Food truck owners, bakers, and independent personal chefs face a myriad of rules and regulations when operating a food business. One rule or regulation that food business owners may encounter is the requirement to prepare their food in an approved commercial-grade kitchen or commissary. FLIP unscrambles the common questions you may have about commercial kitchens or commissaries.
What’s a Commercial Kitchen or Commissary in the First Place?
Commercial kitchens and commissaries are commercial-grade facilities that are licensed for food service providers to prepare and store food. Food truck owners, bakers, independent chefs, and others use commercial kitchens or commissaries when upgrading their home kitchen for professional use is out of their budget, or if the city does not allow a chef to cook in a mobile food truck.
Depending upon your local city or county health department, you will need to store your food (and sometimes your truck) at a licensed facility. Commercial kitchens or commissaries often have equipment which can be leased out for a small fee.
Some commercial kitchens and commissaries are “shared space,” where several people may have access to the group kitchen. You will have to book your time slot when using a shared space kitchen.
Other “shared space” arrangements can also be made with a brick and mortar restaurant. A restaurant owner may rent out his kitchen during off hours. You can also find other certified commercial kitchen spaces with churches, public and private schools, hotels, retirement homes, and cooking schools.
Some commercial kitchens are private, which gives you control over the kitchen, your equipment, and the storage. Private commercial kitchens are often much more expensive to rent, but the upside is that you have 24/7 access to your space.
What Should I Look for When Renting a Commercial Kitchen or Commissary?
Your needs may vary depending upon what type of food business you have. For example, bakers may require large ovens which are regularly maintained. A personal chef who conducts private cooking classes may require a studio kitchen with large prep areas. A food truck owner may need a cleaning station or on-site truck maintenance service along with a secure space to store his or her truck.
Make a list of the specific requirements you need for your individual food business. Then, ask the following questions:
What is the inspection history of this commercial kitchen or commissary?
If you notice that the health department often shuts down this commercial kitchen or commissary, your business may be negatively impacted in several ways. First, you’ll lose access if the facility is shut down. Second, even a loose association with a commercial kitchen or commissary which is shut down could become a PR headache for your food business.
Are cleaning and disposal facilities available? Does the commercial kitchen or commissary have dumpsters and recycling facilities?
If you cook using a lot of grease or oil, your facility will need to have a way to safely dispose of these materials.
Do you simply need a space to store food and cook, or would you prefer a place that can help you obtain the proper permits, certifications, supplies, or truck wraps?
While these services may be more expensive up front, the long-term time savings and added expertise are sometimes worth every dime.
Does this place have time slots available for the hours you need on a regular basis?
You don’t want to sign up for a commercial kitchen or commissary only to discover that someone else reserves the kitchen regularly during your optimal hours.
What storage space is available for your equipment or dry, refrigerated, or frozen foods?
While the commercial kitchen or commissary may have some of the equipment you need on hand, it’s likely that you will still need space for small-ware or pieces unique to your business. You’ll want to be able to store this equipment in a single space rather than lug it back and forth.
What liability insurance is required?
Most commercial kitchens and commissaries require you to have liability insurance. Some may ask that you add them as an additional insured on your policy. With FLIP, you can add unlimited additional insured’s to your policy for no cost.
Can You Recommend a Commercial Kitchen or Commissary?
While FLIP does not specifically recommend commercial kitchens or commissaries, you may be able to find a commercial kitchen or commissary near you on FLIP’s resource page. At FLIP, we’re proud to be a resource for our clients in the food business and work hard to list quality resources.
Are you a commercial kitchen or commissary who would like to be listed on FLIP’s resource page? Give us a call at (844) 520-6992 and ask to speak to Ross Graham.