Finding the Right Kitchen Space for Your Specialty Food Business

While regulations vary by state, most states have traditionally not allowed you to manufacture food products in your home kitchen if you intend to sell them. In the past year or two, however, several states have enacted “Cottage Food” laws, whereby start up food producers CAN prepare certain foods in their homes without the usual licensing. Each state has its own guidelines regarding what kind of foods are allowed or prohibited, what the labeling requirements are, where these food products can be sold and more. These laws also cap gross sales, so once your sales go above that amount, you become subject to all the usual regulations.

Your best bet is to do an online search on “cottage food laws” for more information about the specific rules and laws in your particular state.

Some states with or without cottage food laws may still require your home kitchen meet commercial grade kitchen standards and pass a health department inspection. No one wants to find dog hair in their food! (In fact, every cottage food state prohibits pets from being in the home.) And even if you are allowed to use a home kitchen, you might still choose to find a commercial kitchen because it’s just more efficient. Once I moved to a kitchen that had the full size commercial ovens, planetary mixer and tons of counter space, there was no going back! It was so much easier and quicker to produce in that environment.

Ideas

So where do you look for commercial kitchen space? You have a lot of options. When you’re looking, keep an open mind and be willing to be creative. There’s really no reason for you to invest in creating your own commercial kitchen space at the start up phase (costs can easily reach $50,000 in no time!) unless you know for sure you have significant production contracts in hand that will justify the large capital outlay necessary.

One choice is to rent space in a kitchen that is already licensed for commercial preparation. Many food entrepreneurs have started out using space in a restaurant, working there during the hours the restaurant is closed. Check out restaurants that are open only for breakfast and lunch; maybe you can use their space in the evenings. Talk to area caterers about using their kitchens too. Depending on what kind of catering they do, they may have the equipment you need. Many caterers aren’t very busy in their kitchens early in the week, so you could be in there on a Monday or Tuesday.

Some areas of the country have incubator kitchens for early-stage food businesses. These facilities offer shared rental opportunities and are fully equipped and licensed. Sometimes these facilities are connected to a university. In other cases, this type of kitchen may cater to a specific type of food business, vegetarian or baking or canning only, for example. One place to look for these types of kitchens is www.CulinaryIncubator.com. If you’re making jam, beans, salsa or the like, you could find a local cannery or canning facility. This page has a list of canning kitchens: http://pickyourown.org/canneries.htm that may be a good start for you.

Co-op kitchens are commercial kitchens that are set up for a variety of food producers and allow you to rent time and space in their facility. One example of such a facility is the Production Kitchen in West Palm Beach. Look online for this kind of arrangement in your area.

Do you have a Moose, Elk, Knights of Columbus or Shriners lodge in your town? Believe it not, this was the place I used in the very beginning of my business’ life. I knew some of the Shriners from the Chamber of Commerce and they were happy to help me get started. They charged a minimal hourly rate and I used their kitchen on Mondays. The men who were members kind of adopted me as their own “cookie lady” and loved coming through the kitchen to see what was going on when I was working there.

When it was time to move on, I ended up in a local church kitchen. Religious houses, like churches or synagogues, are great options because they aren’t usually in use during the week. And you might be surprised at how well-appointed these facilities are. I was! Not having had reason to be in one for years, I was thrilled to find three full-size commercial gas ovens, full-size baking pans, five or six cooling racks, a 35-gallon Hobart mixer, measuring spoons and cups, and an incredible amount of counter and refrigeration at my disposal. Like I mentioned earlier, there was no turning back to something smaller after that.

As a note, you don’t necessarily have to be a member of the congregation to use their kitchen.

Keep in mind that regardless of where you decide to produce your food product, even though that facility will (presumably) have proper licensing and insurance, you will still need some of your own licensing (at the least a city and/or county business license) and liability insurance.

