Shared kitchen space, along with business model instruction and insurance information, provides new food product companies a chance to get their foot in the door at a low cost.
Anyone who has ever cooked a particular dish to the satisfaction of others has had the thought: “Maybe I could do this for a living.”
Similarly, anyone who loves their time in the kitchen, and considers cooking the best part of their day, thinks about a career as a chef.
But food startups are hard business, and can require a huge expenditure for equipment.
Which is why some entrepreneurs have started what is called “culinary incubators”, which are commercial kitchens shared by startup food enterprises to get their business started and make an initial foray into the food business.
A website, www.culinaryincubator.com, has almost 400 “shared part-time commercial kitchens”” listed on its site.
The idea is simple: with the growth of interest in unique, non-franchised food options, startup cooks, bakers and chefs turn to licensed kitchens to rent time at a fraction of the cost of leasing their own space or buying their own cooking equipment. In some cases, these incubators can serve dozens of future restaurateurs who use ovens and stoves to produce their wares, which they can then take out and market where there is an interest in their product.
Because these kitchens are licensed, so is the product created in them. The individual chef does not need to get his or her own license until they are ready to go out into the world on their own.
These incubators also offer lessons in business structure, pricing, and marketing.
There are also incubators located on college campuses, including places where food is king, like Louisiana State University (where creole is king) and the University of Maryland (where crab meat is plentiful).
These incubators are often run by former or current restaurateurs who are trying to help those who follow in the tough business atmosphere.
“The failure rate of food businesses is enormous,’’ Cullen Gilchrist, co-founder of incubator Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C., told National Public Radio. “But everyone wants fresh and local (food).”
These incubators can also serve as distributors of the food products. If a client wants to produce only their cookies or baked goods, they can do so through the infrastructure set up by the incubators, which set up distribution contracts with local grocers.
Incubators can also be used to host cooking classes, produce cooking TV shows, or to host food tastings.
The creation of incubators is a way for the independent food industry to battle against the franchising of American cuisine. Gilchrist noted that he has had 10 former Union Kitchen clients open up their own restaurants, or are in the process of signing deals for their own locations.
“That’s one less Subway or Potbelly,’’ he said to NPR.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.