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Kitchen incubators are increasingly popular but unlike any other kind of program. Client companies stay longer before graduating, and the distinction between incubation and rental space can sometimes become blurred. Kitchen incubation programs can build revenue streams by partnering with educational institutions or expanding into every aspect of food production. But adding a food incubation program is not to be undertaken lightly.

Kitchen incubators help clients avoid heartache and heartburn

by Dennis E. Powell

June/July 2012

NBIA ReviewKitchen incubation programs are as varied as food itself and sometimes, it seems, just as popular. They include the mentoring of caterers, restaurant owners, specialty food wholesalers and retailers, even street food cart and food truck owners.

Clients vary from people who want to make and sell their grandmother’s favorite cookies and rolls but who have outgrown their home kitchens to those who make wine, tortilla chips and salad dressing. They include many makers of barbecue sauce and salsa and cheese repackagers; people who make products from regional specialty foods that are then shipped all over the country; and people from other lands who want to capitalize on local tastes for their native dishes.

There are a few things food incubators have in common, though. They face regulatory and sanitary laws and certifications beyond those encountered in most incubation programs. Most face equipment costs associated with large commercial kitchens, as well as maintaining inspection, certification and licensing. And many have more flexible schedules for client graduation than do programs that serve less capital-intensive industries.

“It seems that everyone has a recipe for success, some recipe that they picked up somewhere or that came down through the family,” says Giles McDaniel, executive director of Shoals Entrepreneurial Center, a mixed-use incubator in Florence, Ala. “There’s a Food Channel on television. There’s no biotech channel. If there were, everybody would probably come around with Grandma’s favorite cold remedy.”

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Keywords: kitchen incubator, special focus incubator, self-sustainability, specialized equipment /facilities

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