How to be Profitable with a Ghost or Commissary Kitchen – Food Trucks & Satellite Kitchens

Over the past few decades, ghost kitchens and food trucks have exploded in popularity because they are an excellent opportunity for chefs to open their own restaurant without having the huge investment and responsibility of a lease.  Renting commercial space can be a great way to have the space you need for storage and food prep, while not taking on too many expenses.  This can also be a viable option for restaurants to centralize their production and save on lease costs by having small units spread out across the city.

What Are Commissary Kitchens?

Commissary kitchens are established commercial kitchens where foodservice providers can go to prepare and store their food. Some commissary kitchens cater specifically to food trucks and mobile food businesses, but others may be businesses that just rent out their kitchen space for some extra income.  The growth in Vancouver is of the former; certified, food-safe kitchens that allow you to rent by the day, hour, week or month, based on your needs.

The Pros of Using a Commissary Kitchen

  • Commissary kitchens come fully equipped, helping to reduce the high costs of equipment
  • Commissary kitchens are convenient. They provide chefs with plenty of space to spread out, prep and plan
  • Offer an affordable place to practice and refine new recipes, test new menu items
  • More options with more equipment for food prep for your food truck, ghost kitchen business or for your multiple locations
  • Renting a commissary kitchen is cheaper in the short term than buying a brick-and-mortar space
  • Collaboration with other brands, best-practice sharing and building your brand and network
  • Location: If you have multiple food trucks or carts, or even multiple locations. a commissary kitchen can provide a central location where you can prep all of your food and then divide it for each location or truck.  When looking for a commissary kitchen, it’s important to note its location in relation to your customers and its proximity to highways and main roads.
  • Amenities: Some commissary kitchens will provide special amenities for your food truck, such as water and grease disposal, which are essential for meeting health code regulations. When looking at renting commissary kitchen space, be sure to check what amenities are and aren’t included.
  • Equipment: Food trucks have limited space, but commissary kitchens have access to a variety of commercial equipment. But, if your food truck needs specialized equipment like waffle makers, smokers, or woks, make sure the kitchen has what you need before signing a contract.  Also, with storefront restaurants you can have a much smaller kitchen and less costly equipment in your space by centrally producing items and having them distributed to each location
  • Consistency; A central kitchen helps you control the product quality and consistency of recipes.  Consistent flavors and portion sizes help with food cost and customer satisfaction.
  • Parking: Commissary kitchens that offer overnight parking are very valuable, especially in big cities where parking is scarce or expensive. If the kitchen does offer parking, check to see if the parking is covered or open and how secure it is.
  • Storage: Space is a big concern in food trucks, so one of the questions you should ask before deciding on a commissary kitchen is how much storage space you get, including refrigerated space. This is especially critical when looking for a shared kitchen space, because the limited storage space is split among several different parties.


Potential Downsides of Using Commissary Kitchens

Although using commissary kitchens may be convenient for some businesses, they may not be a viable option for every food truck or small storefront operation. Here are some potential downsides of using commissary kitchens:

  • Cost: While commissary kitchens offer short term savings, they may not be an economical long-term investment. Commissary kitchen rates depend on the location, but costs can range between $275 – $1950 per month and costs can add up over time.
  • Scheduling Conflicts: When sharing a commissary kitchen with other businesses, you’ll have to change your schedules to make sure everyone gets equal access. And while you may have equal use of the space, it could be at an inconvenient time, like early in the morning or late at night, which won’t work with everyone’s schedule.
  • Inconvenient Location: Many commissary kitchens will choose locations outside the city center or in the suburbs because real estate is cheaper and they can afford a larger space. While this will drive down the rental costs, it will also mean more money spent on gas and more time wasted in transit from the kitchen to your customers.  Logistics can get in the way of quality and add to extra expenses and time lost.

Renting a Commercial Kitchen

When considering whether renting a commercial kitchen is the right choice for your business, consider how much space and time you will be spending in the shared space. If it is realistic for you to share the commercial space without becoming crammed, renting a kitchen might be the right choice.

It is usually cheaper to rent kitchen space based on how many times a month or week you will be using it. Renting by the hour can be the most expensive option and might not be cost-effective for your foodservice business.

Always consider the future, and outline how much revenue you will be making per month. If you are outgrowing the space, it may be time to invest in your own kitchen and try taking on a lease of your own.


Different Types of Commissary Kitchens

There are several different types of commissary kitchens to choose from, so you can find one that matches your needs and price point. Here are the four major types of commissary kitchens:

  1. Shared Commercial Kitchen:These kitchens are leased out to multiple food trucks, caterers, and pop-up chefs at once. Renters are typically assigned storage space and time slots when they can use the kitchen. Additionally, since the space is shared, rent is also shared, making this the most affordable option.
  2. Private Commercial Kitchen:In a private kitchen, you take on the whole lease yourself, meaning you have full access and don’t need to share the space with anyone else. On the other hand, though, renting a private commissary kitchen is much more expensive, and may not be an attainable option for small or new food trucks.
    • These are an excellent option for businesses with multiple food trucks or locations, because you can use them as a central hub to prepare all your food before sending your trucks out for the day. You also won’t have to worry about the kitchen being cluttered with equipment and ingredients you don’t need.
  3. Renting a Restaurant’s Kitchen:Another option is to rent a restaurant’s kitchen during their off hours. This is a good compromise between a shared and private kitchen space, because you get the entire space to yourself, but the cost won’t be as high as renting your own kitchen. Plus, because the restaurant hours are set, you know exactly when you can use the kitchen.  The downfall here is you are generally going to have to work very early or really late shifts, depending on the hours of the restaurant and when the staff are there to prepared.


Overall, choosing the best option for your foodservice business takes a solid feasibility study and a comprehensive business plan.  Without the proper plans, understanding all your expenses and having a realistic projection of your sales – your business will struggle.  Let us help you save time and money with our expert consultants.  We have over 25 years in the industry throughout British Columbia.


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