Kitchen Incubator

Kitchen Incubator - Mixing Bowl w logoWhile you can do just about anything you want to prepare food for yourself and your family, there are A LOT of rules and licenses that you need to follow if you are going to feed others. One of the key requirements is that most food must be prepared in licensed facilities, commonly called Commercial Kitchens.

While there are hundreds of such kitchens in nursing homes, some schools and lots of other places (not counting all restaurants), very few such licensed facilities available to people who want to prepare food using local ingredients.  The ones that are available, such as the new commercial kitchen at Mercado San Augustine, are completely booked by food trucks.

A Kitchen Incubator is the name given to a facility that not only provides access to licensed facilities, but often also provides training, as well as help in developing business and marketing plans. They serve as business incubators for food-related businesses. There are estimated to be at least 150 such business incubators in the country.

The Mixing Bowl in Albuquerque, for example, carefully selects potential businesses and provides them with assistance in developing a business and marketing plan. Once they graduate, the clients can become members for a very small fee and have access to a fully equipped kitchen and storage, as well as ongoing mentoring by fellow Incubators members. In all, the Mixing Bowl has helped over 60 food-related businesses to start in the last 9 years, and 87% are still in business.

A new Kitchen Incubator working group (parallel to the Food Hub working group) is starting on an effort to fix one of the critical bottlenecks holding back the development of a secure local food system. A general meeting of stakeholders is being considered for early in the new year. It would involve potential users, providers of incubator services, and customers.

Members of this group are currently working on gathering more case studies of existing Kitchen Incubators, meeting with several elected officials, and approaching certain UA faculty and the UA Students for Sustainability for research support.