May 27, 2016
Community kitchen could serve food entrepreneurs
By Amy Greil
University of Wisconsin-Extension
Have you had people tell you that you make the best artisan bread? Or do you think your canned pickles or salsa would sell at the local farmer’s market? Perhaps you have wondered how local food products get to market.
One way unprocessed food arrives from the field, orchard or farm is through a community commercial kitchen. Community commercial kitchens available for rent to members of the public are a relatively new phenomenon, serving as incubation facilities for beginning food entrepreneurs, caterers, product manufacturers, or food truck operators. It may also be a means for local farmers to add value to raw product in order to expand their marketing potential.
There are many examples of successful community commercial kitchen throughout Wisconsin, notable examples are located at the FEED Kitchens in Madison and the Algoma’s Farm Market Kitchen. Based on these examples and guidelines from the National Business Incubation Association, here is a brief description of important considerations of a community commercial kitchen.
Operating a community commercial kitchen carries risk at several levels. Food safety is an obvious concern that requires staff and users to avoid cross-contamination. Other sources of risk are the physical safety of those using equipment or visiting the facility, and client information confidentiality.
Kitchens should have a comprehensive approach to ensuring that proper technical assistance is available and accessed by the businesses using the kitchen because entrepreneurs require continued job training. Skills such as market plan development, financing assistance, food handling and packaging guidance need to be continuously enhanced.
Professional presence with a part-time or full-time manager support for clients is important as well. Management services include direct advisement of business and technical issues. Each community commercial kitchen’s leadership will naturally set its own policies and procedures regarding tenant/vendor admission.
Setting the Stage
As you may recall, in 2015 the city of Kenosha and Kenosha Common Markets Inc. (owner of Harbor Market), embarked on a partnership with Downtown Kenosha Inc. and the Kenosha Area Business Alliance to investigate the feasibility of creating a year-round downtown food market.
The feasibility study confirms sufficient demand for a market type development in the region, and recommends a project scope and strategies that might be employed to create a successful and sustainable public market facility — one that supports a variety of food and food industries and provides a hub for both economic and social activity.
To build the momentum and a base of client/users required to support a public market in Kenosha, local leaders are seeking to develop an independent Kenosha Kitchen entity in advance. This preliminary step would be a facility available for rent on an hourly and daily basis.
With a sustainable facility in place, a scalable business model for operations may be tested and evolved over time, and/or potentially transferred into a Kenosha Public Market.
Survey of potential users:
Gauging the public’s interest in using a community commercial kitchen is key to moving forward. If you would consider utilizing a community commercial kitchen, please complete the survey found at http://fyi.uwex.edu/kenoshakitchen/2016/05/16/kitchen-user-survey/