Renting a Kitchen: A First-Timer’s Guide

If you’re a food entrepreneur, and you’ve never rented a kitchen before, the process can seem daunting. First, there’s the matter of finding a commercial kitchen to rent, and then hoping it’s available when you need it. We’ve observed the difficulty in that process first-hand; that’s why CookItHere.com was born. Hopefully, you’ve found this blog in conjunction with the main site, where you can search for a kitchen to rent. CookItHere.com lists commercial kitchens for rent by location, and we’re working to add photos, reviews and availability to each profile to make finding a kitchen near you even easier.

When selecting a kitchen, do some research to be sure that you’ll have everything you need. You’ll want to tour the kitchen before you decide; nothing beats a visit to assess cleanliness, quality and space efficiency. Here are a few basic questions to consider before you make your choice:

  • Is it certified by the local health department? Is the certification current?
  • What are the rates? Some facilities rent hourly; others have longer minimums.
  • What equipment is available?
  • What storage options—refrigerator, freezers, pantries—are available, and what are the rules and rates pertaining specifically to storage?
  • How much security deposit is required, and what is the process for getting it returned to you?
  • What unique features does it have? If you’re doing classes, you’ll need viewing space, or tasting/ dining space. Some kitchens even have larders you can access (for a fee) for on-hand ingredients.
  • General amenities: if you’re planning to spend any significant time at the kitchen, check out parking and restroom facilities in advance.

Before you can use a commercial kitchen, you’ll have to fill out an application and submit certain documents to the proprietor. Here is a list of commonly required documents:

  • Proof of liability insurance. There’s no getting around it; any commercial kitchen worth its salt will require that you have liability insurance. Amounts vary, but most we’ve seen require coverage of at least $1,000,000  with the kitchen named as additional insured.
  • Food handler’s certificate. This varies by location and by your business, but most local governments will require some kind of certification for any commercial food operation.
  • Business license. It is possible to rent a commercial kitchen for non-commercial use—ask the kitchen operator about individual policies—but many require that you have a business license.
  • Classes and/or orientations. Again, depending on the location, you may be required to attend a health department class or pass an inspection or test before you can use a commercial kitchen. Other kitchens have their own orientation programs that you must complete before you can get cooking.

Once you’re up and running, let us know how you like the kitchen you selected. Cookithere.com allows you to post reviews. And if you find a kitchen that’s not on our site, be sure to let us know—we’ll add it.

Do You Have a Culinary Resume?

If you’re working a day job and trying to build your culinary empire on the side, you’ve probably got a decent resume geared for the 9-5—but is your chef resume polished and ready to go?
You never know when opportunity will knock, so having a professional-looking, current resume is critical.

If you need to brush up your resume, here are some suggestions to get you going.

  1. Get your facts in order. Make a list of all applicable experience and education. If you’re just starting out, this may require some creativity. Have you helped a friend cater a party? Volunteered in a soup kitchen? Jot down the dates of each project and the skills you used to complete it. Think about culinary skills but also general skills, like customer service, time management, budgeting, purchasing, etc.
  2. Before you write, determine your objective. Are you looking for full-time employment as a chef, or are you looking for gigs? Do you want catering or personal chef assignments? You don’t need to state your objective on the resume (that’s passé and can take up valuable space on your page), just remember to gear your resume towards the appropriate audience. A family looking to hire a personal chef wants different information than a restaurant hiring a sous-chef. And yes…if you have more than one objective, you may need more than one resume.
  3.  Ask yourself, “What is the single most compelling reason someone would hire me, as opposed to someone else?” The answer to this question is your differentiator—what makes you stand out. Your differentiator should be featured on your resume. Maybe you don’t have a lot of experience but you graduated from a well-known culinary school. Maybe you don’t have the chef’s credential, but you’re known for creative cooking on a budget, great presentation, or some specialty, like wood-fire grilling or gluten free desserts. You can use your differentiator in a summary statement about yourself, or you can build your resume around it. See #4.
  4. Find a template online. (It’s easy—Google “chef resume templates” or similar- you’ll find many free template sources.)  The appearance of your resume—font, page setup, organization—is really important. It gives an overall impression and helps the reader process the information contained in your resume. Unless you’re very good at word processing and/or desktop publishing, use a template to make sure your resume looks professional. Choose the template based on your education, experience and differentiator—you want a template that allows you to place the most impressive information at the top of the document.
  5. Get a proofreader. Ask a friend or colleague to proofread for you. Even if your spelling and grammar are impeccable, another set of eyes will find things you missed. If possible, get a recruiter (or someone who hires for whatever position you’re seeking) to give you some feedback, too.

