The term Commercial Kitchen can have many variations, yet at its most basic its meaning is a room or building, or any part thereof, used for food preparation that meets all the requirements of local building code and is not a residential kitchen.

As commercial kitchens proliferate with the development of food system infrastructure across the country, the terms used to describe them have also. In our recent projects, we have encountered 65 different terms that are used to describe 16 basic types of kitchens. It’s no wonder that teams working to develop commercial kitchens are confused!

The term’s variability comes down to three important context points that the basic groupings have in common:

  1. Who is the audience for the proposed kitchen?
  2. What will be the uses for the proposed space?
  3. And how will the space be managed?

If you examine each space from these three points of context, you find an expanding ecosystem of commercial spaces and types that in some form fit under the broad header of commercial kitchens. Here are some of the most prominent new terminologies grouped according to this taxonomy, along with a few examples. If you know of other terms and examples, please share them with us!

Click to find these main terms in the table below

Main and Alternate Terms Audience Primary Uses / Use Notes How Managed Examples
Shared Kitchen (1)
  • Incubator Kitchen
  • Makers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Small Businesses
  • Community Members
  • Small scale production (product development, catering, food service)
  • Pre-launch through early-stage companies are primary users
  • Traditional kitchen equipment (limited specialized space)
  • Hourly rentals
  • Multiple bookings and co-working within a shared space
  • May offer storage and support services to support incubation
  • May have community access points for place-making or community programs
Shared Kitchen (2)
  • Accelerator Kitchen
  • Makers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Small Businesses
  • Small to medium scale production (product development, typically CPG focus, limited food service)
  • Early-stage but more traditionally growth stage companies looking for scale
  • Often more specialized equipment and/or private outfitted spaces
  • Leases or term rentals
  • Limited co-working within a shared space, often private spaces for individual outfitting
  • Often a set timeframe programmatic component focused on scale, funding, and growth
Individual/ Private Production Space
  • PODS
  • Private Kitchen(s)
  • Maker Facility

 

  • Small Businesses
  • All scales of production but aimed at medium scale (due to often limited square footage)
  • Private outfitted spaces
  • May have shared storage or common spaces
  • Leases or term rentals
  • Limited or no service or programming support
Processing Space (1)
  • Production Space
  • Co-Manufacturing Space
  • Co-Packing Space
  • Manufacturing Space
  • Scale Space
  • Small Businesses
  • Emphasis on CPG and product manufacturers (vs. service businesses)
  • All scales of production but aimed at medium scale
  • Focus is on access to manufacturing line equipment that supports scale-up and higher volume production
  • Shared lines (with labor and training supports), or
  • Co-Pack/Co-Man model may have partner supporting smaller-scale production runs for users of the facility (below normal industry minimums for co-packers)
  • Service-based rentals or contracts; typically include built-in labor requirements (to support runs), prototyping time/materials, and mandatory minimum run times or volumes
  • Margins are very, very narrow and may require users to pre-commit to 10-12 runs in a set time frame; or require facility to underwrite user needs with grant or funding supports (to offset labor and additional operational costs)
Processing Space (2)
  • Value-Add production space
  • Food Hub Kitchen Space
  • Farmers and small producers
  • Small to medium scale processing of fruits, vegetables, and related products grown by local/regional farmers
  • Predominantly limited equipment – focus is on cleaning produce, bundling/packaging, sorting, etc.
  • Limited facilities offer scale equipment such as IQF, dehydration, canner, multi-chopper, etc. that offer season-extending values to farmers
  • Hourly rentals or service-based rentals
  • Facility may offer labor supports to help with equipment or manual processes (cleaning, chopping, sorting, equipment line operations)
  • Typically, other HUB services are associated with the space such as aggregation support, sales or distribution support, certifications/ trainings, etc.
Community Kitchen
  • Access Kitchen
  • Shared Kitchen
  • Market Kitchen
  • Targeted/ Stakeholder Community Members
  • Public Users
  • Market Vendors
  • Small scale kitchen used primarily for supporting community place-making needs
  • May include equipment to support scale cooking for events or gatherings, storage, and limited prep or cleaning access point for market vendors
  • May overlap with demonstration kitchen and/or training kitchen (below) as a public-access point for classes, healthy/wellness training, or workforce training
  • Hourly or per course/class rentals (time frame rentals)
  • Service fees associated with programs or offerings
  • Often subsidized or free-access points for community contracts or community targeted programs (i.e. – health issue reduction)
  • Partners (i.e., hospitals, public entities, etc.) often operate in partnership with a non-profit to target communities of need for health or food access goals
Demonstration Kitchen
  • Teaching Kitchen
  • Community Kitchen
  • Kitchen Classroom
  • Hands-On Kitchen
  • Video Kitchen
  • A/V Kitchen
  • Community Members
  • Public Users
  • Small Businesses
  • Partners/ Stakeholders
  • Entrepreneurs
  • A kitchen specifically set up with stations to offer hands-on classes or demonstration cooking classes
  • Often integrates partners offering programming with healthy cooking, wellness, or food access focus
  • Can be a component of a larger complex (like a Food Hub or Shared Kitchen Incubator) to allow users to demonstrate product, pilot new offerings, or include courses to a public audience as part of revenue streams
  • Limited equipment in the space or may have movable burners/ induction set-ups for the operator to store stations when not in use
  • Technology and A/V support are primary plug-ins for users
  • Hourly or set-time frame rental fee
  • May offer additional services (video/streaming services, A/V supports, technology inputs) at a set fee
  • May include limited access to on-site storage in the same facility
Training Kitchen
  • Workforce Kitchen
  • Culinary Kitchen
  • Specific audience for training or coursework
  • A kitchen specifically designed with stations set-up for culinary or workforce training programs
  • Each station has to be able to support a set number of students to duplicate functions of an instructor or demonstrate skillsets
  • Includes prep and hot-line access points
  • Facility generally needs to support locker rooms and potentially classroom space in addition to primary cooking spaces
  • May include a Pop-Up or Ghost kitchen (as defined below) to allow students to interact with the public and learn real-time cooking demands
  • Traditionally have been foodservice focused but seeing a transition to production/manufacturing and logistics workforce programs
  • Generally supported by programming costs that students pay
  • May be subsidized by funding or financial supports from public entity or related partners looking to develop workforce in their region
Commissary Kitchen
  • Fast Casual Kitchen
  • Take-Out Kitchen
  • Institutional Kitchen
  • Licensed Kitchen
  • Volume Kitchen
  • Organizational Users
  • Small Businesses
  • Catering Companies

