Expert Interview – Sweet Jo’s

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Joanna Karlinsky is a true expert when it comes to the food business in SF! She has worked under very famous head chefs, she has owned successful restaurant/bar businesses and today she is a consultant/chef/caterer also involved in the pop-up scene. Her experience in this environment (and yes! experience is a +) is remarkable and she was kind enough to sit down with me and share some of her thoughts with her contagious enthusiasm.

Here are some of her inputs:

  • First of all, she completely agreed that there is scarcity in commercial kitchens. She is actually working on a project similar to our previous idea… retail location with commercial kitchens and kiosk to let chefs make and sell their concept to the public. Concept = a special dish, a special product that can help launch these chefs.
  • 25$/hr is the average cost of renting a commercial kitchen…. too much!

             Biggest Issues with our idea:

  • 1) People STEAL, especially in the food business –> Need to find a way to make sure they won’t steal from your kitchens
  • 2) STORAGE is a key component for chefs. If you have storage you will make life a lot easier for chefs. It is illegal for chefs to store prepared food in their house and then sell it
  • 3) The LIABILITY INSURANCE of a Commercial Kitchen should cover the chefs that work in that kitchens. Chefs should not have to also provide their own additional insurance (~$300/night)…. unnecessary if covered by the general liability of the Commercial Kitchens. This is a big issue at The Window (Joanna has done meals there)
  • 4) MANAGER: you will need someone to manage the chefs. Chefs are hard to deal with and you will need the right person to communicate effectively with them
  • 5) How many people will be allowed to help the chefs cook? Will there be a LIMIT due to space limitations? Important factor to provide to chefs

Joanna could also be of great help in the future if the project proceeds as we expect. She offered to help us in the future to find chefs, to learn how to deal with them and to help the business grow.

Ultimately, our business idea using under-utilized commercial kitchens could connect with her brick-and-mortar idea to help chefs everywhere grow their CONCEPTS.

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Expert Interview- Melissa Furano

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Melissa is a very popular chef in the San Francisco area working various types of jobs: from caterer to personal chef. She has studied at culinary school and always wanted to do “her own thing”, away from restaurant jobs, so she fits the persona of our customer perfectly. Here are some of her advices:

  • As a chef, when I rent/use a commercial kitchen I look for FLEXIBILITY with what I can do and the times I can work. I like to have access to a commercial kitchens when I need it so that I don’t have to change completely my schedule around it.
  • Also it would be great to have a DISHWASHER, KITCHEN TOWELS and UP-TO-DATE EQUIPMENT.
  • To legally sell my food I need a business license, liability insurance and food handling license. All three of these documents are very easy to obtain and you should probably make sure that all the chefs in your system have all three. The liability insurance is the only thing that could block occasional chefs to use your service… it costs around $700 per year
  • I would like your website to publicize the chefs’ products/events. In the cooking world, the more exposure a chef can get, the better it is. There is never too much of it, and I would probably pay a couple of extra dollars to have my event/food on your website
  • ADVICE: go to Culinary schools. Get people interested there. A lot of people that I knew when I was in culinary school, left the business because they didn’t want to work in restaurants, yet they found it very hard to successfully have their own business.
  • ADVICE 2: to get chefs interested in your service, use incentives (e.g. if you are one of the first 50 chefs to sign up with us you will get X amount of free hours of commercial kitchens)

Lunch at The Window talking to Soup Junkie

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The Window is a really interesting business: it is the side of a retail space currently under construction that will soon host The Coffee Bar, which is a restaurant/bar that serves coffee drinks, sandwiches and other light meals.

The commercial kitchen is already finished and is hosting different “Pop-up” chefs to go, make their food and sell it through a window. The food today from Soup Junkie was great. $10 for a lot of food and also it was just nice to meet the chef personally and to hear how he has learned how to cook from his Vietnamese family.

Soup Junkie was kind enough to give us some inputs:

  • scarcity of commercial kitchen! yes it is true!
  • Location is key for commercial kitchen. I will be especially interest in your business if it is somewhere in the mission or in the Hayes valley
  • I can make a max of 150 meals in 4 hours of work
  • I know about 30-40 chefs in SF that are “pop-up” chefs as me
  • Dining space is important as well. So if you have a commercial kitchen with a dining space as well it would be even better.
  • Dining space doesn’t need to be super nice. People know what pop-restaurant are not going to be fancy, they come for the chef and the food anyway

Soup Junkie was also kind enough to put us in contact with those 30-40 other chefs that have a similar passion to his.

Interwiews at Cookery, a commercial kitchen in Berkeley

Cookery is the first result that comes up if you google “commercial kitchens berkeley”. It is a warehouse with available commercial kitchen space for chefs to rent.

