There is a growing need for preparation facilities for the new or expanding food entrepreneur. These facilities provide a variety of preparation, packaging, freezing, canning and testing opportunities for the growing local foods industry.
Note that although the response rate was very low, information on the 23 respondents is useful.
Current business operations
The bulk of the respondents to the survey are either not currently using any production facility (7) or are operating out of a home / farm kitchen (9). They sell product locally to friends and neighbors (13), through mail order (4), through farmer’s markets (6), at festivals, and to a limited degree through more commercial retail outlets, relying on word of mouth (17) for marketing. Their businesses are largely operating in the planning / design / testing phase (9), although a few have more established small businesses. The bulk of their production and sales take place during the growing season (May to September).
Reasons for projected community kitchen use
The majority of those responding to the survey hope, through community kitchen access, to either start a new (10) full-time (13) business or a part-time business with the intention of going full-time within 5 years (8) or increase their current level of production (9) and distribution (8) through access to commercial equipment and storage space as well as though access to business space and assistance for licensing, marketing, and promotion. Sales goals for respondents range from less than $25K (14) to $25K-$50K (9) to well above $50K (12). Note that there is evidence that some of the respondents would like to run a community kitchen out of their own facility for their own use, renting the excess capacity to others for an enhanced revenue stream. This model is inconsistent with the diversity of needs and the unwillingness to travel expressed by many respondents.
Kitchen specialization needs
Respondents were interested in producing a wide range of products, but a majority cited immediate and future needs in the area of baking (15), jams, jellies and syrups (11), and sauces (5).
Consistent with the above, respondents most often identified a need for the following equipment
Oven / Range / Convection Oven
Freezer / Cooler
Other, more specialized equipment was cited less frequently.
In addition to storage, respondents consistently cited a need for product dry storage and cold storage, as well as storage for personal property on site.
Intensity and timing of projected kitchen use
The majority of individuals responding indicated a need for 3-4 (10) or 5-8 (15) hour scheduling blocks, most between the hours of 7 am and 3 pm.
The majority of those indicating an interest in a shared use kitchen foresee using the facility for regularly (20) more than 20 hours per week (19), while a sizeable minority foresee less intense use less than 20 hours per week (12) on a more sporadic basis (8).
Respondents were not willing to travel great distances to access a shared kitchen, making the need for a larger number of smaller kitchens a more viable model. Preferences were as follows:
Less than 10 miles (6)
10-20 miles (5)
20-30 miles (6)
30-40 miles (6)
Greater than 40 miles (2)
Those few currently using a shared kitchen paid approximately $10 per hour for the service. This is low compared to fees for kitchens in Upstate NY. No questions were asked on willingness to pay among those considering using a kitchen.
Are you looking for an opportunity in the local food business? Maybe you are the next Chobani yogurt success. Demand for locally grown food and locally produced food products continues to increase. In New York City alone the demand is estimated at $1B and is nowhere near being met currently. Projects are underway in a number of regions to help farmers and small food business entrepreneurs get their products to market, increase productivity, and create new value-added products. A commercial kitchen facility is clearly one critical piece of the supporting infrastructure required to promote such growth locally. Commercial kitchens perform vital services in the processing and packaging of local food products.