Q: How many square feet of kitchen space do you have?
A: In two rooms, the square footage is 1000'
Q: What are your hours of operation? (24/7 or set hours per day)
A: We make our space available generally on a 24/7 basis, with time scheduled via an online calendar on a first-come, first-served basis. We monitor the signups so that multiple uses will be compatible depending on the number of workers each kitchen user will bring on a given day. During certain times (such as summer weekends, our own use of the kitchen for private events such as weddings precludes access for certain days and/or hours).
Q: What equipment do you provide?
A: We have a general list of the main equipment here; look at the left menu for the Commercial Kitchen section. In addition to the general items, we have a Hobart food chopper, Cuissinart, cutting boards, metal bowls and colanders. Kitchen users supply their own knives and specialty tools, towels, sheet pan papers, storage containers, etc.
Q: How many cubic feet of freezer/cooler/shelf space do you make available to your clientele?
A: We have a walk-in refrigerator that is 10x10, or 100 square feet, offering about 60’ linear shelf feet of space + room for 4-6 rolling racks as well. We have a 10'x11' walkin freezer, half of which is available for our clients’ use.
Q: Do you have a ice machine on site?
A: We have ice delivered in #10 bags and always have it available in freezer with a ice checkout system for monthly billing.
Q: How do you monitor use of the facility?
A: We monitor kitchen users by interaction and in formal tracking:
- Person: We are onsite most of the time and so we interact with all the kitchen users daily. for those who work at night we make a point of checking in once and awhile, if we are not on site for our other activities.
- Via Paper work: We have a Check in/Out sheet which besides the daily cleanup list has walk-in refrigerator and freezer temps to record. This keeps a paper trail and also keeps kitchen users looking at the tools of their trade.
Q: Of your available hours and available kitchen space, what is your occupancy/utilization rate?
A: While many locations have developed kitchens because they saw the need, getting people in to use a rental kitchen can take some time. We have about 15 -20 inquiries for 1 signing on to use our kitchen. We are in a rural area, but with no other rental kitchen services on “our side of the water” in the Puget Sound area west of Seattle until recently, when a new kitchen opened to the south of us in Bremerton. In Seattle there are a number of kitchens and they are busy. One of our rental companies comes over from Seattle to work at Farm Kitchen. During 2009 we had many inquiries from people who are out of work and need income.
Q: Other than food preparation, what other uses are made of your commercial kitchen?
A: Cooking classes are popular. Start your own cooking school or find an out of work chef who wants to start one at your kitchen.
Cooking dinner parties are a variation that are often popular.
Other uses for consideration are canning and food preservation classes or events, understandably popular in the current economic climate. Have fun!
Q: How do you market your commercial kitchen?
A: We market our availability in as many ways as possible and cost-effective, including
- Websites that publicize commercial kitchens: www.commercialkitchenforrent.com , www.bizkitchens.com , www.culinaryincubator.com
- Network locally to build viral marketing
- Talk to your local Farmers Markets to let them know you exist.
- Regulations in our area require that food vendors there must use an approved kitchen for preparation of their product.People cooking for Bazaars, Community Bake Sales etc. need a kitchen. Check in with the organizers.
- Sometimes Churches need access to commercial kitchens, if their own kitchens are not approved kitchens for their benefit dinners or events.
- Talk with your local Health Dept. office and give them all your info. We keep in close contact with this group. We sometimes meet with potential clients who begin the registration process with us in an attempt to win Health Department approval; then later we learn that they are making product at home or in some other unapproved kitchen. We see it as good business practice to keep our local caterers, market food people on the up and up and competing on the same playing field when they price their products for sale.
Q: Is the kitchen paying for itself?
A: Our business has multiple facets. Our kitchen and event facility is used also as an event venue with rental by business and private clients for meetings, retreats, classes, parties & weddings. With this expanded use, it is paying for itself. If we depended solely on kitchen rental, our space with its overhead inclusive of extensive acreage with gardens and other buildings has not yet proved to be self-sustainable in the 13 years we have been operating.
Q: Do you provide any additional services to your clientele beyond the kitchen itself?
A: We offer direct consulting services and a business marketplace to our clients:
- In the areas of product development and implementation, business development, production planning, marketing and business communications, we offer a two-tiered approach. First, as part of building our relationship with our clients, we offer them initial food-business design & marketing guidance that might alternately be offered in a separate billable-hours consultancy. If they have extensive recipe design, production development or business research & marketing questions, we offer our services in these areas at an hourly rate.
- We also provide our clients with access to new business contacts and business to business relationships with caterers and other food producers. Those who have a strong interest in building their business are most apt to take advantage of these introductions.
- As appropriate, we can offer more in-depth technical consulting for market research and web development services they may need, as well.
Q: Are there any lessons learned that you would like to pass on to someone who’s considering getting started in the kitchen incubator business?
A: Often the person with a product hasn’t tested the market for their product, and/or does not have a detailed concept of what/who their market is. Salsa & barbecue sauce makers are prime examples. When faced with the question where and who they will be selling their product to and why it is marketable, they often retreat from the startup process unless they have a lot of passion about it. Many people don’t have the drive or vision to follow through. We feel it’s best for them to answer a couple of those hard questions when they come see our kitchen as it makes them really think about the costs and possibilities.
We also find that many potential users have a passion for cooking or baking, but little or no experience with business. The concept of pricing a product or analyzing what it costs to produce their product for the marketplace is foreign to many. Many approach food production like a hobby rather than a business. We find that we need to help many potential clients grasp the business reality of accounting for rental of our space in their business expense matrix. In our team of two business owners, one has taught small business development courses and marketing research, and the other spent more than 11 years developing a successful bakery from the ground up. Both these skill sets guide us as we discuss business development with our clients.