An Incubator kitchen is a certified commercial kitchen in which individuals or businesses prepare small-batch food products and meals. Vendors pay an hourly or daily rate to lease a space shared by others. While most kitchen rentals are set up in similar ways, they all have distinct differences.
A Shared-Use kitchen is the most viable option for cottage food operators and food artisans who are looking for an economical cooking space. These kitchens are leased out to multiple food producers, caterers, and pop-up chefs at once. You will share the space with other vendors. Shared-use vendors are assigned to specific storage areas. You’ll have time slots and the rent is split among several businesses but working out a schedule among the various chefs can be difficult. Unfortunately, the kitchen area may not be available when you need it.
Like most kitchen rentals, a commissary allows food prep and storage. These facilities often cater specifically to food trucks and mobile food businesses, while others may be businesses that just rent out their kitchen space for some extra income. No real rules and guidelines. It can be quite chaotic. These kitchens may not offer support, resources, or information about operating your business.
Private Commercial Kitchen
If you need access to specialized equipment or more time and space to work, a private kitchen might be the right fit for your cottage food or small-batch food business. In a private kitchen, you take on the whole lease yourself, meaning you have full access and don’t need to share the space with anyone else. These are excellent options for businesses with multiple food trucks or locations because you can use them as a central hub to prepare all your food before sending your trucks out or delivering to wholesale or retail locations.
You also won’t have to worry about the kitchen being cluttered with equipment and ingredients you don’t need. On the other hand, renting kitchen space from a private business is much more expensive, and may not be an attainable option for small-batch startups or new food trucks.
Non-Traditional Commercial Kitchen Sources
There are other spaces that have kitchens for rent that you can also consider. Churches, social clubs, schools, bed and breakfast establishments, and retirement communities all have kitchens. Like renting kitchen space from a restaurant, these non-traditional locations are a great way to save on your rent costs. A non-traditional kitchen won’t offer as many amenities as a shared-use or incubator kitchen.
Answer the following questions when renting kitchen space
- What questions should I ask when renting a commercial kitchen?
- What is the cost of renting the facility? Is it by the day or by the hour? Are there any time limitations?
- What is the inspection history of this commercial kitchen?
- Are cleaning and disposal services available? What am I responsible for when renting this facility? Is there a list?
- Does the commercial kitchen have dumpsters and recycling facilities?
- Do you simply need space to store food and cook/bake? How secure will your products be? Lock and key?
- Does the kitchen have time slots available for the hours you need on a regular basis?
- What storage space is available for your equipment, packaging, dry, refrigerated, or frozen foods?
- Ask about any additional cost for refrigerated and/or frozen foods? Exactly how much space will you have?
- What additional services do commercial kitchens offer that are included in the rental fees?
- Is there access to business consultants and support available to the kitchen renters?
- Is there assistance in marketing, brokering, distribution of your products, recipe/formula development, and is there office space available?
- Ask about training that might support your business.
- Is the kitchen facility as interested in your success as their own?
Gather information about the kitchen manager, security, parking for your vehicles, and if the facility is open 24/7. You want to ask about who to contact in the name of an emergency and will you have a key-card to access the facility when needed.
If you decide to rent the facility and you are presented with a contract review it with a legal professional. You want to know if you can end the contract should you have a personal emergency or financial concern. The facility should have a website that offers substantial information about the services available.
Good luck and remember to ask lots of questions.