For people looking to start a food business one of the most confusing things can be working out where they are allowed to produce their food. This is a heavily regulated side of the food industry and for good reason with public health at risk. But the rules can seem daunting and difficult to comply with. But there are plenty of options out there depending on what you are making.
The first thing to do is check out the rules where you live. Often the rules are set at a local council or state level depending on what country you live in. Start by contacting the local government in your area and take it from there. Once you understand the rules and how they apply to what you are producing – high risk products like meat generally have stricter controls than say cookie – then you can start working out your options.
Having spoken to a number of small food businesses, there are a number of different routes you can go down for producing your food. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Using your home kitchen. For some types of goods this can be very cost effective and many states in the US have cottage food laws that make it relatively easy to produce certain goods from home. There are still requirements to follow and you may not be allowed to sell your product in all places (eg not wholesale) so this not for everyone. But if you can make it work then it can be a low cost way to at least get started and generating some income before you look to bigger and better things.
2. Using a shared kitchen. Shared kitchens are popping up all over the place. You can rent space in a commercially approved kitchen that is often well equipped, saving capital expenses when you get started. These kitchens often have the added bonus of offering support for new businesses including workshops and networking events. However, if you need dedicated refrigerated space it can be difficult and expensive to find one that is a good fit.
3. Using space in another business. You may find another food business is willing to rent their kitchen out to you. If you are just going to be cooking and selling on the weekends when you first start out then contacting say a café that is only open during the week can work. Just make sure everyone is clear on their obligations for the kitchen and what access you will have. Again this option can be a difficult if you are going to need ongoing refrigeration space as many food businesses are tight on space.
4. Hiring a community space. Often community halls and other facilities have commercial kitchens. Depending on the laws governing where you live you may be able to hire these kitchens for a day of preparation and cooking. Again storage can become an issue and often the equipment is dated and limited but worth checking out for certain products.
5. Renting your own commercial kitchen. For many small food businesses this option is very daunting. There is the whole commitment to a lease, fit out costs, getting registered etc. But for some products it may be the only option. If you are going to go down this route, make sure you do detailed costings and have realistic estimates for sales targets. Have a clear idea when you expect the investment to pay. And have you thought about sharing the kitchen with another small business? Look at sharing the costs with another start-up.
I hope this has inspired you to get your production conundrums sorted. Where are you going to start your business?