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Learn about commissary kitchens, including what they are, their uses, how to rent one, and regulations & requirements.
Commissaries are commercial kitchens food services can rent to prepare and store food. Many commissary kitchens offer overnight parking and equipment storage to food trucks and mobile vendors. Rentable commercial kitchens are used by a variety of off-premise dining operations, in addition to providing additional services for food trucks.
The owner of a commissary builds a commercial kitchen that complies with local health and safety regulations and obtains all necessary permits. Food trucks, ghost kitchens, and caterers can rent or lease the commissary from its owner. Restaurants, bakeries, and social clubs will occasionally rent out their up-to-code kitchen spaces as commissaries for extra income. Find out if you need a commissary kitchen for your food service.
What is a Commercial Commissary Kitchen?
Commissaries, by definition, allow for storing equipment and provisions to allow people to produce food without the major investment. Essentially it's a rentable kitchen for smaller businesses not financially ready to purchase a kitchen along with all the equipment necessary to prepare food. Additionally, a commissary kitchen is a licensed commercial kitchen regulated by the local health department for safety.
Next, commissaries are often designed specifically for food trucks and provide a designated parking spot, electricity hookups, cleaning and sanitation areas, water and propane refills, greywater, grease, solid waste, recycling facilities, and more. Some commissary kitchens provide additional equipment and resources such as food preparation space, cold storage space, a truck maintenance area, a mailing address for inventory, and ice refills.
Many commissary kitchens are located on the outskirts of urban areas where food delivery services are in high demand. These structures may house several commissary kitchens. A single commissary kitchen can also serve multiple tenants, which can reduce costs and increase smart relationships.
Further, commissaries are either solo or collaborative. Solo kitchens come with the bare minimum of supplies and equipment, but you do not have to share them with anyone else. You get more space but also higher costs. Shared commissary kitchens are more cost-effective for each tenant but are based on time slots. While you save money, you also need a dedicated schedule and adaptability. The decision between going solo and sharing a commissary comes down to personal preference.
Commissary kitchens are frequently thought of as the home base of various food operators, including chefs, caterers, food trucks and carts, product manufacturers, artisans, and restaurateurs because they center on maintenance and food preparation. Other groups using these kitchens include concession stands, pop-up restaurants, and ghost kitchens.
Uses of a Commissary Kitchen
A professional, shared-use commercial kitchen provides more than just a place to cook. You are assembling a clan of chefs, food producers, caterers, and other like-minded businesses to share knowledge, mentor you, and build camaraderie. Additionally, commissary kitchens can help food companies add multiple revenue streams with the added kitchen space or provide the opportunity for businesses to branch out into new markets.
Popular uses for commissary kitchens include:
Pop up restaurants
Finally, commissaries are not just a convenient option for food trucks; they are frequently required by local laws. Most cities prohibit food trucks from selling residentially prepared food, forcing operators to prepare their meal ingredients in a commercial kitchen. If you are not operating in a food truck-friendly city, you may be prohibited from cooking in your vehicle and must rely on a commissary for all of your cooking needs.
Renting a Commissary Kitchen
Finding a commercial kitchen that works for you is a critical step in launching your gourmet mobile food business. Many aspects of your business are influenced by the location, cost, type, and size of your commercial kitchen, including the types of dishes you can prepare, the capacity of events you can handle, and where your service and events can be held. When looking for a commercial kitchen, consider the type of food you want to make and the size of your food truck operation.
Searching for the Commissary
After deciding on the type of kitchen you want, you can begin shopping for the best pricing and amenities for your commercial kitchen. Begin your search by googling commissaries near you. Also, speak to other small food services near you for information. They may or may not recommend using their current kitchen, but speaking with active operators is a good way to gauge market rates in your area. Find a list of registered commercial kitchens at the local health department (sometimes available online).
Before renting a space, you need a list of the equipment you need and the amount of storage space. Check availability for the options you find and consider branching farther out if necessary. Also, check non-traditional routes such as community centers before vetting your options. Once you have a chosen place, start the conversation to start the lease and sign the contract.
Costs of a Commissary Kitchen
Renting a commercial kitchen costs between $15 and $40 per hour, depending on the type of commissary and its location. However, renting costs much more than monthly renting. Monthly commissary rates typically range between $250 and $750. If you operate in a city, expect to pay between $1000-$1250 per month.
The cost of using a private business's commercial kitchen varies from case to case. Before negotiating a price, research average commissary rates in your area, as the location significantly impacts the price. Always plan for the future and estimate how much money you will make each month. If you have outgrown your current space, it might be time to build your own commercial kitchen.
Other Factors to Consider
Before committing, consider all the necessities you will need to operate your kitchen for maximum benefit.
Storage - storage space allows food truck operators to buy ingredients and supplies in bulk, which saves them a lot of money. Look for shelves, refrigeration space, and freezer space for storage.
Licenses - Food trucks must have a licensed, food-safe facility where supplies and food can be stored. This ensures that they are complying with all health code requirements and keeping diners safe.
Supplies - Many commissaries provide a variety of commonly used supplies and ingredients to food trucks. Water, ice, cleaning supplies, and propane are common examples. They may provide cooking supplies such as industrial-scale equipment and utensils, plates, napkins, gloves, and industrial-scale equipment.
Collaboration - A shared kitchen allows for collaboration with other food businesses, such as food trucks or caterers. Joining a professional, shared-use commercial kitchen means becoming a member of a community of chefs, food producers, caterers, and other industry professionals. It is a place where you can get advice from other businesses, get advice from industry experts, and form collaborations.
Regulations and Requirements
A commercial kitchen is a state-licensed establishment that prepares, stores, and distributes food to the general public under permitted state food safety guidelines. The terms of the commissary arrangement are frequently outlined in a legal document known as a commissary agreement. An agreement specifies the specific costs, rules, rights, and responsibilities of the person or business using the permitted facility and the obligations of the person or business operating the permitted facility.
Although you are responsible for your own hygiene and food handling practices as a commissary kitchen tenant, you will not have to deal with the kitchen's food safety licensing and certification, as this will be covered by the kitchen operator as part of your rental fees. You avoid the property's headaches, such as fire inspections, land use restrictions, FDA regulations, and USDA requirements.
You must have your own liability insurance, but the costs of insuring and securing the entire property and the equipment stored there are not included. Commissaries must stay up to code for all requirements, including local, state, and federal levels. Talk to the commissary kitchen you choose to find out what they require for compliance and how to stay within compliance.
Lunchbox and Commissary Kitchens
Lunchbox will handle everything besides the food and the setup to help get your business out in public and improve foot traffic. We provide you with all of the applications you require to interact and connect with customers even when they are not physically present in the business. We help with every aspect of marketing, from electronic mail, text messages, and push notifications to customized emails. From developing to exploring key data elements, we will help you find customers and help you to maintain their presence in your restaurant.
Final thoughts on the importance of a commissary kitchen for food businesses
Commissary kitchens allow you the benefits of a kitchen but without the price and maintenance. Renting a commercial kitchen allows you to focus on the food and branch out while accommodating many styles of smaller food services. After finding the right option for your needs, you should consider all the factors to locate the best options within your budget. Thankfully, the regulations and requirements are up to the kitchen, and you only need a license. Visit Lunchbox today and learn how we can simplify small food services for you today.