Food Safety Permits
Food preparation is regulated on a state-by-state and city-by-city basis, but it is illegal to prepare and cook food at your private residence for public consumption anywhere in the U.S. because of the inability of private residences to obtain food safety permits.
Contact your local health department and your State Department of Agriculture for more information.
What is a Commissary?
Commissaries, or commercial kitchens, are what most fledgling restaurants like food trucks use to prepare food. This is a much more financially viable option than buying the space, kitchen appliances, and other equipment to fulfill all of your food preparation needs. Some cities, such as Chicago, have laws against preparation and cooking directly on a food truck and all that activity must be done at a commissary-type location.
At commissaries, you can rent kitchen space by the hour at a range of prices depending upon location and amenities available. Depending on the commissary, you can rent time directly on their website, by calling in, or visiting the location in person.
Renting a Commissary
Renting out a commissary primarily for use of their kitchen is very reasonable and usually runs between $5 and $20 per hour depending on the time of day and hours per week you need to use the kitchen. For most commissary kitchens, reserving space during “peak” or normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) are the most costly. However these rates are usually discounted the more hours you reserve per week.
Some commissaries will let you park your food truck in their lot and use services such as water, electricity for plugging in your fridge at night, ice for cooling drinks, waste disposal and, of course, the rent for your parking space. Fees vary, but are usually around $1,000 per month.
There are many all-inclusive commissaries that will even let you set up your permanent address at their location, provide website design services, marketing assistance, administrative management, and even product testing on-site. This type of full-service commissary basically acts as a home base for your food truck and cost between $20 and $25 an hour.
See a list of Commercial Kitchens for Rent by state.
See the full CW Startup Guide, which walks you through each step of starting your business.