Shared kitchens and incubators dedicated to serving food entrepreneurs are increasingly desired by communities looking to cultivate strong local food systems and economies. However, not all communities have the entrepreneurial demand or capital needed to launch a shared commercial kitchen. As an alternative to building new kitchens, community stakeholders often wonder if existing, underutilized kitchens could be opened to food entrepreneurs to meet their need for affordable kitchen access.
Kitchens in community-serving facilities such as religious buildings, community centers, event centers, meal service facilities, schools, job training programs, granges, and clubs present a largely uptapped opportunity for supporting food entrepreneurs. These kitchens often sit idle much of the day and renting them to food businesses can benefit both parties. Entrepreneurs gain affordable kitchen access while the facility earns rental income that can help sustain the building and its community-serving programs.
Existing community facilities with other primary uses face unique considerations when deciding whether to rent their kitchens to entrepreneurs. They must evaluate whether rentals are compatible with other uses, how suitable the kitchen is in meeting entrepreneur needs and regulatory requirements, and their likely return on investment for kitchen upgrades. Additionally, facility managers unfamiliar with the food industry must also learn about sanitation practices, rental terms, and management models common to shared kitchens.
A new publication by Purdue University Extension and Fruition Planning & Management seeks to help bridge this knowledge gap and address the specific concerns of multi-use facilities such as event centers, places of worship, soup kitchens and educational buildings. Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs: Guidance for Communities and Facility Operators offers practical advice for starting a kitchen rental program and expanding access to underutilized kitchens. The guide provides tips for facility managers on evaluating opportunities, navigating regulatory requirements, developing management strategies, and exploring beneficial partnerships. It also gives stakeholders a rundown of the benefits and limitations of these facilities and highlights ways communities can support access through Kitchen Connect programs.
Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs: Guidance for Communities and Facility Operators was published by Purdue University Extension with funding from USDA North Central SARE.
Digital copies of the Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs: Guidance for Communities and Facility Operators, the Shared Kitchen Toolkit, and other helpful documents can be found on The Food Corridor’s resource page for future reference.