Tips for Baking in Rented Commercial Kitchen Space
Many successful food businesses begin in a home kitchen with nothing but a family recipe and devotion to the craft. However, most states require that a food business use a certified commercial kitchen if selling food to the public. A certified commercial kitchen must include a separate and dedicated entrance from the outside, a commercial kitchen hood for heat and fumes, and a separate hand sink, to name a few of the common regulations. These features are difficult and expensive to achieve in a home kitchen. Hence, many bakers who want to start their own business choose to rent space in a fully licensed commercial kitchen.
Rented Kitchen Defined
Certified commercial kitchen space for rent can take many forms. This space can be found in commissary kitchens, kitchen co-ops, churches and other community centers, and even restaurants during off hours. Kitchens like these are operated by non-profit organizations or by private owners. Commercial kitchens for rent are most commonly found in areas with exceptionally strict certification requirements, or where there is a greater need for a community cooking space, especially in big cities and coastal regions.
Community kitchens are licensed by the local health department, and are designed specifically for part-time or early-stage food businesses requiring part-time kitchen space. The kitchens provide fledgling businesses the opportunity to cook or bake their products without the expense of building and equipping their own commercial kitchens, which is often too expensive even to consider. These kitchens have all the necessary commercial equipment for just about any cooking or baking need. Individuals or groups can get private cooking time, or they can work while others are working, depending on the space and set-up. These kitchens are available for both short-term and long-term use, perfect for teaching cooking classes, testing new recipes for a new restaurant, preparing product for farmers’ markets, or cooking meals for catered events. Since baking in bulk typically requires special ovens, mixers, pans and other supplies, renting the kitchen space makes sense for a lot of business-minded bakers just starting out.
What a Rented Kitchen Provides
Community kitchen spaces usually try to be as accommodating to their renters as possible. This includes providing private or shared space for renters, complete with commercial supplies and equipment for a variety of different cooking and baking processes.
Some commissaries offer kitchens that can be rented privately for a set amount of time, while others have only a large shared kitchen space with many people working at once. Ask to see what the facility can provide to accommodate your baking needs. For instance, if you require a dedicated and private kitchen to prepare your gluten-free items, be sure the place you choose to rent has the capacity and ability to offer you that. Also be sure that the kitchen is available at the times you need. Some are open 24 hours a day, while others keep their own hours.
Commercial kitchens provide commercial-grade kitchen supplies and equipment. These are beneficial for people looking to make large-volume batches for catered events, wholesale or retail opportunities. Every kitchen is set up differently, sometimes with one large space with many workstations, and sometimes with many smaller kitchens that can be rented privately. Specialty equipment may or may not be provided, depending on the machine. These may need to be purchased separately and transported or stored in the commercial kitchen.
Some kitchen co-ops offer storage on site, depending on how many renters require more “full-time” use and ongoing storage space. This storage space can be used for equipment or ingredients. There is also usually a place to store refrigerated ingredients or product, too.
Check to be sure, but commissary kitchens often have the ability to receive food deliveries or other shipments to their location for individuals or business owners. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of receiving, transporting and storing deliveries.
Help with local vending.
Many of these organizations keep the required information and paperwork on hand for different sales endeavors in the community, such as permits for selling at farmers’ markets. This is done as a courtesy to renters who want to get started vending to the community.
It is important to communicate with the owner or manager of the kitchen, or thoroughly peruse their websites before choosing a place to give your money to. Try to speak with someone in person and take a tour of the kitchen space before agreeing to any contract.
What You Need in Order to Use a Rented Kitchen
Different kitchen spaces require different application materials. Sometimes there is a wait to get space in a commercial kitchen, and other kitchens have specific requirements according to state law. Below are some common application requirements many commissary kitchens and kitchen incubators require before you can actually rent space there:
Expect some type of application fee when you apply to rent kitchen space. This is typically only between $25 and $50, depending on the city.
Some kitchens require a contracted commitment of time you will be renting the kitchen. For instance, some places require a 6-month commitment along with a security deposit. Others will charge a flat rate for the first twenty hours or so, then a per-hour rate after that.
You will likely be required to carry your own liability insurance when working in rented kitchen space. Liability insurance is important to any small business. If something should happen, out-of-pocket expenses for legal defense can be enough to shut down your small business completely, and the commercial kitchen will not be able to provide any support in case of an incident.
Food handler’s certificate.
In many states, health departments require a food handler’s permit for every individual business working out of a rented kitchen. Commissary kitchens require a high level of sanitation and safety in producing food product, and want everyone to maintain high standards at all times. Although these certificates can cost up to $250, the good thing is that this is not typically difficult to achieve. Earning the certificate involves taking a half-day class, or studying the rules and regulations of your local health department, then taking a short exam. Servsafe has the resources you need to determine what your state requires, how to purchase study materials, and how to take the exam, if required.
You need a business license in order to work in a commissary kitchen as a small business. This license applies to those looking to get their small business off the ground by producing food and selling it in the community. For those looking to teach cooking classes or test recipes, a business license may not be required. However, many certified commercial kitchen spaces offer coverage under their own business license, so when you work in that specific commissary kitchen you are automatically working under the kitchen’s license.
Upon presenting all the other requisite materials, most of these kitchens charge renters an hourly fee. This is usually a manageable amount, $10-$25 an hour at many locations.
The costs are minor when compared to what many new restaurant owners and operators face with the cost of a brand new commercial kitchen. Using a kitchen co-op reduces the risk, as well as the cost, giving entrepreneurs a chance to start a viable business without the risk of losing an investment in a fully operational commercial kitchen.
Renting space in a commercial kitchen is a smart way to get your bakery business up and running. Some businesses work exclusively out of rented kitchen space throughout their existence, but most people hope to gain their own storefront or at least their own certified kitchen eventually. Operating out of a rented commercial kitchen has a lot of benefits, the most important of those being the money saved for new businesses without much capital. Whether you are baking cookies, whipping up vegan cheesecakes or preparing batter for baking and selling waffles from a cart, consider the merits of renting your kitchen space over purchasing it.
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