What is a Shared Kitchen and How is it Important to Food Entrepreneurs?

There’s a growing trend in the food industry that could be of major interest to new entrepreneurs and small businesses. Shared kitchens, sometimes also referred to as kitchen incubators or community kitchens, basically allow 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.

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.

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.

Benefits of a Shared Kitchen

The most obvious benefit of this type of space is the cost savings it provides. Instead of paying high monthly rent for your own dedicated space, you get to share that cost with other food businesses. This aspect is especially beneficial for those who don’t need to use a kitchen space constantly. For example, if you’re a caterer that mainly just needs to prepare food on the weekends, it doesn’t make much sense to pay for a full month’s rent on a space you use less than half of the time.

In addition, these kitchens normally come fully stocked with equipment. So you don’t need to pay for new appliances or major kitchen tools. Of course, you’ll pay for the privilege of using these items in your monthly membership fee. But you can save yourself the trouble of buying these items.

They’re also usually built to fully comply with your area’s regulations for food vendors. All commercial kitchens need to meet specific standards for safety, cleanliness and a few other features. Learning about and meeting these standards can sometimes be complicated, especially for new entrepreneurs. So going with a shared kitchen allows you to really simplify this process.

In some states, food entrepreneurs are able to prepare foods for sale that they make at home. But those home kitchens must also meet regulatory standards. And some states like New Jersey do not allow home kitchens to operate commercially at all.

Where to Find a Shared Kitchen

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. And 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.