Can ‘rented kitchen space’ model work in Delaware?

Union Kitchen, 7,300-square-foot D.C. Food incubator that offers members access to full kitchen services without the headaches of overhead and equipment.

By Christi Milligan

When they nabbed a kitchen warehouse space that was in an ideal location, but too large and expensive for their own use, Union Kitchen business partners Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist hit upon the answer: they decided to rent out kitchen space through memberships.

“We decided that if we couldn’t use all of the space for ourselves, we would rent out a share of the space and equipment to other small businesses just like the us: small businesses that need space to produce their food, but not so much space that they need an entire commercial kitchen all to themselves,” according to Singer and Gilchrist.

Today it is a thriving, moneymaking venture that gives food-based start ups the chance to chase their dream without stumbling over items like licensing and overhead.  The concept will lead to an expansion this year for the duo, and the idea has Kent County Economic Development Director Jim Waddington wondering if a similar model might be a good fit for Kent County.

Later this month, Singer will make a presentation to the Kent County FID, who have already toured Union Kitchen and are considering how their business model has application in Kent County.  Ironically, it was Singer who reached out to them after reading a news article about their vision for food innovation in the first state.

“It got us thinking that we might be a good fit to assist the county in that area,” said Singer, who said the duo is eager to consult with groups, regional and even further away, to share Union Kitchen’s highly successful business model —they will reportedly triple its kitchen space this year.

While Union Kitchen’s urban location does offer the density of consumers, Singer said it also presents challenges in terms of high real estate costs. “It also takes a lot more work to get attention,” he said.

Conversely, Kent County offers tremendous food resources in its agriculture and manufacturing, and Singer suggested that acquisition of capital resources is probably more affordable.

“Union Kitchen lowers the barriers to entry for food businesses in order to catalyze the growth of small business, jobs, and culture,” said Singer.  “We provide space for production and opportunities for sales.”

The kitchen boasts 50 members, ranging from candy and muffins and Tai food to coffee and deli options.  It’s open around the clock and members work in shifts, giving food-based start ups the chance to chase their dream without stumbling over items like licensing and overhead.

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