Remember, a resume is always evolving, because it represents you—and you’re always gaining skills and experience. Update your resume regularly so you’re always ready to impress.

Is the Food Truck Trend Dead?

Food trucks—at least the trendy, gourmet variety we think of today—hit the scene in 2008 when Kogi BBQ first made the news. Since then, food trucks have exploded in popularity, with everything from schnitzel to banh mi served street-side.

Food truck statistics are hard to pin down, but Foodbeast.com estimates that there are three million food trucks in the U.S. today. Numbers like that hardly indicate that food trucks are a passing fad. You could, however, argue that some of the novelty has worn off. The trend has gone mainstream.

Rachel Tepper, a blogger for Huffington Post, sums it up like this, “If you’re unconvinced, consider this: Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A and even Rachael Ray’s dog food line all have food trucks. Seriously.”

While it may no longer be a hip trend, food trucks remain a viable startup option for chefs and caterers who can’t afford the investment for a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Estimates of the capital investment required to start a mobile food operation range from $10,000 to $40,000, which sounds like a lot until you look at restaurant startup costs, which can exceed 10 times those figures.

The viability of a food truck business depends on many factors, but location is critical. Some states have very favorable environments for mobile food businesses, while others make it tough to overcome the regulatory red tape. Los Angeles is known as one of the better cities in which to operate a food truck business; New York City is notorious for its maze of regulatory complications.

Wherever they roam, food truck operators benefit when they leverage their social networks. Social media is inextricably linked to the success of a food truck; it’s how customers find their favorite trucks at mealtime.

Another blogger, Frances D’Imperio of The Foodess Files, notes, “It’s hard to find a cluster of people standing beside a food truck in Los Angeles, who are NOT on their phones. They are tweeting their experience by the minute, Instagramming their orders, and if they’re like me, blogging on the go.”

Food trucks, by their nature, offer a “bonus” for social media users in that they are perceived as limited opportunities. When a diner posts a food truck find on Facebook, he’s shown that he was in the right place at the right time—he didn’t just have dinner, he had a limited-time-only experience. Who knows when that truck will be back?

Social media was once considered a passing fad, too. Now it’s apparent that social media is becoming a ubiquitous part of how we experience life in general—including meals and dining experiences. Given their appeal to social media users, food trucks will continue to have a unique niche in the market if they continue to leverage that power.

If you’re interested in food trucks as a possible startup business, check out this great infographic on Foodbeast.com.

Are you free next Saturday?

I’m sure we have all experienced it before. You are searching online, say for, oh I don’t know, a commercial kitchen to rent. You finally find a kitchen in your area after searching on Cook It Here, or heaven forbid, Google. Either way, you find the kitchen, you see some pictures, everything looks great. You find their contact information and you give them a call or send them an email inquiring about your particular date. You then come to find out that they are not available for that date. It’s frustrating. You wasted all that time finding a place, looking up their info, only to call and find out it isn’t going to work. So now you begin that process all over again. Well we couldn’t stand that happening anymore so we are happy to announce that now kitchen owners can publish their kitchen availability directly to our site. What this also allows us to do is let you search for your specific needs right from the start so you no longer have to waste any more time only to come up with nothing at the end. So how does it work?

Kitchen owners can now log into their kitchen accounts and signup to be a part of our premium membership. By doing this they can now not only tell you about their availability but you can also request that open time right from their listing. That will trigger an email to the kitchen owner right away to let them know of your interest in their kitchen. This gets the communication going a lot quicker and gets the process moving right away so you can go back to what you want to do. Also with this new release you can now upload documents to your profile so that if a kitchen requires certain information from you they can download it right from your profile page once you request time in their kitchen. This way there is no more back and forth about what is needed and verification of that information. Also the kitchen owner can now publish to their listing any documents or resources they want filled out so you can get access to them right away. We think this is really going to be a big help to both parties so we can bring everyone together quicker.

Ratings and Reviews

Our biggest goal at Cook It Here has always been to try and improve the experience of finding and renting commercial kitchens. We have been trying to tackle this problem from both ends. Our chefs want to find the best kitchen to rent that is going to have all the equipment they need to prepare their meals. Our kitchen owners want to find chefs they can trust and that aren’t going to ruin their kitchen. That is why today we are excited to announce that we are implementing a new ratings and reviews system.

