If you are thinking about setting up a commercial food venture at home, you may be considering turning your garage into a commercial kitchen. This can be a smart and profitable idea, and although the specifics for this sort of project vary from state to state, there are general guidelines that apply. In this article we explore these guidelines and provide simple steps to help you build a commercial kitchen in your garage. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- Before You Do Anything Else, Check Local Licensing Requirements
- 7 Steps To Plan And Build A Commercial Kitchen In Your Garage
Before You Do Anything Else, Check Local Licensing Requirements
Depending upon the state you are in and the type of food you plan to prepare, licensing requirements vary. If you are serving food to be consumed right away, you will probably need to be licensed as a catering or restaurant business by your county health department.
If you are preparing packaged foods such as:
- Frozen Foods
- Meal Kits
…you might be considered a food processor, and your licensing would likely come from your state department of agriculture. This is a matter you would need to investigate locally to be sure of getting exactly the right licensing and permits.
7 Steps To Plan And Build A Commercial Kitchen In Your Garage
Measure your space and begin the thought process by visiting kitchen websites and looking through design books to get ideas for the commercial kitchen you want to build.
Think about where you want your appliances, sinks, countertops and appliances to be in relation to existing windows and doors. Decide whether you want to (or can) move these building features. Draw up a sketch (even if it’s just a rough one) of your vision.
2. Carefully consider your use of space
A commercial kitchen is all about efficiency. You want to have ease of access to appliances and logical workflow. Generally speaking, there are three very workable designs for setting up a commercial kitchen:
- Assembly Line Kitchen: This setup is good if you are preparing a lot of the same sort of food. Making sandwiches, pizzas, burgers and the like is quick and easy to do with an assembly line. Don’t let the name fool you, though. You don’t have to set up a straight line. Your assembly line can go down two rows, around corners or in a circle if you want. Just set it up in the way that works best for you and makes the best use of your space.
- Zone Kitchen: This type of kitchen is a good choice if you are preparing many different types of food. It is set up to spread workflow into different zones, each having its own purpose. With this design, members of your work crew would focus on their own specialties in their own space. You’d set up specific counter space for each function (e.g. slicing meat, preparing marinades, chopping vegetables, grilling, frying, etc.) It goes without saying this type of plan would necessitate a great deal of counter space and separate work spaces. Additionally, it would need separate spaces or zones for dry storage, cold storage and sanitation.
- Island Kitchen: This type of kitchen combines zone and assembly line concepts with a central island as the hub. Most of the cooking and preparation takes place on the island. Assembling, plating and/or packaging the food takes place in an assembly line setting along one wall. On the other wall, you can set up your sinks, storage, etc.
How To Design Your Commercial Kitchen
3. Firm up your plan
Once you’ve gotten some ideas about equipment and setup, check your local building codes to see what’s possible and narrow down your choices. Create a detailed plan, and if you are planning on doing the work yourself, obtain your building permits. Otherwise, now is the time to call in a contractor.
4. Finalize your budget
On your own, or with your contractor, create complete lists of all the materials you’ll need to manifest your vision. Don’t leave anything out. Include:
Consult with any professionals you will need to call in, such as plumbers and electricians. Add up all your projected expenses and be sure you have the funding in place to cover your project.
5. Complete the structure
Before you purchase any equipment, get the basic kitchen in place. You’ll need to take off the garage door and frame in the room to make a secure and sanitary space for a kitchen. With that done, you’ll need to add:
- Electrical wiring
- Plumbing lines
- Drain lines
With these in place, add your drywall, cabinets and lighting. Paint and add finishing details. Finish your commercial kitchen space with durable, washable non-slip flooring.
6. Add your equipment
Of course, you will have chosen your equipment in advance of installing cabinetry and whatnot. You need it to fit perfectly, but you shouldn’t have it standing around outside waiting on your project.
If you are sure that the equipment you need will be in stock and available to you when your kitchen space is completed, simply wait to purchase it when you are ready for it.
Otherwise, you may need to purchase it at the budgeting stage and put it in a storage unit until you are ready for it.
Here is the equipment you are likely to need:
- Sanitation Equipment: Get a commercial dishwasher that is big enough to handle your pots and pans, utensils and (if applicable) dish and glass ware. If you’re using disposable serving containers, a very powerful, smaller under-counter model may save you space.
- 3-Compartment Commercial Sink: This may not be a requirement for a small commercial kitchen, but a roomy sink with drying space on the sides is a good investment.
- Refrigerator/Freezer: Depending upon the size and scope of your venture, you may need a large standard refrigerator/freezer. You may also need the walk-in variety.
- Oven/Cook Top/Grill: A large commercial oven with cook top and/or grill set in will probably be your best bet. This sort of unit is a real work horse and also often has built in storage above the cook top/grill.
- Exhaust Hood: This is a requirement in a commercial kitchen. A heavy duty exhaust hood keeps air quality safe by drawing smoke and grease out of the work area.
- Frying Station: If you plan to prepare a lot of fried foods, you’ll naturally need a commercial floor fryer. If frying is not a feature of the cuisine you plan to prepare, you may be able to get by with a countertop fryer.
- Warming Equipment: It’s very important to have high quality commercial food warmers and holding equipment in place if you intend to serve or deliver food to your customers fresh and warm.
- Specialty Equipment: Depending upon the type of food you intend to prepare, you may need a pizza oven, a sandwich grill, toasters, etc.
No matter what sort of equipment you purchase, be sure to invest in the best quality equipment you can. Commercial cooking equipment takes a beating, and you don’t want to lose money with equipment that simply cannot stand up to the work at hand.
7. Take care of safety needs
Finish up your commercial kitchen by adding items such as
- Non-slip floor mats
- Fire extinguishers
- Smoke detectors
You may also want to install battery powered backup lighting, and you may wish to have a generator on hand if your area is prone to inclement weather and/or power outages. This can help prevent food spoilage and loss.