Blog / August 11, 2022

What is a commissary kitchen? | CloudKitchens


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Are you a food entrepreneur looking for the right space to cook up your brand? Are you a restaurant owner looking for a solution to your pizza business? You might be wondering, what is a commissary kitchen and how could it benefit me? 

Commissary kitchens are commercial kitchens available to rent from third parties which can be set up in any location such as a ghost kitchen in Philadelphia, Miami, or Chicago.

They provide all the equipment that their renters need. From stainless steel countertops to food truck parking, they cover your culinary needs.

Who uses commissary kitchens?

Anyone who uses a commissary kitchen likely has one thing in common: a passion for food. That passion can take many forms. These are some, but not all of the kinds of people and foodservice operators who might rent a commercial kitchen space:

• Bakers
• Food truck vendors
• Restaurant chains
• Local restaurants
• Food entrepreneurs
• Energy Bar developers
• Caterers

Why do they use commissaries? It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. The reasons are as variable as the shapes of pasta. Yet, like pasta, the reasons often come down to similar ingredients. 

Food truck owners might use commissaries to prepare food if their state doesn’t allow them to cook in their trucks. Restaurants can use them to produce a delivery-only menu or to supplement a commercial kitchen space that’s too small for their needs. Entrepreneurs can use them to test new recipes and to launch delivery-only food brands. 

Follow along to learn more about those reasons and the purposes of commissary kitchens.

What does commissary kitchen mean?

Although the term is commonly used amongst many in the realm of food delivery, it might be your first time encountering it as you search for the most appealing option to launch your novelty pizza brand. 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “commissary” means “a store for equipment and provisions.” Let’s add some context to this definition. While a commissary kitchen is not a store, it is a place to keep equipment and provisions for anyone who wants to produce a food product. 

To fully understand what a commissary kitchen could mean for your business and how to go about starting a commissary kitchen, take a look at the different kinds of commissary kitchens available to you. 

Solo or sharing

Many commissary kitchens are in warehouse-like buildings on the outskirts of urban centers where food delivery services are in high demand. These buildings may house multiple commissary kitchens. One commissary kitchen can also accommodate multiple tenants. A shared kitchen space, where more than one food business uses the shared space, or a solo kitchen for one tenant are two ways to operate. It’s important to consider the differences between sharing a commissary kitchen with other chefs and renting one all for yourself.

Solo – There are so many benefits of having a commissary kitchen all to yourself. The kitchen will only be stocked with the provisions and equipment that you need. You won’t have to worry about juggling time slots with others. For chefs who are making food with long cooking processes, it would be helpful to have constant access to their kitchen. Popular brands may also need full access to the kitchen during regular business hours.
While the benefits are huge, the cost can be, too. Given that you have to uphold the lease on your own, there is more financial responsibility in renting solo.

Shared – Shared commissary kitchens are more economical for each tenant. You will likely need to pick from a more restricted selection of time slots. If you are a food entrepreneur adjusting your vegan energy bar recipe, you might share the kitchen with food truck vendors, restaurants, or other individual entrepreneurs. In the scenario where you share a kitchen, you may need to be more flexible. For the popular virtual restaurant, it may be essential to have a commissary kitchen through normal business hours, but for the individual food entrepreneur, it might not be a problem to use the kitchen at varying or quiet hours. The question of going solo versus sharing a commissary is all about your palate. 

Alternative

There are local establishments like churches, community centers, and even other restaurants that may have commercial kitchens available to rent. Working out agreements with these establishments would be on a more individualized basis, but it could provide financial flexibility. 

For an alternative situation, it’s important to learn about the equipment that an establishment has to offer. A more standardized commissary could have less variation.

Why use a commissary kitchen for your business?

For the three main kinds of foodservice operators, including restaurant chains, local restaurants, and food entrepreneurs, there are a variety of benefits for renting a commissary. When you boil it down, however, they all have expansion and informed experimentation at the center of their efforts.

Bolster your business

Whether you’re a food entrepreneur or an established local eatery, commissary kitchens can bring unique benefits to your business.

For restaurant chains – Restaurant chains that are already well-established in their market can use a commissary to try new markets. Why? Because commissaries are a quick way to start producing, chains can try new menus right away. They can also help you avoid the problem of having too many cooks in the kitchen at a brick-and-mortar location.

For local restaurants– Local restaurants that haven’t yet tried a delivery option may use a commissary kitchen to test delivery. Through the delivery option, you can also expand your customer base to people who would rather order delivery than dine-in or pick-up takeout. 

