Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Help! I Can’t Find Kitchen Space! (and other items related to your food business)

Must be the start of a new year as I’ve been receiving calls and emails from people asking questions about getting their food businesses launched and looking for kitchen space. We’ve stopped renting to small companies and individuals as it’s not feasible for us to have others in our space, but I still like to try to help when/where I can as getting off the ground is not easy.

I don’t have time to answer many of the emails individually, but thought grouping them together in one blog post could help everyone out.

How much does kitchen space in the Portland area cost?
That’s subjective, as in my previous post a lot is tied to the overhead of operating the space. However, for those of you looking for short term or every once in a while rentals you should expect to pay more per hour/day. Why? Because most kitchens that rent space to businesses are looking for longer term reliable tenants (which equates to rent). Landlords tend to give better deals to companies willing to commit to terms. You as a short term rental could be disrupting other tenants production time, and you have no basis of relationship with the kitchen to trust you with the equipment, other tenant’s ingredients and/or products thusly increasing everyone’s risk.

What if I can’t find kitchen space on sites like Craigslist?
Craigslist really is the go-to place in looking for space. Second to that I would try getting in touch with local churches (almost every basement/reception hall has a commercial kitchen) and stopping in to your local (small) restaurants to see if they’d be interested in some extra rent off hours (be prepared to be flexible with your time/usage demands).

I need special equipment to produce my product.
Be prepared to buy it yourself. Not all kitchens have buffalo choppers, robot coupes, or double boilers. Most outfitted kitchens that rent either have equipment the landlord uses or a broad scope of items based on what they think the majority of their tenants might use.

I’m working with common allergens or potentially noxious ingredients.
Be upfront with whomever you speak with about your product. Some kitchens are specifically “free” like “nut free”  or “egg free” environments. Also if you’re roasting things like a lot of garlic or chiles some places may ask you to produce during off hours or in times of light usage to prevent scents from permeating other products.

Ultimately, don't give up if you think you've got a good product. Building a business is much about resourcefulness and (at times) sacrifice.