This Article is Part of the Series, “Are You Ready to Start a Food Truck Business?”
A Small Business Series of Articles for Food Truck and Mobile Catering Entrepreneurs
How Do You Find A Kitchen That Will Work for Your Food Truck or Catering Operation?
If you search for a kitchen on your own and decide to lease kitchen space from a school, a church or other establishment; ensure that the appropriate credentials have been issued from the local or state government. Some of these may including zoning, fire and health certifications. The advantage, especially for smaller operations, is that many times you can negotiate cost by agreeing to provide an occasional catering.
What About Sharing Commissary Kitchen Space?
There are many opinions on shared commissary kitchen space, but ultimately the decision will be based on budget constraints and your expertise in owning/operating a commissary support kitchen.
Some of the challenges faced include the inability to control how others use or treat your shared equipment and prep space. Usually, we take better care of those things we have worked hard to buy, as opposed to those things we simply “acquire.”
Over the years I’ve learned a few things about choosing a commissary kitchen and who I’ll share it with:
- Don’t be hasty to judge: Keep in mind that “bigger” doesn’t always translate to “better.” Choosing to share space and equipment with another food truck’s crew based solely on popularity or the size of their operation can be a mistake. Whenever possible, try to visit your potential “roommates” at their current kitchen. Note how they treat their equipment – and one another. If possible, talk to other food trucks who have worked with them in the past.
- Consider the truck’s business practices before agreeing to share space: Another crew’s bad habits, such as improperly handling or storing food, can result in an unsafe kitchen for all. It also violates food protection guidelines, putting your very operation at risk, and reduces the space available to conduct your own operations. Having to constantly sanitize because you are unsure what is lurking on shared tables and equipment will quickly escalate your labor costs.
- Know the minimal space you need to operate effectively: Smaller commissary kitchens can be a challenge for a number of reasons. If there are multiple businesses using the kitchen and the space isn’t adequate, it can encroach on the time you need to complete your work. If you operate on a set schedule that is tight in the first place, you many not have the prep time needed for a last-minute catering.
In conclusion, money talks. If you are short on capital, then a shared kitchen makes sense. However, your business plan should ensure the eventual lease or build-out of a commercial kitchen that will act as YOUR commissary kitchen. You can still share it with others, but in the role of kitchen manger you’ll be able to control space and manage the kitchen effectively, as well as offset your expenses with the additional revenue.
While they’re not always easy, I am thankful for life’s experiences and lessons in self-sufficiency. In the words of John Maxwell, “In life, the question is not if you will have problems, but how you are going to deal with your problems…The more you do, the more you fail. The more you fail, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better you get. [You will fail] but always fail forward!”
In this series of articles, Tin Hut BBQ and Aloha Gourmet Food Trucks Hawaii Founder and Pitmaster, Frank Diaz, (full bio here) addresses the scope of owning and operating a mobile cuisine and catering business including:
- Finding a commercial or commissary kitchen to support your mobile food truck or catering operation.
- How to write a mobile catering business plan
- Tips for cultivating, training, and motivate a team
- Choosing a theme for your food truck or mobile catering business
- Food Truck and catering menu design tips
- How to book successful catering events
- How to improve your bottom line by avoiding a few rookie mistakes
- Courting investors, vetting vendors, and securing all the necessary licenses and permits required to operate a food truck or catering business
- Going mobile, from brick and mortar to food truck
Readers can reach out with the questions and topics you’d like to see covered. Simply email Frank at [email protected] and we may feature your topic or respond to your question in a subsequent article.