Shared Commercial Kitchen | BCBusiness
Culinary entrepreneurs cash in with shared kitchen space.
Outside an unassuming industrial building just south of the corner of Commercial Drive and Hastings Street, a sign for Woodland Smokehouse and Commissary advertises ice cream, doughnuts, soup and hot sauce – a few of the many food items made on location, each by an entirely different company. “We figured with the food cart scene starting up, people would need kitchen space. I don’t think we thought it was going to be as in demand as it has been,” says restaurateur Tyson Reimer.
When Reimer and his business partner, Ryan Murfitt, needed more kitchen space for their Gastown barbecue joint, Peckinpah, the two took over the 10,000-square-foot building and transformed the space into a state-of-the-art shared commercial kitchen. By renting out space to other culinary entrepreneurs (at a monthly rate of $2,800 for full-time use; $1,800 for part-time), they were hoping to fill a void lamented by industry insiders while creating a profitable sideline for their restaurant.
John Carlo Felicella, head of the culinary arts program at Vancouver Community College, sees first-hand the bind that many culinary entrepreneurs are caught in, noting that some choose to pay cash under the table to a kitchen in exchange for use of its space. It’s a common arrangement, he says, but not one that’s usually sanctioned by landlords. He adds that this underground industry is even flourishing, insisting that, “there is definitely a demand for even more shared space out there.”
There are legitimate, daily rental options at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, which leases kitchen space, but it is unable to offer consistent access. “We’ve had people approach us to do it on a weekly or daily basis and that’s just something that we’re not able to do. There are a lot of people looking for commercial space to rent and it’s really hard,” says the institute’s director of catering and events, Giulia Vendramin.
While caterers can float between kitchen locations with relative ease, businesses looking to produce constantly and consistently face a logistical nightmare trying to ensure access to a kitchen. Reimer and Murfitt bet that their commissary would be an attractive home to these operations and the gamble is working.
It only opened in February, but already Woodland Smokehouse is running out of space. It has eight businesses on board including Earnest Ice Cream, Cartem’s Donuterie, RainCity Soups and Edible Mark cake designs. The location has a sales counter, but most renters package their inventory on site and sell the bulk of it elsewhere. Foot traffic is upwards of 100 people a day and continues to increase. Reimer hopes that on-site sales will one day be profitable. For now, though, the front sales counter “is more of a marketing tool than anything,” he comments.
On top of the profits that come from tenants’ rent, partnering with new businesses has also allowed them to increase awareness of their own restaurant. “People who maybe know Earnest Ice Cream but have never heard of the Peckinpah come in. It’s kind of cool how they all bring in their customers,” notes Reimer.