Renting commercial kitchen space is required for most food businesses in Pima County and commercial kitchen rentals can come in all forms. In Tucson, they generally mean renting the extra space in another food business’s kitchen or renting off-hours in a church, school or community center kitchen. With Cook Tucson, food businesses will finally have a 3rd option — renting commercial kitchen space in a designated commissary kitchen. With more options, come more choices. Below are seven factors to consider when thinking through those options.

Considerations for renting commercial kitchen space

  1. Health department record: Does the facility have a record of frequent shutdowns by the health department? This is a biggie which could impact your ability to create your food products, causing delays for your customers and lost revenue.
  2. Equipment age: Commercial kitchen equipment is maintenance-heavy, especially when the equipment is older. Griddles, refrigeration and convection ovens are among the pieces most likely to break down. Consider looking for a facility with newer pieces of equipment especially if your business relies on any of the aforementioned pieces for production.
  3. Kitchen cleanliness: Would you want your customers to see where your product is made? If the answer is no, then you may want to look for a different kitchen. If your customers will meet you at the kitchen for any reason or if there is any chance your customers will come across the kitchen on their own, the appearance and cleanliness of the facility will make a big impression on them and could impact their decision to purchase from you again.
  4. Kitchen location: Aside from the obvious convenience of the location to where you live and want to commute, how far is the kitchen from where you will be potentially delivering or selling your food product? This could impact your ability to keep food hot or cold enough to satisfy food safety requirements or customer enjoyment. A 45-minute drive across town from the east side to the foothills could mean your fresh-out-of-the-oven pastries are going to be lukewarm at best when you arrive.
  5. Kitchen conveniences: Does the kitchen provide you easy access to conveniences such as ice, catering supplies, large cleaning facilities and online scheduling?
  6. Kitchen access: Is the kitchen availability going to fit your needs today and in the future? Maybe the community center is generally available on Tuesdays for your business, but are you going to be able to expand your business and cook additional days during the week?  If you get a large order, will you be able to work late or book extra time than what you’ve already been allocated?
  7. Culinary business resources: Do you have all the resources you need to build and grow your food business or would you prefer to have access to a community of food businesses and professional services? A commissary can provide you with access to many invaluable resources that other rental spaces may not be able to provide. In a community environment, another food business owner may give you a helpful piece of advice for being more efficient in the kitchen. You may overhear something that gives you that next big idea to expand. You may meet another food business owner that will be your future business partner. Or, you may find yourself in need of referrals for legal professionals.

In addition to renting commercial kitchen space to food businesses, Cook Tucson offers business services, access to business resources and a community of like-minded business owners. Users of other similar commissary kitchens across the country have seen great success when renting from commercial kitchens. Users of HBK Incubates, a commissary kitchen and culinary incubator in New York City, had this to say:

“HBK Incubates taught us the basics of how to operate in a commercial kitchen. Monthly workshops were helpful for us, especially the workshop on catering. Workshops encouraged us to meet other members and introduced us to helpful resources like Accion.  We learned which suppliers [other HBK Incubates] members were using, and even found our current production space thanks to an HBK Incubates member.”

“The biggest thing for us was having the opportunity to get into a food production facility in a way that was affordable and flexible and that had the equipment already there. The growth of our business would have been entirely different if there wasn’t a place that we could rent the kitchen on an hourly basis.”

An article from Fast Company gives additional benefits to being a part of a business incubator. Or, you can read more about some of the business services that Cook Tucson provides.