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Are you looking to open or rent a commercial kitchen to start your own restaurant? There are many different regulations and requirements you’ll need to understand before you get started. In this comprehensive guide, we cover everything you need to know for your commercial kitchen’s success. 

What Is A Commercial Kitchen?

A commercial kitchen is a fully equipped prep kitchen that is rented out for shared use. They’re also known as culinary kitchens, shared kitchens, community kitchens, kitchen incubators, food innovation centers, accelerators, and food hubs. With so many different names, it can be a bit daunting to find all the correct information you need to start one. That’s why we’ve put all the information in one place for you. Read on to learn more!

Why Use A Commercial Kitchen

There are several advantages to using a shared kitchen, but the most attractive reason is that they’re cost-effective. Commercial kitchens are built up to current local code, have preparation surfaces that are ideal for commercial food production, and are fully stocked with the equipment you need. In other words, they have done all the hard work of creating a suitable and sanitary kitchen workspace for you. All you have to do is focus on your food. 

When you buy or rent a restaurant, it is up to you to make sure that your kitchen space is up to regulation. You will have to buy or rent equipment, put down payments on utilities, and fund repairs. You will also be responsible for obtaining all the correct permits and licensing needed to start cooking. By opting for a commercial kitchen, you can dramatically reduce some of these costs and stresses. 

Commercial kitchens are great for ghost restaurants, as they provide exactly what you need to cook without having to rent a restaurant space. They are also a good option for food truck operators who need additional space for prepping. Some commercial kitchens even provide areas to properly dispose of food truck water waste and refill with a clean water supply.

General Requirements For Commercial Kitchens

Whether you are looking to rent or start a commercial kitchen, you should be aware of the specific requirements they must meet. Some requirements will vary from location to location, so be sure to check your local guidelines for requirements as well. Generally speaking, the most basic requirements include:

  • You must store any chemicals (for cleaning) completely separate from food storage. 
  • Your refrigeration and freezing equipment must be operating at appropriate temperatures and pass inspection. 
  • Cooking surfaces and floors must be made out of a non-porous material that is smooth and can easily be disinfected. A common material for counters in commercial kitchens is stainless steel. 
  • You must have a clean water supply. 
  • Your gas hookups must pass inspection.
  • Your bathrooms for staff must be clean, have non-porous floors, and must be equipped with a hand washing station.
  • There must be three separate sinks for mops/cleaning, hand washing, and food washing/ preparation.
  • Everyone cooking must have a food handling license.  
  • Even if you are renting space in a shared kitchen, there may still be some permits that you are responsible for. This depends on local regulations.  
  • If you own a commercial kitchen that multiple restaurants operate out of, you may have additional requirements depending on local regulations. 

Ultimately, you will need to check the FDA website to figure out what codes and regulations you must comply with, as that information varies from state to state and can even differ depending on what you are cooking. 

Equipment Requirements For A Commercial Kitchen

If you are looking to open a commercial kitchen, there is a lot of necessary equipment you will need to function properly and pass inspection. At the bare minimum, you will need to have the following equipment:

  • Three Sinks: As mentioned earlier, you will need a minimum of three separate sinks for handwashing, food washing, and mops. 
  • Refrigerator and Freezer: You must have proper refrigeration storage to keep ingredients fresh and safe to consume. Take your restaurant’s specific needs into account when choosing the type of refrigerator you will get. For example, if you run a smoothie shop, you may need a much larger freezer than other restaurants. 
  • Cooking Equipment: The cooking equipment your restaurant needs will vary depending on what you make. But in any case, you will likely need a range, oven, and holding equipment (a cabinet-like machine that keeps food at a designated temperature). You may also need a grill, griddle, deep fryer, salamander/broiler, toaster, or microwave. 
  • Storage Containers: You must store all ingredients, prepared sauces, sides, etc in containers. 
  • Tape Or Labels: You will need tape, sharpie, or labels to mark your preparation date on foods to ensure they are used within a safe time frame. 
  • Smallwares: This includes all knives, spoons, spatulas, pots, pans, cutting boards, dishes, and any other cooking tools. 
  • Dishwasher: Check your local code requirements to determine the qualifications your dishwasher must meet. 
  • Janitorial Equipment: It is essential to keep a sanitized space. You will need cleaning products as well as mops, brooms, dustpans, vacuums, wet floor signs, trash cans, and recycling bins, cleaning chemical buckets, restroom supplies, microfiber cloths, rags, paper towels, etc. 

You may also need additional equipment based on your business’s personal needs. Other essential equipment includes:

  • Beverage Equipment: If you provide beverages, you may need an ice machine, beverage dispenser, or coffee machine. 
  • Shelving: You will need shelving both inside and outside of the refrigerator to maximize space and store items, including fresh items, dry items, pots, and pans. 
  • Food Processors: A versatile tool that can cut, slice, and blend. A food processor will cut down prep time. 
  • Mixers: industrial-sized mixers are essential to baking operations. 
  • Spice Grinders: To freshly grind spices for optimal flavor. 
  • Blenders: A kitchen essential.
  • Racks: Various racks will maximize the use of kitchen space. They come in several different types: sheet pan racks, drying racks, and dunnage racks. 

Space Requirements

The space requirements for a suitable commercial kitchen will address the kitchen’s layout, organization, and safety requirements. Like any other requirement, you should double-check with your local codes for information specific to your location. To meet general requirements, you will need to have separate areas for: 

  • Cleaning and Washing: All cleaning products must be stored and prepared in an area separate from your food to prevent cross-contamination. 
  • Storage: You will need to store non-food items, dry food, and cold food in separate areas. 
  • Food Prep: Your food prep station should include a designated sink for washing and preparing food. You will also need an area for chopping, prepping meats, and dressings. This area should be near the storage of your fresh ingredients to help your kitchen flow effectively. 
  • Cooking: This is where the magic happens. Your cooking area is the heart of your kitchen.
  • Finishing: This is the area where you will plate or package your food as well as add any garnishes. It should also keep food warm until it leaves the kitchen. 

There are also state-specific clearance requirements for the amount of space designated for physical movement. These requirements will be essential for fire safety and will be part of your periodic inspections.

In Conclusion

There is a great deal of planning that goes into creating a commercial kitchen space. Whether you are looking to rent one or open one up yourself, it is important to know the various requirements for safety and efficiency. Check what state-specific requirements you will have to meet and what local inspections you will have to pass. Plan thoroughly and in advance to stay organized. 

In no time, you will have a commercial kitchen that is serving up delicious food to your community. 


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