Last Updated 12/18/19 by Left Brain

Thinking about starting a food-based business? Or looking to take your culinary hobby to the next level? If so, you may need to rent a commercial kitchen space also known as a commissary kitchen. Over the past few decades, food-based businesses have grown significantly as well as the need for commercially licensed kitchen space and storage. This article takes a look at the benefits of renting a commissary kitchen.

What Are Commissary Kitchens?

Commissary Kitchens are certified commercial kitchen spaces licensed to individuals or businesses for the preparation and storage of food products or meals. Food entrepreneurs, including chefs, bakers, caterers and food truck vendors typically lease the kitchen space; paying hourly, daily or monthly rates. Kitchen users can often see a cash flow benefit by renting a commissary kitchen instead of spending capital to build out their own facility.

Why Use a Commissary Kitchen?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Convenient Hours and Locations. Commissary kitchens often have convenient hours and locations with ample cooking space including prep tables, industrial sized ovens, cooktops, freezers, as well as additional storage.
  • More Space. Commissary kitchens usually have more space to spread out for prep work, cooking, production, and storage.
  • Commercially Licensed. Commissary kitchens are commercially licensed making it easier for you to obtain a food license and to stay compliant with your local health inspectors.
  • Commercial-Grade Equipment. Commissary kitchens often provide and maintain the commercial-grade kitchen equipment that you need. If you need a specialized piece of equipment, many commissary kitchens will make accommodations.
  • Economical. Leasing a commissary kitchen is more economical, short term, than buying or leasing a building and then purchasing equipment and appliances.
  • Additional Expenses Covered. Utilities including, electricity, security, water, sewage, pest control, trash and grease removal are costs often included into your lease rate.
  • Parking. Many commissary kitchen locations offer ample parking for your employees. Also, if you are a food truck vendor there may be overnight truck parking options.

Renting a Commercial Kitchen

If you think renting a commercial kitchen is the right choice for your food business, consider both your current and future needs pertaining to space, time, and equipment. If you are just starting off, a shared kitchen space for a few hours a week may be a good option. However, as your business grows a private kitchen with 24/7 access may be more suitable for your needs.

Leases for kitchen space are usually monthly agreements based on the total number of hours used per week or month. Hourly and daily rental options are also available but may be more expensive. Private kitchen contracts will also be more per month than a shared use kitchen, but allow for more room and schedule flexibility.

Types of Commissary Kitchens

There are different types of commissary kitchens, so it is important to find one that matches your needs and price point. Here are four types of commissary kitchens:

  1. Shared Use Kitchen: This commissary kitchen option is the most widely used by food-based companies. It is a great, viable option for new business owners who are looking for an economical cooking space. These kitchens are leased out to multiple users at once and businesses share the space with assigned time slots and specific storage areas.
  2. Private or Single Use Kitchen: A private kitchen might be the right fit for your business, if you need access to more time, space or specialized equipment. A private or single use kitchen lease gives you full access 24/7, meaning don’t need to share the space with anyone else. This type of lease will be more expensive than shared use kitchen, but still offers the benefits of not having a large initial capital investment.
  3. Restaurant’s Kitchen: Another possible option is to rent a restaurant’s kitchen during their off hours. This may be a cheaper alternative to renting a single use kitchen. However, the hours will typically be late night or early morning and space or other additional amenities may be limited.
  4. Non-Traditional Kitchen: Schools, churches, social clubs, and retirement communities all have licensed kitchens with commercial-grade equipment. They also may be willing to rent out their space during their off hours. Again, this could be a great way to save costs, but come with similar or additional challenges to renting a restaurant’s kitchen space.

Benefits of Using Commissary Kitchens

Commissary kitchens can fulfill various needs for your food-based business. Here are a few additional benefits for using a commissary kitchen:

  • Location: Finding a commissary kitchen in a convenient, prime location can be a huge benefit to your business. Some commissary kitchen companies offer multiple locations. When choosing a commissary kitchen consider a location close to your customers, employees, highways and main roads.
  • Amenities: Other amenities, may include free wi-fi, or public space for hosting small events. If you are a food truck, some commissary kitchens will provide special amenities, such as water and grease disposal, which are essential for meeting health code regulations.
  • Equipment: One of the main benefits of commissary kitchens is the access to commercial cooking equipment as well as specialized appliances. Some commissary kitchens may also accommodate your special equipment needs.
  • Parking: Commissary kitchens that offer parking are very valuable, especially in big cities where parking is scarce. If you are a food truck vendor, check to see if they offer overnight parking.
  • Storage: Dry and cold storage space can be a necessity for many commissary kitchen users. Many kitchens will offer some, limited storage space included in the lease, with extra storage options for an additional price.
  • Additional Benefits: Some kitchens offer potential networking opportunities for a new company starting out. Others may offer valet services including accepting food vendor deliveries for their tenants or offer options to share in bulk supply purchases. If your food business does need a physical kitchen space but needs to be registered with a commissary kitchen per health code requirements ask if they offer a “license hanger” option.

Potential Downsides of Commissary Kitchens

Commissary kitchens may be the ideal solution for most food-based businesses, however, they may not be a viable option for everyone. Here are some potential downsides to commissary kitchens:

  • Cost: Commissary kitchen rates depend on the location. Typically, costs can range between $15 – $35 an hour. While commissary kitchens may be a good option, some businesses may struggle with these costs while they are starting their new company.
  • Inconvenient Location: Many commissary kitchens are not located in convenient locations. They are typically found outside the city center in industrial areas or the suburbs where real estate may be cheaper. This may keep your rental costs down, but may drive up your transportation costs. Consider a commissary company with multiple locations.
  • Scheduling: Shared use kitchen spaces many times are scheduled first come, first serve so finding the ideal schedule may be difficult. Your business may have to schedule hours that are inconvenient to your customers or employees. Some kitchens may have a scheduling software to make it easier to find convenient times.