The gig economy, labor shifts resulting from Covid-19, and other modern factors, have led many to pursue dreams of starting small businesses. More and more entrepreneurs are taking their passion for cooking, baking, and brewing to the next level by offering their signature food and beverages for sale.
Scaling up production from a side hustle, while also ensuring quality, safety, and profitability, requires access to adequate resources.
This includes industrial kitchen equipment, temperature-controlled storage, and more. This demand has led to the increase in shared commercial kitchens and industrial food production spaces that are open to entrepreneurs. Shared industrial kitchens are a special type of coworking space.
For regular rent or a per-use fee, food and beverage entrepreneurs can use industrial kitchen equipment and storage facilities that ease many of the obstacles of starting a home-based food business.
Shared industrial kitchens help entrepreneurs and small-scale makers meet many federal, state, city, and municipal zoning requirements without having to invest in a full-time facility. This can help greatly reduce business costs, ensure safety, and overcome many common challenges at the early stages of a commercial food production venture.
What Are Shared Commercial Kitchens?
Shared commercial kitchens are food used by caterers, food truck vendors, craft brewers, wholesalers, and entrepreneurial chefs and bakers for various production, refrigeration, and storage needs. Although requirements vary based on location and current laws, commercial kitchens are usually licensed and certified for professional food and beverage making.
Equipment, utilities, storage, and other kitchen essentials in these facilities are commercial grade and are maintained by the facility owner or manager.
Entrepreneurs pay rent or a fee to use the space and equipment for an allotted time. They may also be given designated storage space for tools, ingredients, and products. Typically, it’s up to the entrepreneur to meet all rental or use terms, including safety, cleaning, and equipment-use requirements. Some shared kitchens may require renters to present a business license or other professional documentation.
The facility owners are responsible for ensuring the facility and equipment are kept current with industrial kitchen requirements for their location. Rental rates and fees will usually vary based on the desired production time and duration. Cost may also depend on specific equipment use and storage needs.
Like any commercial space, shared kitchen terms and amenities vary greatly from facility to facility. Some are catered to the needs of bakers and candy makers, others will offer access to brewery and distillery equipment, and others are set up as general food prep kitchens for more diverse needs.
How To Start A Home Commercial Kitchen
Renting an industrial kitchen can be life-changing for small business owners who require commercial equipment or storage, or who cannot meet federal, state, or local requirements for home production. For others, a conventional home kitchen may be perfectly legal and adequate for their small business.
Depending on location requirements and the type of processing, it may be possible to start a home commercial kitchen without any special licensing.
This allowance will usually vary based on the type of food being prepared and local zoning laws. For example, many states will allow the sale of foods prepared in an unlicensed, home-based kitchen if the resulting product does not contain dairy, eggs, or meat, does not require refrigeration or cold storage, and no acidification or pickling is used in production, etc. Special product labeling may also be required.
State-based specifics are detailed in regulations that are known as Cottage Food Laws. These laws are usually overseen by the state’s department of health or department of agriculture. Some states will also issue licenses to entrepreneurs following a full inspection and approval of a home-based food preparation space.
Approval will usually require an annex or portion of the home that is entirely dedicated to commercial production and compliant with federal, state, and local standards.
For entrepreneurs who do not already have a dedicated production space, the licensed annex process can be more involved than renting and operating in a shared kitchen.
For entrepreneurs who have an additional and closed-off kitchen, such as in a spare apartment, and who are located in a mixed-use municipal zone, this could be an option.