Katia, owner of the kitchen, caterer.

  • The kitchen can have 6 “companies” cooking at the same time.
  • Her main clients are caterers
  • There are a lot more chefs that commercial kitchens available so she does not have any problems finding customers
  • She rents only to regular clients that she can trust.
  • One of her clients rents a table permanently, others rent it for a day, and occasionally just a couple of hours.
  • Each chef brings its own ingredients. The kitchen has space to store ingredients, in open space so it works on a trust basis. She does not provide anything, not even salt or oil
  • Cleaning is made by chefs
  • Restaurants who rent their kitchen usually do not have the appropriate insurance
  • Each company serving food must have a “safe server” certificate. The certificate can be obtained after a series of classes you can take online.
  • She is not liable if somebody gets sick because of something cooked in her kitchen space by somebody else

Josh, helping out Katia. Cooks in his spare time

  • There aren’t many commercial kitchens available, and young chefs would love to have other places to cook
  • The website has to be easy to use

 

Expert Interview – Gianni Mola

 

 

Gianni is a lawyer with a passion for food. He has had a restaurant in the 80’s and is now following this passion with different activities around San Francisco. He has done cooking classes, gastronomical tours for the best italian restaurants of the city and even videos how to cook the most famous italian recipes. He is a true food entrepreneur and he is looking to make this hobby in more than just that. Here are some take from my interview with him:

 

  • Commercial kitchens are hard to find. In the past I have used other restaurants’ commercial kitchens and the commercial kitchen at the Italian Athletic Club in North Beach. However, I always need to give a big share of my revenues to the Athletic Club and restaurants. With Restaurants it is even worst because they get part of the recognition as well.
  • I would love to be able to have a commercial kitchen that doesn’t tie me to a restaurant, it would be much better to create my brand
  • I have done cooking classes at Cookhouse in SF. They let you rent out their show room, and they are ALWAYS full. There is a lot of demand to rent space for different food activities.
  • I am looking to expand my business because of how popular our videos have been. I am thinking about making non-perishable products, using the brand that I am slowly creating through those videos. I would love to rent out commercial kitchens not too far from North Beach where I can prepare these goods and then sell them or deliver them to existing retail locations. Please let me know if your business idea becomes a reality
  • Check out Market Place in North beach. It used to be a big market with a beautiful commercial kitchen that is going out of business. Would be an amazing place to rent out.

 

 

Interview with Alice, young chef

Alice is a  young chef who worked in restaurants and bakeries.

  • There is a scarcity of commercial kitchens to cook from. Some chefs cook from kitchens of restaurants owned by friends
  • There are legal issues cooking in somebody else’s commrcial kitchen
  • Chefs who have foodtrucks are chefs who want to start a business but cannot afford a restaurant, so they should be interested in our business and she thinks we should talk to them.
  • She would use our platform if the website was very easy to use, and thinks her friends would do the same
  • It is not a problem to cook meals several hours before serving them if no cream or specific ingredients are used. If those ingredients are involved we need to think of refrigeration
  • Every trained chef is supposed to know the safety rules regarding healthiness of serving food. However from her experience a lot of cooks do not always apply them and just hope nothing bad will happen
  • In addition to renting the kitchen, she would be interesting in being able to sell what she cooks.

Expert Interview – Susan Flynn

 

 

 

Susan Flynn is the founder of fourstartchefs.com, which is a company that places professional, restaurant-trained chefs and cooks in private homes throughout California. Here are the inputs from my interview with her:

 

  • Knowing how to cook doesn’t mean knowing how to teach how to cook
  • chefs will use commercial kitchens if they have to make large quantities
  • big distinction between private and personal chefs. Your business idea should attract a lot of personal chefs, as they usually need a commercial kitchen to prepare a week worth of food for a family.
  • Another customer segment that will like your idea: “entrepreneurial” chefs that work in restaurants and that will use the little free time they have.
  • I would have a retail location in the suburbs instead of the city, because it will be cheaper property and you will have a lot of families interested as consumers. Silicon Valley would be perfect, because they are rich suburbs.
  • You could have pre-made meals sold in multiple corner stores or other retail locations that you don’t own. You would create fresh “signature dishes” that are prepared daily and that can be found in multiple locations around town
  • Focus also on companies looking for good, various alternatives for lunch. I often have small/medium companies in Silicon Valley asking if I know someone that can make lunch for them. You could focus on that niche.

Business Canvas- Week 7

Another week, another step. Our key finding this week was that the problem is not about scarcity of commercial kitchens, the problem is underutilized Commercial Kitchen Space, with no market maker to facilitate booking.

Therefore we have revised our business model to be such facilitator.