No, food trucks are not considered commercial kitchens in the United States. A commercial kitchen is more or less located inside a brick and mortar structure (a building) which incorporates cooking stations and appropriate equipment to operate the station. Commercial kitchens typically include much larger spaces (stations) than traditional residential kitchens.
Most major cities will have clear laws and regulations for food trucks. But because food trucks are a relatively new concept, some small cities and suburban areas may not have created their own laws yet. But, one of the main disadvantages of opening a food truck is the lack of space for storage and food prep. So, many food truck operators in the United States are mandated by law to seek commissary kitchens or rent a commercial kitchen.
Table of Content
- What is a Commissary kitchen?
- 1. Private Commercial Kitchen
- 2. Shared Space in a Commercial Kitchen
- 3. Rented Space in an Existing Restaurant’s Kitchen
- 4. Other Certified Commercial Kitchens
- How to Rent a Commercial Kitchen in 5 Steps
- 1. Know your kitchen needs
- 2. Begin your search
- 3. Time slot availability
- 5. Sign the contract
What is a Commissary kitchen?
A commissary kitchen is a commercial kitchen that is used to conduct the necessary food operations for a food truck, mobile catering, food tent, kiosk, food cart or concession trailers. Food operations include prep, cooking, dishwashing, parking food trucks, filling water supply on truck, draining grey water from truck, storage of raw food supplies and more.
In the United States, some food truck owners use commissaries because they’re convenient—renting space in a commissary where you can cook and prepare your food is more affordable in the short-term than building a functional, up-to-code commercial space of your own.
Other food truck owners make use of commissaries because they’re required to do so by the local city or county health departments. Note that in most cities, you’re not allowed to prepare or store food that you’ll be selling in your home—and some cities won’t even allow you to make food on the truck. Due to local laws and regulations, commissary kitchens are a necessity for some food trucks.
However, it’s imperative to note that renting a commissary kitchen is not a long term fiscal investment for food truckers. Although it could serve as a tool that helps food truckers boost the quality of their food truck or pop-up restaurant, in turn, giving them a better reputation until it becomes more financially advisable to lease their own kitchen. But until then, a commissary kitchen is more or less the best choice for food truckers.
Types of Commercial Kitchens Used By Food Trucks
All commissary kitchens serve almost the same purposes: Rented space to a chef who needs more room or equipment to prepare their food. Nonetheless, there are different types of commissary kitchens to choose from to help each chef attain their specific needs.
1. Private Commercial Kitchen
As a food trucker in the United States, if you’re looking for a little more control and ownership over your kitchen space, you may have to consider a private commissary. Although a private commercial kitchen space costs more than a shared one, you won’t have to work around anyone else’s schedule and you’ll always have all of the equipment and storage space to yourself.
Also note that you won’t have to bother about working in a space that is littered with equipment and ingredients that you don’t need or can’t use. So if you plan or you already own more than one truck, a catering business, or expanding to a brick and mortar restaurant, a private commercial kitchen is the ideal option.
Most new entrants in the food truck industry start out with shared space in a commercial kitchen. Have it in mind that with a shared space commissary, you and several other food truck owners, caterers, or chefs will all have access to the same group kitchen.
Generally, shared commissary spaces are less expensive than having your own private space, making them ideal for new business owners who are just entering the industry and looking to keep their costs down. However, you will be expected to coordinate your schedule with everyone else who is sharing the space so that you don’t double-book the kitchen.
3. Rented Space in an Existing Restaurant’s Kitchen
Coupled with renting a shared or private space in a licensed commercial kitchen, a food trucker can also rent a kitchen from some existing brick and mortar restaurants in their area.
Note that some restaurant owners are open to renting out their kitchens during hours when the establishment is closed in order to make a little extra cash. With this option, a Food trucker can cut down on commissary costs and to enjoy access to a full range of licensed, professional kitchen equipment.
4. Other Certified Commercial Kitchens
Also note that some food truck owners tend to rent space from other local certified commercial kitchens like churches, public and private schools, hotels, retirement homes, and cooking schools.
Some of these organizations in the United States have regularly inspected, fully certified commercial kitchen spaces in their buildings—and they are open to renting them to a Food trucker at an affordable cost or in exchange for a favour such as an agreement to provide future catering services.
How to Rent a Commercial Kitchen in 5 Steps
If renting a commercial kitchen seems to be the ideal choice for you, you will have to take your time to find the right kitchen for your cooking and storage needs. Here are few steps that go into renting a good commercial kitchen from initial planning and research to booking time slots, renting, and signing contracts.
1. Know your kitchen needs
You first have to understand that various commercial kitchens offer different amenities and cater to different needs of chefs. So before researching the ideal commercial kitchen for your food truck business, it’s advisable you make a list of everything you’re hoping to get out of renting preparation and storage space.
Note that if you require somewhere not as spacious or high-tech, you don’t have to overpay for a commercial kitchen that’s more than you need. Also, if you want a more upscale commercial kitchen, you don’t want to sign a contract for a kitchen only to discover later that it doesn’t have all the things you require.
Take your time to consider what equipment you’ll need, and how much preparation space you’re seeking, how much storage space you’ll need and if that storage has any specific requirements, and even how much help you’ll want or need if staff help is available or you need room for more than one cook. Also note that knowing your specific requirements will help narrow down your search and find the right commissary kitchen faster.
2. Begin your search
After you must have analyzed all your preferences and written them down on a checklist, you can begin your search for commercial kitchens in the surrounding area you’re looking to prepare and store your food. Also note that you can narrow down your search even further by filtering through not just the commercial kitchens that fulfil your cooking needs, but the ones in convenient locations for you.
Immediately you find your best option or options, you can then start comparing prices to find the one that best suits your budget. This is also a good time to ask further questions or about any extra perks than can help sway your choice, like classes, demos, company culture, etc.
3. Time slot availability
Remember to consider the exact time you want to use the commercial when conducting your search. Analyze and know the time of day you’re planning to prep food and how many hours this will take. Also note that it can help narrow your options if time slots are only available to your preference in one of your final options.
5. Sign the contract
Finally, after you must have found the commissary kitchen of your dreams and decided when and how long you’ll use it, it’s time to sign the contract and start prepping.
Food Trucks are not generally considered commercial kitchens in the United States. Most areas in the United States have regulations that prevent the preparation of food in trucks. Howbeit, food truck chefs need a place to prepare food before selling it from the truck.