Whether you're a caterer, food truck owner, baker or independent chef, you’ll likely need to prepare your food in a commercially licensed kitchen if you want to sell it to the public. It's required by law in many places in the United States.
If you don't have the time, money or desire to set up your own commercial kitchen, you can rent one. Commercial kitchen rentals make it easy and affordable to comply with your local health department regulations for restaurants.
What is a commercial kitchen?
Preparing and serving food to the public can be a risky business. Food that’s been improperly stored or prepared can become contaminated and lead to foodborne illness, which is why there are so many food safety rules to follow.
Commercial kitchens, also known as commissary kitchens, meet licensing and inspection requirements for food preparation and storage. And they give culinary professionals access to commercial-grade equipment, which is required to comply with local health department regulations.
The owner of a commissary rents it out to food service professionals who use it to prepare and store food. Prepping food in a commercial kitchen is often necessary to ensure it meets your local health department’s legal and compliance requirements.
Types of commercial kitchens to rent
In general, there are two main types of commercial spaces you can rent — shared and private. If you choose a shared kitchen, you won't get exclusive access to the space. And you'll need to sign up for a time slot when you can use the kitchen.
When you opt for a private space, you're the only person who uses it for as long as you rent it — no sharing required.
How to find a commissary kitchen
If you need a space to prepare your culinary creations, check with your colleagues and acquaintances in the food service industry. They might have recommendations.
If not, consider non-traditional options, such as restaurants, cooking schools, churches, schools and retirement homes. Many have licensed commercial kitchens they may rent during off-hours.
Cost of renting a commercial kitchen
The price you'll pay to rent a commercial kitchen varies based on your location and whether you opt for a shared or private space. In general, the cost ranges from $15 to $40 per hour, according to WebstaurantStore. But if you're in an expensive area, such as New York or Los Angeles, expect to pay more.
In addition to the hourly rental, you may need to make a security deposit. Some kitchens might charge a membership fee on top of the hourly rate. Many kitchens have monthly rental options that are often less expensive than hourly rates, which can help you save money.
Advantages and disadvantages of renting a commercial kitchen
Renting a commercial kitchen is a convenient way to prepare the food you need for your business. But before you add another expense to your balance sheet, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of using one.
- Flexible. You get to choose the number of hours you use the kitchen each week or month. If you don't like the space, you can try somewhere new when your rental period is over.
- Low overhead. When you rent a commercial kitchen, you get access to commercial-grade appliances and equipment without having to buy them. The owner of the kitchen takes care of additional expenses such as utilities, building maintenance, pest control and more. You just pay the rental fee.
- Compliant. Commercial kitchens meet the local safety and health regulations for preparing and storing foods served to paying customers.
- Business tips. If you rent a shared space, you become part of a community of other culinary professionals. When you share a kitchen with other chefs, food truck owners and bakers, everyone benefits from others’ experiences and advice.
- Scheduling. If you need access to the kitchen on specific days and times, scheduling can be tricky if you're using a shared space.
- You get what you get. Getting access to commercial-grade equipment and appliances is great. But you're stuck with what the facility has. If a piece of equipment is broken and needs to be repaired, you might not know until you show up to prep.
- You have to share. Unless you're renting a private kitchen, there will be other professionals using it. If other renters aren’t as diligent as you about cleaning up, you could walk into a messy workspace, or worse, there could be sanitation problems.
What are the requirements to rent a commercial kitchen?
It's important to check with your local health department to find out what you need to do before you can rent a commercial kitchen. Requirements may vary based on where you're located, but in general, here's what you need.
- Food handler license. A certification that shows local health departments you know how to handle and serve food to the public safely. To get a food handler license, you must complete a food safety course and pass an exam.
- Certificate of insurance (COI). Your certificate of insurance shows what types of business insurance you carry and what your policy limits are. For example, at NEXT, you can access your live certificate and share it from your account whenever you want. Some kitchens may want you to list them as an additional insured. You can add additional insureds to your COI any time at no cost.
- Business license. Nearly all businesses in the United States need a business license to operate legally.
What to look for in a commercial kitchen space
If you’re interested in renting a commercial kitchen, there are many options available. Every space won’t meet your needs. To help you find the kitchen that's right for you, consider the following:
- Size. All kitchens are not the same size. Be sure the one you choose has enough storage space and the equipment and appliances you need for the type of food prep you're doing.
- Equipment. When you rent a commercial kitchen, you get to use the equipment that's in it. But what's available can vary significantly from place to place. Be sure to ask before you sign a contract, and don't forget to find out what types of equipment and supplies you're allowed to bring with you.
- Storage. If you don't want to lug every single ingredient back and forth each day, you'll need a place to store your stuff. It's important to find out how much cold and dry storage the kitchen has.
- Inspection history. It's hard to run a food service business if the kitchen you're using to prepare your food gets shut down by the health department every other week. Plus, when word gets out that you're preparing food in a questionable facility, your reputation will take a hit. Be sure to ask about the inspection history when researching potential commercial kitchen rentals.
- Waste removal. Your trash, food waste and cooking oils have to go somewhere. Find out if you are responsible for getting rid of them or if the kitchen takes care of them.
- Availability. Some shared kitchens book up quickly. If there's no space available, keep looking for a facility that can accommodate you.
How NEXT can help you get the insurance you need
With our online application, you can review your policy options, get a quote and purchase coverage — all in less than 10 minutes. Your certificate of insurance is available immediately after you pay your premium.
If you have questions, our licensed, U.S.-based insurance professionals are ready to help.
Get started with a free quote today.