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A growing trend in the food industry could be of major interest to new entrepreneurs and small businesses: Shared kitchens. Sometimes known as kitchen incubators or community kitchens, this small business trend allows chefs, bakers, caterers or other food-related professionals to split the cost of a professional kitchen space. This offers a ton of potential practical and cost benefits.

If you’re thinking about starting a food business or may be interested in utilizing this concept for your existing business, here’s what you need to know.

Relatedly, here’s news from News 19 WLTX, about how shared kitchens are a benefit for both sides:

What Is a Shared Kitchen?

A shared kitchen is a commercial space that has been licensed, certified, and equipped for professional food production. The space is available for entrepreneurs to rent, usually through flexible plans. Basically, they’re like membership organizations for food businesses. You pay a monthly rate based on how much time you need to use the space. Some require you to sign up for a specific amount of time that stays fairly steady each month. Others allow you to be more flexible and just rent space by the hour as you need it. Regardless of the specific model you go with, you get access to the space and all of the equipment and regulatory compliance it provides. Some shared kitchens also provide complementary services for food businesses, like access to packaging resources or business training courses.

shared kitchens with chefs prepping plates

These spaces are really meant for food businesses that don’t need to deal with consumers directly at their food production location. Event caterers, wholesale bakers, packaged food sellers and even food truck vendors can all make use of this type of space. They’re not ideal for actual restaurants, since they mainly just provide the kitchen space and don’t offer extra space of accommodations for consumers to visit. However, many do offer food storage space so you don’t necessarily need to take everything with you when you leave after each visit.

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Benefits of a Shared Kitchen

fully equipped shared kitchen

Shared kitchens offer a multitude of advantages for budding entrepreneurs and established food businesses alike. They are a boon for those who wish to economize, innovate, and collaborate without the overheads of owning a full-scale facility. Let’s delve deeper into the key benefits:

  • Cost-Effective: One of the most prominent advantages of shared kitchens is the cost savings. With the ability to divide the monthly rent among several food businesses, it becomes economically viable. This model is especially beneficial for those who don’t need constant kitchen access, such as caterers who primarily operate over the weekends. Instead of bearing the weight of a full month’s rent for infrequent use, these entrepreneurs can pay only for the time they utilize.
  • Fully Equipped: Shared kitchens typically come with the added benefit of being fully stocked with the necessary equipment. While there’s usually a membership fee associated with accessing these tools, it saves businesses the substantial upfront cost and hassle of purchasing and maintaining these appliances on their own.
  • Regulation-Compliant: Compliance with local food safety and cleanliness regulations can be intricate and challenging, particularly for newcomers to the food industry. Shared kitchens are often designed to meet these stringent standards, offering businesses a hassle-free way to operate within legal confines. This is invaluable for ensuring safety, streamlining the licensing process, and building consumer trust.
  • A Solution for Home Cooks: In regions where regulatory standards demand commercial-grade facilities for food sale, shared kitchens are a lifeline. Even in states where entrepreneurs can use home kitchens for commercial purposes, the home setup must meet specific standards. For places like New Jersey, where home kitchens cannot operate commercially, shared kitchens offer a viable and compliant alternative.
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Where to Find a Shared Kitchen

Where to find a shared kitchen - picture of kitchen area with stainless steel prep tables

Shared kitchens tend to be especially popular in busy metropolitan areas. Of course, there needs to be enough independent food businesses in the area to make running such a facility worthwhile. But it’s worth looking into even if you’re in a less populous community as well.

Most of these businesses operate regionally. So you’ll likely need to find an independent kitchen that’s located nearby. And the exact services and rates can vary widely.  For example, 24-7 Shared Kitchen in Lawrenceville, Georgia offers monthly rates as low as $200. Some even offer straight hourly rates, like The City Kitch in Charlotte, North Carolina for $30 an hour. Moreover, some offer shifts, like Hana Kitchens in New York, which has rates as low as $150 for the midnight shift.

There are also networks and services like The Food Corridor that can help you find a shared kitchen in your area that meets your needs. The NICK is the company’s network of kitchens. You can simply visit the site and enter your location to find options in your area. Then, you can compare rates and features to find the option that works best for your specific business model.

The Food Corridor currently has more than 80 shared kitchens included in its network across the U.S. and Canada. And the concept appears to be growing by the year. If you’re interested in taking advantage of one of these kitchens for your business, you should be able to find something that’s at least relatively close to your area. If you can’t find something suitable online, try connecting with your local chamber of commerce or other local business organizations to see if there are opportunities that might work for you.

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US Department of Agriculture (1)

Additionally, the US Department of Agriculture can be a great starting point for finding shared kitchen opportunities.

Choosing the Right Shared Kitchen: Key Considerations

shared kitchens with head chef overlooking plate prep (1)

When considering the best-suited shared kitchen for your needs, it’s essential to have a clear checklist of what to look for. The following table highlights the critical features and considerations to keep in mind to ensure the space meets your business needs:

Feature/Consideration Why It’s Important
Location Proximity to suppliers, your home, or events can save on transport and time.
Rate Structure Flexibility in hourly, monthly, or shift rates can match variable needs.
Equipment Availability Ensures you have the tools needed without additional investment.
Regulatory Compliance Avoids fines and ensures the safety of products.
Storage Space Ability to leave ingredients or products can be crucial for logistics.
Additional Services Business training or packaging resources can add value and support growth.

Image: Depositphotos.com, Canva.com

More in: Restaurant / Food Service Business


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