Kitchen space is often one of the highest barriers to entry for food entrepreneurs. Hence the rise of shared spaces! These options are great, but don’t exist everywhere and don’t work for everyone. Thinking about a dedicated production kitchen space? Most likely, that’s because:
- Your food business needs production kitchen space, but you don’t love to share.
- You’re making a sensitive product, one with a higher level of sanitation or infrastructure needs.
- You need to scale, and fast.
But unless you’re a veteran developer or restauranteur, you may have no idea how to start looking for space. This non-exhaustive guide will provide some initial direction for your queries, so you can decide if this route is feasible for you. Hopefully, you’ll end up with the kitchen of your dreams!
Location, location, location
If you’re in a small or medium-sized town or city, the commercial real estate landscape may be slim. Your best bet is to reach out to commercial realtors. Your favorite local shop owner will know one! In the best case scenario, the realtor will hear about your needs and know exactly the spot for you, within your budget. In the worst case scenario, the demand will far exceed supply and you’ll be left hanging or forced to pay exorbitantly. In those cases, we get creative!
A realtor may only want to show you cut-and-dry production spaces, but there are other options if you think outside the box. Is there a restaurant, specialty foods store, food hall, or other adjacent business with extra space or equipment that you can use? Can you convert an apartment or living space into a production space? The answers to these will depend on your budget, your resources, your local laws, and your willingness to get unconventional.
In a larger city, the market is likely to have more options – at a steeper cost. Start with websites like LoopNet or even Craigslist to get an idea of what’s out there. City economic development agencies may also be a good place to start, as they often have government-owned property for lease.
Questions to ask
Hopefully, you’ve now located some production spaces and you’re starting to talk logistics. Some of the most important questions to ask:
- What is the power availability in the location? (Keep in mind that most commercial kitchen equipment has extra-large electrical needs, like 240V or 3-phase power. Have your equipment spec sheets on hand!)
- What are the natural gas capabilities?
- How is waste removal handled? What about grease?
- Will additional ventilation be needed, given my output of heat/fumes/smoke?
- What sort of infrastructure upgrades would be needed to reach my sanitation requirements (for example: FRP on the walls, new washable flooring, etc)
Once you’ve secured a production kitchen space, you’ll need to find equipment. This is the fun part! Create a budget based on your cash flow and projections, and then decide whether you’re looking for used equipment or new. (This blog post should help you decide!)
Looking for brand-new goods? A restaurant supply store may have good deals on equipment like prep tables or shelves, but may not be the right route for appliances. You may be better off making a relationship with a local dealer or authorized reseller. They’ll certainly have an agenda for what they’d like to sell you, so make sure to do your research first. You don’t want to end up with a combi oven that meets your needs now, but won’t make any sense as you grow.
Ready to pull the trigger? Make sure that your location can receive large goods via a loading dock or bay. You may need a forklift or other equipment, so plan ahead – or find a contractor to plan ahead for you. You don’t want to end up empty-handed on delivery day!
There’s far more to building a production space, including finding a GC or managing installations yourself, so stay tuned for another blog post. In the meantime, get hunting for space! And once you’ve found it, make sure to share photos with us!