Food entrepreneurs get access to commercial kitchens

The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation has launched a programme to help the island’s food entrepreneurs to operate their businesses in fully-licensed, commercial kitchens.

The BEDC said the goal of the Underutilised Commercial Kitchens Programme for Community Users is to provide interested entrepreneurs with an affordable, quality work environment to support their business start-up or expansion and at the same time provide commercial kitchen owners with facility income that they would otherwise not receive.

The initiative has two elements – a matching programme that introduces entrepreneurs to commercial kitchen owners, as well as direct rentals by the BEDC to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Jamillah Lodge, acting executive director of the BEDC, said the organisation regularly receives requests from aspiring culinary entrepreneurs seeking information about the availability of commercial kitchens for their ventures.

She said: “With all the requests we received, we realised there was an opportunity to support small businesses looking for space.

“We know there are underutilised kitchens around the island in churches and community clubs.

“We know that some licensed kitchens on the island are not being utilised fully.

“So the idea is to match them with potential entrepreneurs interested in preparing and selling food.”

Once matched, the two parties are free to make a deal.

Three of the kitchens in the matching programme are at St James Church in Sandys, One Stop Variety in Pembroke, and Midland Heights Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Hamilton Parish.

The BEDC takes an even more active role in the second element of the programme; it rents space at community kitchens, including at Bethel AME Church near Shelly Bay, and then rents the space to community users.

William Spriggs, the economic and co-operative development director at BEDC, is the underutilised kitchens project lead, supported by programme manager Shalini Johnstone.

Mr Spriggs said: “Some people don’t need the full trappings of a 24/7 kitchen. They might only need a few hours a week.”

He said the programme gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to move out of a home-based kitchen, or to transition from a part-time to a full-time business.

Trevor Johnstone and his wife, Maricela, run Plant-Based Fuel BDA, the food service business that provides high quality and creative plant-based/vegan food.

In addition to catering, meal planning and personal chef services, the business offers a weekly menu of food for pick-up, all of which is prepared in the kitchen at Bethel AME.

Mr Johnstone, the chef and owner, said he began working out of the Bethel AME kitchen on July 1, and spends full days there from Monday to Thursday.

He said the programme is “good, good, good – I like it”.

Mr Johnstone added: “I am able to do more as far as production, and volume of production. I can do bigger catering jobs because now I have the space to prep and hold food.”

The BEDC said all of the kitchens in the programme are fully licensed and up to health code standards.

So, in addition to eliminating the need for small businesses to take on the debt of purchasing expensive equipment or signing a long-term lease, one of the licensing requirements is taken care of, as well.

To date, most kitchens in the programme belong to sports clubs and churches, but the BEDC is open to overtures from underutilised restaurant kitchens as well.

Ms Lodge says: “Our goal is to identify more kitchens and let people know they are available.”

Kitchen owners or potential tenants are asked to contact the BEDC to register their interest in the programme.

The Royal Gazette