For food entrepreneurs – Given the lower upfront costs of renting a commissary kitchen than opening a storefront, an individual with an idea can test strengths and weaknesses with a commissary kitchen. A food entrepreneur hoping to launch a customizable cake business might not have a large enough oven in her small apartment. At the commissary kitchen, she will. 

Reduce paperwork 

Since the owner of the commissary kitchen is responsible for creating and maintaining a commercial kitchen that meets health and safety regulations, you have more time to spend thinking about your next recipe. Commissary kitchens also pay for the necessary local permits, taking off one more thing from your plate, just hopefully not the french-fries.

Depending on who you rent from, your commissary kitchen landlord will have a set of rules and regulations for you to follow while you rent their facility. You can also expect the owner to stipulate what they provide for you. Make sure to understand what is provided to you and what you need to bring to the kitchen table.

Cost

Cost is a driving factor for any foodservice operator when they consider renting a commissary kitchen. Before the popularity of food delivery services, brick-and-mortar restaurants and shops were considered the norm. With the current popularity of food delivery services over the last 5 years, food delivery is growing 300% faster than dine-in options at brick-and-mortar locations.

Food entrepreneurs and restaurants alike will need to compare the costs of owning and maintaining a brick-and-mortar location with renting a commissary kitchen. Some renters need to consider how much additional cost they are willing to take on if they need more space.

So, how much does renting a commissary kitchen cost? 

• By the hour, renting a commercial kitchen can cost $15-$40.
• By the month, renting a commercial kitchen can cost $250-$1250.

You might wonder, why is there such a large range of costs to rent a commissary kitchen? Depending on where you hope to open up shop, there will be different fees and taxes. Renting in New York City will cost a lot more than renting somewhere in Upstate New York.

Commissary kitchens versus ghost kitchens

Ghost kitchens offer an exciting opportunity for restaurants and individual entrepreneurs.

While restaurant chains, local restaurants, and food entrepreneurs can use a commissary kitchen to fulfill any needs that they have, ghost kitchens are for delivery-only brand models. The brand doesn’t have any kind of public or dine-in presence. Instead, they focus on preparing food as efficiently as possible to get to customers as quickly as possible. 

For example, you might see an option on a food delivery app like “Lenny’s Lasagnas.” You’d be able to order their amazing homemade lasagna to your doorstep, but you wouldn’t be able to visit Lenny because he doesn’t have a storefront. The delivery order would go to his ghost kitchen, where his cooks would prepare the food. The delivery driver would pick up the order and deliver it.

Ghost kitchens are created for many reasons. If you’re wondering how to start a ghost kitchen, it helps to first look at why ghost kitchens are a smart choice. 

Why go ghost?

Sometimes, national chains will take advantage of the low-stakes that ghost kitchens offer to test new menu offerings. Ghost kitchens streamline delivery services and costs. They also allow businesses to start selling almost immediately.

With a ghost kitchen, you can thrive off of the increasing demand for delivered food. Instead of juggling both a dine-in option and delivery, you can focus on perfecting delivery for the greatest profits. You may not need as many staff as you would for a brick-and-mortar location, thus cutting costs.

Ghost kitchens will never ghost their customers or their owners. They’re focused on delivering excellent food as efficiently as possible for maximum returns.

Jumpstart your restaurant business with CloudKitchens

At CloudKitchens, our ghost kitchens can offer you lower costs to embark on your food passion. Our in-kitchen software will combine all the delivery apps for easy viewing and organizing on a tablet.

If you are chomping at the bit to start or expand your business, CloudKitchens can help you launch your delivery business in as little as 6 months. Start cooking and refining your brand with CloudKitchens.

Ready to see a ghost kitchen for yourself? Schedule a tour at one of our CloudKitchens facilities to see what all the buzz is about.

Looking for the nearest ghost kitchen? Whether you’re looking for a ghost kitchen in NYC, Columbus, Buffalo and more, we have a variety of options to fit your restaurant’s needs. Reach out to us to find the location nearest you!

Sources: 

Roaming Hunger. Guide to Ghost Kitchens. https://roaminghunger.com/blog/15623/ghost-kitchens-everything-you-must-know

2 Merriam-Webster. Commissaryhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/commissary

3 The Conversation. What’s a Ghost Kitchen? https://theconversation.com/whats-a-ghost-kitchen-a-food-industry-expert-explains-163151

4 Webstaurant Store. What Is a Commissary Kitchen? https://www.webstaurantstore.com/article/259/commissary-kitchens.html

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