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Setting up a commercial kitchen at home

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
For quite a while I have been perfecting my recipes; baking and selling my products either from home or at local farmer's markets using a Homestead license in New Hampshire. In my area there is a need for real quality baked goods at many country stores, lunch counters, cafe's, etc. Because of the moisture/ph, etc. my wonderfully moist and often, frosted, products require refrigeration. This bumps me out of the Homestead classification (if I do not sell directly) and into commercial. I have a completely separate in-law apartment that could be converted to a small commercial kitchen. But is this really feasible? I am not getting any help/advice from the bureaucrats at the Bureau of Food Protection in wading through the long list of requirements for a commercial kitchen; prerequisites that often seem redundant and unnecessary for what I want to do—a small scale bakery. Is there anyone out there that has gone through this process in New Hampshire and can offer some advice or consultation?
post #2 of 22
hmhrider, just out of curiosity, where are you in NH? I'm in NH also. I'm wondering if you spoke with another person from the health dept if you wouldn't find more help.
post #3 of 22
Everything you are trying to do, is all based on where you live /namely state, city, county and muncipality law. Zoning law also comes into play. In most states, you cannot operate a commercial food operation from you house or garage. Also insurance is required liability etc.:bounce:
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
Yes, I know all that. It would be lawful if I can make a commercial kitchen in that space. This is what I would like to do. I am looking for someone who has actually done this and knows the pitfalls—what works and what doesn't. This is why I was so specific as to living in New Hampshire.
post #5 of 22
I did what you are talking about but not in New Hampshire.
However it is all a pretty similar process in general even if the specifics vary a little.

If you live in town you will need to talk to the city zoning people and see if you can get a conditional use permit or something like that. If not then you can just drop the idea. If so they can usually tell you who the next person is that you need to talk to. Usually that is the health inspector or someone in the county health dept.

The biggest obstacles are usually plumbing/sewage, which can be a real nightmare. Electrical service/wiring which is usually a little more straightforward. Ventilation/exhaust issues. Walls and floors have to meet certain cleanablility requirements. Lighting has to meet certain specifications and the list gooes on and on. The local food/health inspector can get you information on all of this.

Sinks have to be big enough to submerge the largest thing you will clean in the sink and usually triple basin. So if you have a 60 qt mixing bowl you will need a large sink. Typically a grease trap is required. Lavatory facilites are required as is a another handwashing sink in the production area. You will also need a mop sink. In some cases you can use a laundry type sink as a combo handwashing mop sink. The health dept people can get you all of this information.

Next problem area is product labeling. Understanding what has to be labelled and how it is labelled is really frustrating reading IMO. This information will most likely come from someone at the state level.

Whether this is feasible or not depends on how much work and money you are willing to put into it and what you expect to get back from the work and money invested.
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Yes, I was pretty much aware of most of what you told me. I appreciate you taking the time to provide me with your expertise. It is all good information. The code lists are daunting at best to wade through. I was hoping to find someone that can advise and act as a consultant; to come and look at what I want to do and where I want to do it and give me some realistic advice on doing it—if it is possible at all. I have talked with several different people at the state level and, sad to say, did not get much help at all. They literally said "just follow the requirements." Which is what I want to do but cannot help but think that getting someone involved early on that has experience would be a good investment and not waste time in the long run.
post #7 of 22
Although I have a commercial kitchen, both inspectors I'd dealt with were a great help when I was setting up. There is also a woman over there who was great. Email me and I'll get you those names if you want.

I know NH isn't the most home business friendly, but I'm surprised to find out you're having such a hard time. Someone mentioned water and sewer issues, but I think all you have to do is have your water tested whether it's well or public water. The sewer/septic size depends upon how many meals you'll be serving/seats in your establishment. This doesn't seem to apply to you. I could be wrong.
post #8 of 22
It can indeed be a daunting list to wade through and can be really frustrating to hear the comments of just follow the requirements.

The plumbing issues really are the most tangled mass of confusion to deal with. So much of the plumbing codes are open to interpretation that it often leads to disagreement between the plumbers and the plumbing inspectors, and until they come to agreement nothing moves forward.

My suggestion would be to start with plumbing. If you know a master plumber I would have them come and look at what you propose to do and see if they can determine any problems you might face. For example if you will need a large sink or have a lot of sink openings then you will need larger plumbing supply lines than the standard residential size of 1/2" to 5/8'. Then with all these openings you will need the sewer line capacity and the proper amount of plumbing vents to support that system.

What size equipment will you be using? Floor stand mixers or table top? As odd as it may seem, this will give you an idea of what you are up against with plumbing issues.

