How to Build a Commercial Kitchen in your Garage

Many people dream of starting their own restaurant or bakery and have found a cost-efficient alternative in starting their food-based business at home. There really is no better time to develop your work from home business and this guide will help you create a good-sized commercial kitchen in your garage. This can save you money when it comes to rent and actual building costs but there are lots of rules and regulations to be aware of.

When you build a commercial kitchen in your garage you need to become familiar with the laws and guidelines set out by your state. Understanding the regulations will give you a solid foundation for your new kitchen. You can then create your dream kitchen knowing you are working within the rules.

What Makes a Commercial Kitchen?

A commercial kitchen is a functional space that meets a list of requirements set out by the health department. These requirements include key factors such as cleanliness and safe food handling. Licenses require annual renewal and the local health department inspect and license the kitchens. This is why the local health department is a good place to start when you are considering building your own commercial kitchen.

A commercial kitchen also needs commercial grade equipment, for instance, fridges and freezer units that comply with code requirements. The kitchen must have separate sinks for dishes, mops, hand washing and food preparation areas. 

The design of commercial kitchens is all about workflow. The positioning of appliances, preparation areas, storage areas etc. is decided based on workflow and efficient processes. There are fully kitted and licensed commercial kitchens that are available to rent or lease. This is a good alternative if budget or licensing requirements mean you cannot build a commercial kitchen in your home or garage. 

Cottage Food Operator

Some states now have a cottage food license that allows people to use their unlicensed home kitchen to produce certain foods for sale. This license comes with a lot of restrictions, for example, the types of food made and how the food is sold. There is also a limit on the gross sales allowed under a cottage food operation (in 2021, this increase to $78,000 in Minnesota). 

Cottage food producers need to meet a range of requirements including preparing and selling only non-potentially hazardous food (e.g. baked goods and jams) and labelling their food stating “These products are homemade and not subject to state inspection”.  If you sell more than $5,001 per year the cottage food registration includes a $50 fee. The cottage food license also states the person who makes the food must be the person who delivers it and you can only sell food from a private home, community event, farmers’ market or online, it cannot be wholesaled or shipped. 

This is a good option for small business home bakers or farms that produce their own jams but isn’t a sustainable option for people that want to create a wide range of foods and sell them further afield. 

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Commercial Kitchen In Your Home?

A lot of the costs will depend on several variables based on your kitchen size and the needs of your business. Below are some estimates of the key costs you can expect when you build a commercial kitchen in your home.

  • Food License: $100 to $1,000
  • Business License: $25 to $7,000
  • Permits and insurance: $10,000
  • Kitchen Equipment: $10,000+
  • Room renovation and installation of equipment: $15,000+

Here Are 9 Basic Requirements for Commercial Kitchen at Home:

  • Commercial food license
  • Separate cleaning, sanitizing, and hand wash facilities
  • Storage, food preparation, cooking and cleaning areas
  • Proper ventilation system
  • Fire and safety equipment
  • Appropriate lighting
  • Commercial grade equipment
  • Easily cleanable floor, walls, and ceiling
  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)

These include cleanliness, sanitary operations and maintenance, pest control, equipment storage and handling, water supply, plumbing etc. 

How To Set Up A Commercial Kitchen in your Garage

  1. Check zoning laws
  2. Obtain business license 
  3. Be aware of food license requirements
  4. Design your new kitchen 
  5. Start renovation and building work 
  6. Apply for your food license 

Check Zoning Laws

The first thing to do when setting up a commercial kitchen in your garage is to speak to your local zoning department to ensure you are able to build a commercial kitchen there. There may be some restrictions on this depending on where you live but the zoning department will be able to help explain these to you if they are relevant to your building’s location. 

Obtain Business License

The second thing to do is to speak to your local business license authority. You need to ensure you can obtain a business license in a residential zone. 

Be Aware of Food License Requirements

It is also worth familiarising yourself with the food license requirements that are set out by the local health department. This will help you build a commercial kitchen that will tick all the boxes. 

Design Your New Kitchen

Now you know you can turn your garage into a commercial kitchen and what the kitchen requires to meet the commercial standards, you can begin designing it to make the most of the space. When designing, take into consideration the storage, appliances and facilities you need to include. Remember the design needs to support the efficiency and workflow of a commercial kitchen. To help keep building and installation costs down, think about the location of existing plumbing and pipes.

Start Renovation and Building Work

Once you have designed your kitchen, and checked it suits the requirements of the department of health, you can begin the renovation work. We recommend getting quotes from various suppliers when looking for your new equipment etc. When comparing options don’t forget to check the warranty and shipping/ delivery information too.

The building work may feel like the main part of creating a commercial kitchen but you’ve already done the hard part in your licensing and regulation research. 

Apply For Your Food License

Once the flooring, equipment and everything else is installed you can apply for a commercial food license. The local health department will come and inspect your kitchen and, if it meets the requirements, you will receive a commercial food license. 

Once all of your licenses and permits are in place, you can make food and sell it to the public. Working from home has just got a whole lot better, congratulations on building your new commercial kitchen!

FAQs about Commercial Kitchens 

How to get food license for your home-based kitchen

A commercial food license can be obtained by completing a license application from your local health department.

How much space is needed to build a commercial kitchen in home

Commercial kitchens range from 200 feet up to over 1,300 feet. The amount of space needed depends on many factors including the type of food made and sold. As a guide, the average size of a restaurant’s commercial kitchen is roughly 1000 square feet. In addition, recommendations say a dining establishment has 5 square feet of kitchen space per restaurant seat.

Final Thoughts 

There is so much to think about when you are creating a food business from your home. The devil is in the details so this is a process you do not want to rush. Once you build your commercial kitchen you can use it for years to come so it makes sense to take your time and make sure you meet all the rules and regulations right from the beginning. Research and planning will bring your food business to the commercial level. 

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