 

  • Volume is the focus – allowing organizations focused on food access production (i.e., prepared meals, packaged meals, Ready-to-eat or flash-frozen meals) to produce at high volumes
  • Typically rented by one entity at a time depending on total size of space
  • All equipment nods at volume needs (kettles, tilt skillets, combi-ovens, flash freeze, or cooling tunnels)
  • May include packaging space for a large team to package meals
  • May include very large scullery space to support catering needs (high volume pre and post-event clean-ups)
  • Hourly or set-time frame rentals OR leases on a set time frame for a guaranteed amount of access and storage
  • Often very minimal frills or benefits in order to keep costs minimal for users
  • May be subsidized by community or government grants or funds to support long-term or emergency food access programming
Baking Kitchen
  • Deck Kitchen
  • Bread Kitchen
  • Small Businesses
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Small kitchen space that allows for overnight baking access (24-hour access cycle)
  • Kitchen equipment to support baker/bread needs:  large scale mixers, convection or steam ovens, bread/deck ovens, proofing cabinets
  • Often dedicated “hot spaces” due to the larger number of ovens
  • Shared spaces that allow small bakery set-ups or bakers to grow volume before transition to private or own space
  • Set time frame or hourly rentals
  • Fees may include storage (refrigeration is in high demand for holding doughs)
  • Generally, a specialized kitchen within a larger facility set-up
Sauce and Jam Kitchen
  • Cannery Kitchen
  • Makers
  • Small Businesses
  • Entrepreneurs

Farmers

  • Small production space that includes open flame, steam jacket or wrapped kettles, and pressure or pasteurization equipment
  • May include a set-area for packaging or a bottling line to support volume/scale
  • High temperature and/or high humidity space – HVAC controls may be specific to these needs
  • Set time frame or hourly rentals
  • Generally, a specialized kitchen within a larger facility set-up (such as a community kitchen or Food Hub kitchen) which may appeal to farmers looking to add value-added products into their product mix
Temperature Controlled Kitchen (1)
  • Humidity controlled kitchen
  • Makers
  • Small Businesses
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Farmers
  • Small production space that has a controlled temperature and humidity-controlled environment
  • May include equipment to support dehydration, dryers (Grains, herbs), or medical supplement production
  • Very specialized function space (may have additional HAACP needs integrated into design)
  • Set time frame or hourly rentals
  • Generally, a specialized kitchen within a larger facility set-up
  • Frequently servicing users focused on dehydrated products, grain milling or handling, or herb production
Temperature Controlled Kitchen (2)
  • Cold Kitchen
  • Pastry Kitchen
  • Makers
  • Small Businesses
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Small production space that has temperature control to allow for cold-production needs for specialized pastry, ice cream, or related users
  • Equipment is often very specialized, such as refrigeration, blast chiller/freezer, chocolate tempering, pastry sheeters, marble top work surfaces, etc.
  • Set time frame or hourly rentals
  • Generally, a specialized kitchen within a larger facility set-up
Food Truck Kitchen
  • Truck Commissary Kitchen
  • License Kitchen
  • Service Kitchen
  • Food Truck
  • Food Cart
  • Multiple versions exist, but a space that offers storage, production space and scullery that support licensing needs related to food trucks for various municipalities
  • Includes outside access points such as truck wash areas, waste/grey water dump areas, covered access for loading, electrical outlets, or long-term docking for trucks/carts
  • Set time frame, seasonal, or annual lease agreement that includes specific access (storage, outside supports, production, scullery, etc.) depending on truck user needs
  • Very highly seasonal usage patterns
  • Often can be integrated into other kitchen formats but use patterns are very specific and need to be understood for their impact against other users
  • Often attachment is required in order for truck/cart to meet local licensing requirements
Ghost Kitchen
  • Cloud Kitchen
  • Commissary Kitchen
  • Virtual Kitchen
  • Take-Out Kitchen
  • Black Box Kitchen
  • Dark Kitchen
  • Small Businesses (Service Based)
  • Caterers
  • Virtual Businesses
  • Food Trucks
  • Licensed kitchen space designed with to allow multiple brands or concepts to service orders over a set time frame
  • Production and quick-service model is at core of design and equipment features
  • Generally, integrates access to the facility for service audience – i.e., public access points, delivery driver or pick-up access points, or automated collection points
  • Set-time frame or annual lease contracts that include daily usage for service, storage supports, and technology supports for orders
  • Frequently have very, very high volume of traffic into and out of facility due to order pick-up so location/site has to be well vetted
  • Not very compatible with other ag or small user formats as much different layout design and usage patterns
  • Often overseen by a central brand or operator – frequently have commercial contracts in place that offsets costs for smaller brands or users
  • Frequently includes collective buying, POS access, or related resources for users of the space
Medical/ Wellness Kitchen
  • Teaching Kitchen
  • Hospitals
  • University/ College systems
  • Non-Profit or organizational users
  • Specialized kitchen space designed to offer training or coursework that emphasizes food as health or wellness themes
  • Space may be set up to allow both classroom and hands-on/demonstration uses for the coursework needs
  • May be integrated into a demonstration kitchen space for public access points on the other side
  • Generally, have high technology integration for high-level training about integration of coursework into medical or educational uses
  • Annual or set-time frame lease contracts that include space + storage needs
  • Often built into hospital, educational, or supported facilities that allow for the integration of this training into other programs (i.e. – curriculum, hospital training, etc.)

