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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Starting a Food Business, Part 1: Finding a Commercial Kitchen

Posted By on Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 11:30 AM

click image La Cocina's Commercial Kitchen Space - LA COCINA
  • La Cocina
  • La Cocina's Commercial Kitchen Space
Starting any business is hard, but starting a food business is especially hard. Whether you’re opening a restaurant, doing farmers markets, or creating a packaged product, you have to deal with a number of complicated requirements and entities that include a combination of permitting, zoning, the health department, business licenses, insurance, food safety certifications and much more. It can be a nightmare, hassle, and headache all at once.

And that’s just the bureaucratic aspect; the number of all things to consider increase infinitely as time progresses: branding, a logo, website, social media, business planning, production kitchens, access to capital, fundraising, the list goes on and on and on.

I’ve slowly been building my own food business over the last year-and-a-half — a cookie dough business called DOUGH & CO. I’ve jumped through a lot of hoops already, and in the next few posts, I want to provide some resources in key areas that have been the most helpful along the way. This is by no means a guide to starting a food business, but rather a resource for those curious.

Commercial Kitchen Space

A commercial kitchen is ideal in the early stages for many food business because it eliminates the large, upfront monthly payments on rent (which seem extra large in the beginning as you're just starting to sell enough product to just cover costs and build your brand). Though you could technically and legitimately produce out of your home kitchen with the Cottage Food Act, you are limited to exactly what you can produce and how much you can sell. A fully equipped commercial kitchen is definitely key, especially if you want to produce at a decent scale. It also helps from a mental standpoint to separate your home space from your workspace.

In my case, the commercial kitchen I use is La Cocina, which offers a 4,400 square foot, full-service shared-use commercial kitchen for rent by the hour. It’s fully equipped with steamers, ovens, broilers, fryers, and a large 60-quart Hobart mixer (it’s like having ten KitchenAids in one and is what I mix cookie dough with).

click image Equipment at a commercial kitchen space allows for production at scale, like 55 pound batches of cookie dough. - OMAR MAMOON
  • Omar Mamoon
  • Equipment at a commercial kitchen space allows for production at scale, like 55 pound batches of cookie dough.

A lot of well-established San Francisco food businesses have rented commercial space from La Cocina at some stage in their business, including Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats, who hosted his first butchery classes in the kitchen, as well as Hapa Ramen and the Wise Sons, who prepped in the space for their early pop-ups.

But La Cocina isn’t the only space to rent commercial kitchen space from in San Francisco: Asana and Marla Bakery Kitchen Communal also offer their kitchens for rent, as well as the long-awaited Forage SF, who just recently secured a lease.

Stay tuned for the next piece, in where I'll discuss using technology to build your online presence with limited funds, aka how to build a website with zero dollars. 

Follow @streetfoodsf for all things delicious and @doughandco for all things doughlicious. 
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Omar Mamoon

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