

Cook Collective Kitchen is a 6,500 sq. feet shared kitchen serving your small business’s commissary kitchen needs. Our goal is to provide space for a community of like-minded businesses, where we can problem-solve, support and grow together. We offer weekly shift rentals and monthly storage options in dry, cold and frozen storage.

e.terra Kitchen

Located: Two locations in Harlem

e.terra Kitchen's mission is to innovate the culinary workspace by providing transformative solutions that empower growth of all food & beverage brands: flexible, on demand, 24/7 accessible, workspaces and customized support to fit all F&B needs. There are currently two locations in Harlem, with over 8,500 square feet of space. Ideal for food & beverage production, culinary events, and culinary media production (photoshoots and videos).

The Entrepreneur Space

Located: Queens

The Entrepreneur Space is an incubator that provides a home to emerging businesses. The nurturing ambience and business counseling support we offer enables the budding entrepreneur to grow their business at the pace that is best for them. Ultimately, our goal is to provide the spring board which allows the start-up entrepreneur to outgrow our facility and move to the next phase of their operation.

The Entrepreneur Space is an incubator which can be the starting place for many types of businesses. The heart is the 6000 sq ft commercial kitchen for budding foodpreneurs, but we also can be the home for businesses offering services requiring a semi-private or private office or businesses providing seminars/courses by using our classroom or conference rooms.

Commercial Kitchens in Texas

PREP

Located: Austin, Texas

PREP makes building your food business easier and more enjoyable. Our 55,000 sf facility offers turnkey private and shared kitchens for 24/7 access where culinary professionals can grow their footprint alongside a robust community of food entrepreneurs. PREP's infrastructure and value-added services help you bring your business to the next level with group buying, distribution support, and cooperative lead generation.

Wingman Kitchens 

Located: East Austin and Houston, Texas 

Wingman Kitchens is here to hook you up with the best commercial and shared use kitchen experience. We have custom designed shared kitchen space in East Austin based on our years of personal experience operating in commissary and restaurant kitchens.  We have thought through the details to ensure the kitchen is versatile for all types of food companies, providing ample prep and cook space.

Commercial Kitchens in Florida

Miami Kitchen Incubator

Located: Miami, Florida 

Welcome to MKI, Miami’s first culinary incubator kitchen! With over 6,500 square feet of production space, storage and coworking space Miami Kitchen Incubator is a powerhouse of a shared commercial kitchen. We offer food start-ups a fully developed platform of support to help them break through the unique food industry barriers and get to the next level. Let’s build a community together and build the city we want to live in!  We work with food business at all stages of growth, from early recipe testing to well established operations ranging from mobile food services and food trucks, prepared meals companies, ghost restaurants, consumer packaged goods, specialty food producers, bakers, caterers and central commissaries.


About the Author
Grayson Wallace

Content Marketing Intern, Castiron

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