Exploring Commercial Cooking Spaces for Renters

The food industry is booming with new types of food businesses - from food trucks and meal delivery services to consumer-packaged goods startups. Many of these businesses don't have their own commercial kitchen space, so there is growing demand for shared or rental commercial kitchens. These shared kitchens allow food entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses without having to invest in their own kitchen and equipment.

There are several different types of shared kitchens that food businesses can utilize based on their specific needs. These include commissary kitchens, shared kitchens, ghost kitchens, incubator kitchens, andmore. Some provide just kitchen space, while others offer storage, permits,education, and business development resources. It’s important to know what your kitchen offers while choosing a home for your food business!


Commissary Kitchens

Commissary kitchens are shared commercial kitchen spaces that food businesses can rent to prepare their products. They provide certified commercial kitchens that meet safety and licensing requirements.

Commissary kitchens offer several key benefits for food entrepreneurs and startups:

- Facilities and Equipment: Commissaries provide access to commercial-grade equipment like stoves, ovens, mixers, refrigerators, etc. that can be very costly for a small business to purchase. Cleaning and maintenance some times are handled by the commissary staff.

- Storage: Many commissaries offer cold and dry storage for ingredients, packaging materials, and finished products. This allows businessesto produce larger batches efficiently.

- Shared Costs: By sharing a commercial kitchen with other vendors, businesses can split costs of rent, utilities, equipment maintenance,cleaning, etc. This makes operating more affordable.

Despite the many benefits, there are some downsides to renting commissary kitchen time:

- Scheduling: With multiple businesses using the space, scheduling access to the kitchen during peak times can be challenging.Businesses have less flexibility and control.

- Less Customization: The kitchen layout and equipment are fixed, limiting what types of foods can be prepared. Brands have less ability to customize.

- Shared Equipment: Sharing equipment means working around other businesses and being unable to leave tools or ingredients out between sessions.

Overall, commissary kitchens offer an attractive option for food entrepreneurs to launch and test their business without having to invest in their own commercial kitchen. But the limitations around scheduling and customization are worth considering.


Shared Commercial Kitchens

Shared commercial kitchens provide cooking facilities and equipment for rent by the hour. These shared kitchen spaces are fully licensed commercial facilities that rent out portions of their space to food entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses. Thus, more renters can be in a shared kitchen at a time, instead of just one at a time like in a commissary.

Renting space in a shared commercial kitchen (also known as a co-working kitchen) provides more flexibility than a commissary kitchen. With a shared kitchen, you can typically rent the space only when you need it, like a few hours each day or a couple days per week. This helps keep costs down compared to renting a commissary kitchen.


Some of the key benefits of using a shared commercial kitchen include:

- Lower upfront costs: No need to invest in your own equipment and facility. Shared kitchens come fully equipped.

- Flexible rentals: Book the kitchen for a few hours at a time depending on your needs.

- Built-in audience: Some shared kitchens have a storefront or built-in way to sell your product on-site.

- Community: Connect with other small food businesses using the same kitchen.

- Compliant facility: Shared kitchens handle all licensing,permits, and inspections.

Potential downsides of shared kitchens include:

- Limited storage: Less storage space allotted per renterthan a commissary.

- Scheduling challenges: Need to reserve and schedule kitchen time in advance.

- Less control: Not your own private kitchen area.

- Cleanliness: Relies on all renters to keep a clean workspace.

- Peak hour costs: Popular hours like weekends can be more expensive.


Ghost Kitchens

Ghost kitchens, also known as virtual kitchens or dark kitchens, are commercial rental kitchens that offer private kitchen spaces to rent by the hour or block time. They are designed for off-premises food preparation by delivery-only restaurants, caterers, meal prep services and more.  

Ghost kitchens provide fully equipped, turnkey kitchen spaces that allow food businesses to start operating quickly without much upfront investment. The kitchen spaces come with all necessary equipment and supplies, so businesses can start prepping and cooking right away without purchasing ovens, stoves, refrigerators and more.

The benefit of ghost kitchens is that they provide aready-to-use commercial kitchen with little commitment. Renting time slots provides flexibility and lower risk for food businesses to test ideas before committing to a long-term lease. Ghost kitchens also handle maintenance, cleanup, utilities and compliance issues.

Incubator Kitchens

Incubator kitchens provide commercial kitchen space,business training, and mentorship to help startup food entrepreneurs and caterers get their businesses off the ground. They offer an affordable way for new food businesses to access a licensed commercial kitchen without having torent their own space.

Incubator kitchens are different from standard shared kitchens in that they provide coaching, education, and support services in addition to kitchen space. Their goal is to "incubate" new food businesses by giving entrepreneurs access to commercial kitchen facilities as well as the tools and knowledge they need to build and grow a successful food company.

The kitchens are shared by multiple food startups, keeping costs low. Businesses typically pay an hourly, daily, or monthly rate to use the kitchens on a reservation basis. Rates are much more affordable than leasing an independent commercial space.

Incubator programs are time-limited, often 6 months to 2 years. The duration gives entrepreneurs a chance to get fully operational before "graduating" and moving into their own commercial kitchen or production facility. During the program, businesses receive training on food safety, licensing, marketing, finance, and other topics critical to running a food company. They also get hands-on assistance with recipe development,packaging, pricing, and more.


Finding the right shared kitchen takes research to fit your unique business. Clarify your needs and ask lots of questions to find the ideal option within your budget.