Our system will allow for both the kitchen owner and the chef to be able to rate and review each other. This will make the decision process a much more informed one because now both parties can have a better idea of who they are working with and what to expect. To ensure that the kitchens are only reviewed by chefs actually renting their kitchen we are going to start with only allowing the kitchen owner to initiate the review. This will change once we integrate our renting functionality, which should be soon, but for now this seemed the best way to ensure accuracy. But since not all of the chefs that may have rented the kitchen are members of the site the kitchen owner can also enter an email address of a chef that has rented and we will send that chef an email letting them know that the kitchen owner has left a review for them and that they too can also review the kitchen. Once they come to the site and sign up, that review will be attached to their profile.

We really hope this will be a big help to all of our chefs and kitchen owners!

Hard at Work

At Cook It Here we are constantly striving to improve our search results. Better results mean our chefs are able to find the perfect kitchen to cook in that much quicker. But we also haven’t forgotten about our kitchen owners. We also realize that they too are just as important to us. So we make sure that we are always looking at ways to improve the tools that we offer to our kitchen owners. Today, we are announcing an update that really is for both of our favorite people, chefs and kitchen owners. We have now added two new features that will make it easier for chefs and kitchen owners to connect.

First, for our chefs, we have now given you the ability to mark a kitchen as one of your favorites, thus making it easier to show your support for that kitchen and also connect yourself to the kitchen owner. We will shortly also be introducing ratings and reviews but that’s a different post. Now when you want to look some information on that kitchen you have used before you can log back into the site and find it very quickly.

Next, for our kitchen owners, with the introduction of favorite kitchens, we have also now made it possible for you to reward those chefs that have a relationship with your kitchen. We have built in a quick communication tool that will allow you to communicate out to all those that have marked your kitchen as their favorite. Whether you want to announce some upcoming availability to announce, or specials you are running for a limited time, you can now send that to those that would be most interested.

We hope you enjoy the new changes and stay tuned for many more changes to come.

Welcome to Cook It Here!!

We’re very excited that you’ve discovered Cook It Here and hope that you find the information useful in growing your business by connecting with the right sources. If you’re familiar with online commercial kitchen rental directories, you’ll quickly notice that we’re unlike all the others. Most of those sites have small amounts of information and what they do have, is never verified. We not only work on validating our listings daily in trying to keep up with all the new additions, but verify participating kitchens regularly to ensure that the information is up to date.  If you ever find that something needs to be brought to our attention, please notify us and we will immediately look into it and make the adjustments necessary.

You’ll also find that those other sites rarely provide photographs, and if they do, they may not be current. At Cook It Here we do invest the time and resources to include photographs of our listings, saving you time and money.  Another unique feature on our site, is the search tool by equipment, which makes it easy to narrow down those kitchens that meet your needs. Again, other sites simply don’t offer this convenience, forcing you to go through listing after listing and even calling to see what’s available, making the process of finding a kitchen very long and painful.  We understand the challenges and frustrations you’ve experienced and are here to help. The way we see it, both parties, chefs and kitchen owners, want to find each other and can benefit from connecting, so why not make it easier and quicker for you to do so. Here’s how we’re planning to improve this process.

First, for our chefs, as we mentioned before, we work daily on verifying our listings. We know how important your time is and you shouldn’t have to waste it trying to work with kitchens that are no longer renting or not even in business. We’re also making sure that we get a detailed listing of every one of our kitchens. This includes, contact information, equipment available, and some photographs of the actual space so that you can see where you’d be working and determine ahead of time if it looks like it could be good fit.  In addition to the rental listing, we’re coming up with creative ideas and new services that will soon be available to help you along the journey into your culinary business. We’ll even help you to get started by providing tools and important information on schools, certifications, county requirements, and many other aspects of running your business.

Secondly, for our kitchen owners, we know that you’ve worked very hard to make your space unique and want to showcase that to your potential renters. Why get lost in a simple listing, when you can have an edge by including it in Cook It Here.  Show it off and tell them all about you, but let us handle the marketing.  You don’t need to spend all your time trying to market your kitchen to potential renters, dealing with difficult to manage websites, costly SEO, and all the other boring stuff that has nothing to do with renting a kitchen. Cook It Here allows you to run your business simply and effectively. So we’ll soon be releasing some tools that’ll make this process a lot less painful and costly for you.

As you can see, we really want to make Cook It Here a valuable resource that can be used by chefs and kitchen owners alike to make their businesses run smoother. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working diligently to continue validating all the listings that we find, and will continue to add new ones discovered along the way. We have big plans for the future and a lot of exciting things are coming your way, so keep checking back to see what our technical chefs are cooking. To keep up with our latest developments, please subscribe to our blog or follow us on twitter.