If you are trying to pursue your dream of opening a bakery or a restaurant, you might want to check this post.to get my 4 key steps. We are going to focus here on how to rent a commercial kitchen space: Is it a good idea? What are the pros and cons? We have rented two of them for years in Southern California, here is what we thought about it.
How do commercial kitchens work?
Before detailing our Pros and Cons of renting a commercial kitchen, let me explain how this business works.
A commercial kitchen is an approved facility by the health department of your local county, to produce food on-site for general consumption.
Some commercial kitchens are not open to rent, which are the cases for most of them. But others, turn these commercial kitchens into a business and rent it by the hour. Usually, these facilities have multiple rooms that fit your specific need.
For example, there is a special room for bakeries, with everything you need to bake goods. There would be another one to cook chicken, others for prep tables to package food, etc. You get the idea.
Usually, they require a $500 deposit, which makes sense because they give you access to expensive appliances (I will explain how hard it is to get your deposit back though).
Then, you sign the contract, and meet with your local health department and the manager of the commercial kitchen facility, to sign a “shared kitchen agreement”. It basically stipulates that you will meet all the health requirements while in the facility.
You’re now done! You now need to login to the facility website with your login and password, and book your spot by the hour online. You would then just visit the facility at the right time, enter your passcode to enter and Voilà!
An important thing to know, upon health department requirements, you have to keep on-site all your ingredients. The facility will have a dry storage and cold storage space for you as well.
Now that you know what is a commercial kitchen and how it works, let’s dig into the Pros and Cons.
Pros #1: It is available right now
In this insecure world we live in (welcome COVID-19), you want to test your product and concept fast. A great advantage of renting a commercial kitchen is that it takes only a few days to settle in and start your operation.
Between the moment you contact the facility manager, to meet them, signing the contract, then meet the health department at the facility, to finally book your first hours, it is a matter of two weeks maximum.
Time really matters when you're just starting. Because you really want to test your product fast (remember that renting a commercial kitchen is ONLY the step #3 on how to open your bakery or restaurant).
Pros #2: No upfront cost except for the deposit
Despite the $500 deposit, which we will talk about in a while, you have zero investment to make when you rent a commercial kitchen by the hour.
In those facilities, they have different rooms for different tenants. If you are a baker, you will be able to rent the bakery room with all the tools you need: Ovens, mixers, and so many more specific appliances.
When you think about it, it saves you a lot upfront. No oven to purchase, no mixers, no prep tables. Everything is set up for you to start operating right away.
Not only appliances are included, but it saves you the investment of tenant improvements, health permit, and the whole process. We’ll detail the process of getting your health permit to open a restaurant or bakery in another blog post.
Cons #1: Rooms can be used by too many cookers
When you pick your commercial kitchen to rent, make sure to ask if the bakery room is, indeed ONLY for bakers. It is VERY important. At Pastreez, when we first started in Costa Mesa California, we were renting a kitchen space. The facility was amazing, but the bakery room was also rented by someone who makes.. Gumbo soups.
Now we love soups! Especially from Louisiana. But there is no way to make macarons in the same place Gumbo was made. Simply because of the incompatibility of flavors and smells.
It goes the same for chickens and meats. Those require high temperature and a long time in the oven. Such high temperatures mess up the thermostat of these ovens, and they have to be recalibrated all the time, which the facility only does once or twice a year. And when it comes to macarons, the temperature has to be exact, with no chicken smell in the oven!
Cons #2: Consider losing your $500 deposit
Within our experience with two commercial kitchens in Southern California, we had trouble getting our security deposit back.
As long as you book frequently and earn them money everything will be smooth. But as soon as you start to fade away and leave, they will try everything they can to keep your deposit.
It happened to us in both facilities, in a very similar way. The staff is very responsive to sign you in. What happens is that they will try to find anything in the contract to avoid refunding you, so make sure to play by the rules.
Here are a few tips to get your security deposit back. Before signing the contract, make sure you have at least two persons of interest with names, phone numbers and emails.
You also want to check for reviews of this facility online. If you can’t find any, it is never a good sign. Reviews show that the business is open for feedback. Remember that if there is a problem you won’t be able to share your experience online for everyone to see.
Remember: this is temporary
You don’t want to stay in a commercial kitchen by the hour forever. Remember the steps I detailed here about opening your restaurant or bakery, you should use the commercial kitchen rental as a way to test and scale your product.
It is temporary because money-wise it doesn’t make sense. Hour rate goes from $20/hour to up to $40/hour. Most of the time they will ask for a minimum of 10 to 40 hours a month. It can get expensive!
Compare renting by the hour and leasing your own facility: it’s a no-brainer when you reach a certain stage. Of course opening your own facility asks for investment upfront. But you should use this commercial kitchen phase to save money for this next step.
Your own space will also get you to the point where your whole facility will have only what YOU need. Things will be arranged to facilitate your work flow.
For example, at Pastreez we have the mixer next to the stove because Italian meringue is made with hot syrup (water and sugar). Once it reaches a certain temperature, the syrup has to immediately go into the bowl mixer. That organisation was impossible at the time of the commercial kitchens we were renting by the hour.
Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts by commenting below. you can also comment which next topic you want me to cover. Au revoir!