Payment

Some facilities, like the co-op kitchens, will have set prices for their use. Others, like the restaurants and churches, may not have ever participated in such an arrangement before, so you’ll have some flexibility in working with them to establish something that works for both of you. Make sure you know what kind of budget you have to spend on this. The very first place I used, before the Shriners, I negotiated an amount that turned out to be way too high (I wasn’t selling nearly enough product to cover my rent there), and I had very limited access to it. Fortunately I didn’t have a long-term agreement and I was able to get away after just a few months and move to the Shriners’ facility with much more favorable terms. When I started working at the church kitchen, payment was made as donations to the church because non-profit organizations cannot legally rent out kitchen space for a for-profit businesses.

Persistence

As with anything worth having or finding, you may encounter several rejections or dead ends as you search for the perfect place to produce your food product. I can’t recall exactly how many facilities I called. I left messages that weren’t returned and started hopeful conversations with countless people who never followed through. Be prepared for this journey and know that the right situation IS out there for you. Keep on searching and calling and you will meet with success!

New Demands Bring Delicious New Trends In The Dog Food Business

Do you know what actually goes into the making of the standard dog kibble that you purchase and feed your dog friend on a regular basis? Are you sure that it is as nutritious as it should be and that it is also healthy. Is the Dog food that you are feeding your pet leaving it more susceptible to chronic diseases and even various forms of cancer? All of these questions are things that you should be giving some thought to if you currently are a dog owner.

Horrible True Facts

For years, dog food businesses across the globe have been using recycled restaurant grease as an additive in their products. This grease is loaded with unhealthy trans-fatty-acids that have been proven to wreak havoc on a dogs health. Also, Chinese dog food companies that export their product to the U.S. and Canada were recently found to be putting dangerous chemicals in their dog food that mimics the presence of protein when it was tested.

New Safer Dog Food

This means that you have to be more vigilant then ever when choosing the food that you are going to feed your pet. Fortunately, there are now dog food businesses that are actually interested in the health of your faithful friend and they are marketing dog food that is not only safe to eat but it is healthy as well. These same dog food businesses are also making and marketing newer tastier dog snacks that your dog will simply relish.

Consider Your Dogs Health

The fact is that trying to save a few bucks by feeding your dog cheaper, unhealthy, fat laden, corn meal based dog food will only cost you in the end. This is because, your dog will end up being chronically ill and you will lose out in the end when you have to pay the vet bills. Take a good look and smell of the kibble that you have been feeding your dog and then ask yourself how you would feel if you had to eat it every day.

New Changing Trends In The Pet Snack And Pet Food Business

It really has been only just about sixty years or so that bagged and canned processed dog and cat food has been such a popular market item. Prior to that, people generally fed their beloved pets their own prepared blends that were concocted in the kitchens of their homes. When was the last time that you prepared a good “home cooked” meal for your beloved pet?

Dogs Hate Boring Food

Have you ever taken a little taste of the dried kibble that you may be feeding your dog on a daily basis? Probably not and the fact is that it is perfectly safe to do so. However; you know perfectly well what your pet has known even longer and that is that it your dogs kibble is bland and boring tasting. This is why every time that you prepare a nice meal for yourself or your family, your dog seems to take a particular interest in the food that you are preparing.

Pet Food Business’s Now Offer More

Maybe its time that you checked out the new trend in the dog food business that has appeared as a result of dog and cat owners everywhere waking up to the fact that their pets have taste buds too. New better tasting dog foods, as well as a broader range of newer delicious snacks are now being snatched off the shelves by pet owners who realty care about what their four legged friends think of them.

Pets Need Snacks Too

Progressive proprietors of these new pet food businesses are finding that dogs and cats actually have a more eclectic taste for pet food and snacks then people previously thought. Did you know that your dog may love peanut butter-carrot snacks and that a snack such as this is loaded with vitamins and minerals that can help to extend the life of your faithful friend? Maybe now is the time that you give back some of the love that your dog or cat has been sending your way by ordering some of these new tastier and more healthy pet snacks that can be easily found online.