 

Catering Kitchen
  • Service Kitchen
  • Restaurant Kitchen (Support)
  • Galley Kitchen
  • Event Kitchen
  • Catering Companies
  • Small Businesses
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Galley style small kitchen space typically built adjacent to event or community spaces
  • Limited equipment in the space to support reheat, ala minute cooking, or holding of menu items for events
  • Hourly or per event rentals
  • May include limited access to other facility resources such as storage, larger kitchen space, etc.
Packaging Space
  • May be part of Processing Space (2)
  • Boxing Space

 

  • CPG companies
  • Small businesses
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Makers
  • Clean, dry space that is dedicated to scaled packaging needs of users of other kitchen formats
  • May include automated packaging equipment such as fillers, dumpers, boxers, movement lines, etc.
  • Hourly or set access fee structure
  • Generally integrated into a facility with other kitchen or production spaces
  • May be cross-designed to incorporate some wet functions (such as bottling line, canning line, etc.)
Pop-Up Kitchen
  • Incubator Kitchen
  • Shared Kitchen
  • Short-Term Kitchen
  • Retail Kitchen
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Makers
  • Small Businesses
  • Traditionally focused on early-stage or launching food companies with a restaurant or foodservice focus
  • May be integrated into an incubator kitchen or shared kitchen format – with this component being focused on access to the public to pilot or test a food service concept
  • Requires public-facing equipment (galley style kitchen) with retail integration (i.e., POS station)
  • Short-term, or one-time pop-up use fees/rentals
  • May have set access to storage and/or program supports built into pricing structure
  • Typically, very short access terms aimed at new or launching businesses
Meat Spaces
  • Meat Processing
  • Slaughter
  • AbattoirProcessing Kitchen
  • Producers
  • Processing Operators
  • Hybrid meat processing spaces that are integrated into large community facilities or food hub spaces are becoming more common
  • Abattoir or slaughter space is very specialized and has very specific functional needs so may be less common
  • For processing space – refrigerated rooms are required to clean, cut and process animals post-slaughter; product may be frozen or fresh
  • Equipment includes automated lines for handling of large-animal carcass, rolling lines for initial processing and cutting, and specialized tables/spaces for butchery
  • May also include specific kitchen space for the production of value-added goods such as sausage, charcuterie, aging space, drying rooms, jerky/meat sticks
  • All of these spaces require different licensing and oversight by the USDA and thus their impacts on the food safety of the space and other spaces should be considered in the design of a joint facility
  • Service based or annual lease fees or rentals
  • Most commonly these “collaborative” facilities are being developed to service populations in areas where access to commercial facilities is limited
  • Often spearheaded by regional entities or local entities who can offset operational costs with other functions to provide low-cost access for regional producers and ranchers
  • Specialized training programs to support labor training in butchery, processing, animal handling, or value-add production are often integrated into these spaces use

 

Image: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

 Whatcom Local Food Campus

The Whatcom Community Foundation invests in activities and organizations that improve the ability of people to help themselves, increase connections among people, and take cooperative approaches to community issues. WCF is exploring the development of a local food campus on a waterfront property that would become a multi-tenant site, anchored by a school district commissary. The goal is to strengthen Whatcom County’s local food system by promoting health equity, forging tangible strategic connections between food production organizations, and helping farmers connect with institutional markets. NVA developed the business case for this ambitious project and continues to support its development. (2021)