You mentioned talking to people at the state level. Have you talked to anyone locally?
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your input. It is appreciated. I understand about the equipment and plumbing issues but really can't address them until I can determine exactly what I must satisfy as to requirements and, more importantly, if that is financially feasible. I only want to set up a commercial kitchen capable of baking items and refrigerating them so they are not considered "hazardous food."
I have not found anyone locally that I can talk to. I started with the state and the one name they gave me was the inspector in the town near me and this person was, to put it simply, not helpful at all. I am talking on this website in the hope that I can find contacts in New Hampshire that know the requirements—having gone through the process—and can offer real life advice.
post #10 of 22
Having gone through this process (albeit in California) and dealing with double talk from the health department and continually changing interpretations of "requirements", the main thing I learned was: I should have hired a contractor with tons of experience with commercial kitchen/restaurant remodels and new builds to consult with me from the beginning. My best advice would be to get in touch with the biggest restaurant equipment supply company in your area, and get a referral from them. Good luck!
post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thank you. That is good advice. New Hampshire is an interesting state to work with— to say the least. I am looking for a consultant.
post #12 of 22
Check with the town clerk where you live to see if the town and zoning codes allow for such a business. Also check with the town council or board of trustees, building inspector, planning and zoning boards to see if they will approve your business. The town clerk will help you navigate this. Make sure to communicate will all of these local entities because, incredulously, they often do not communicate with each other very well. If they will not approve the set up you propose there is really nothing you can do but look into renting a kitchen space.

Do not skip this step!!
If you do, it's very possible that you will spend a bunch of money setting up your kitchen only to have a neighbor inform the town government and then get you shut down.

This, above, is never allowed anywhere. If you wash your hands where you dump your waste and mop water, you can contaminate your hands with dirt and bacteria etc from the residual gunk in the mop sink.

Here are some other basics that apply in just about every state:

You need a triple sink with indirect drains. Indirect drains are very important. You also need a mop sink, hand sink and a separate bathroom that is separately vented. Sometimes a tub in the bathroom can service as a mop sink. If you have a commercial dish washer, you will only need a double sink, but still with an indirect drain.

You will need to purchase commercial grade appliances.

All light fixtures must have protective coverings of some sort so that if a bulb breaks, glass and other particles will not contaminate the food you are producing.

You will need adequate ventilation and a fire suppression system that is approved by your local fire inspector.

Your license fee will depend on whether you have city water/sewer or a well/septic system. The fee for well/septic is more expensive due to the need for testing and monitoring of water quality and the working state of your septic system.

If you are baking to package and sell at farm markets and retail outlets, you will need to be approved by the state department of agriculture. You may find the Dept of Ag a little more helpful. The Dept of Ag usually supervises farm markets, but each market has its own manager and board of directors. Make sure to communicate with these boards before you sink a lot of money into your business. Farm market boards can be ridiculously picky about what you can sell, protective of the vendors that already participate, and have romantic notions about what the words "locally grown and produced" mean. These boards are also unusually blind to what will help their markets grow and thrive.

Good luck, but take some honest advice here. Look into renting time in an already approved kitchen and write a business plan (INCLUDING ALL THE FINANCIALS) before you sink a bunch of money into your scheme. This will show you whether you can actually make money with what you propose and also whether you are cut out for this type of business. It can be great on a small scale, but a burn out when your business grows. Plan ahead for your success and see if you really like doing it in a big way.

Many home bakers are encouraged to open bakery businesses by their friends only to find they do not have the operational aptitude for baking on a larger scale and dealing with the pesky management of capricious clients and suppliers, inventory and cash flow statements.
post #13 of 22

another thing I wish I had known

This might sound obvious, but it wasn't to me! Here we have what they call the Plan Check process, where they approve your plans-- well it took me a long time to submit those because I was teaching myself all the regulations, but in the meantime I was going ahead with aspects of the work based on what improvements my inspector had TOLD me I would have to make to the space. So I was already well started on things when I found out about a whole bunch of new expenses. Their answer (understandable in retrospect) when I freaked out was that I shouldn't have started anything until I had my plans approved. I thought I could just trust that I could go on what they said to me, but that was before I knew that different people in the department at different levels of the hierarchy had different interpretations of the code-- that never occurred to me! Amazing but true. Once you have your plan back with their stamp on it, they can't go back on it though.
That's my 4 cents! Hope it helps :)
post #14 of 22
I read your reply about looking for commercial space to rent. I have recently started a cake business and am having trouble finding a space to bake out of. Since I live in NJ I cannot bake anything out of my house, garage etc. It is extremely frustrating to not be able to sell my products simply because I cannot find anywhere to bake except for my home. (which I am not allowed to do). Of course I would like to see how much I can sell before going out there and renovating space etc.
Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
post #15 of 22
My advice would be to call around to all the caterers in your area and see if they would be willing to rent you time in their kitchen, like early in the week when they might not be busy. Especially these days, there's got to be someone who would be open to making some passive income. That way you could dip your toe in without a major investment. Unfortunately renovating any kind of space into a commercial kitchen is amazingly expensive-- as an example, I just got a plumbing bid on a commercial space, a pretty straightforward job, but it was still 13,000-15,000 (granted Santa Barbara is very expensive, but still). Just for the plumbing. So definitely be certain you can support yourself before you jump in. Good luck!
post #16 of 22
Thanks for the advice.
post #17 of 22
Hi guys

I would like to bring this topic up again as it is of interest to me.

I am considering renting retail space but would like to consider starting off in my basement.

I would like to start a delivery/wholesale bread shop in my basement. We would only make bread, and only use flour, water, salt and yeast and therefore only be a Type I or Type II risk (in NJ, this means very low risk). Also no grease trap should be required, since we don't use any fat. I am aware of the requirement of a 3 bin sink + hand wash sink + mop sink. For the gas ovens, I think we can do a draft vent and go through the wall and up the side of the house with an external Class A chimney. I think if we do this we don't really NEED a hood. I did not even think of the requirements for bigger water lines or sewer lines. :eek:

I am in NJ, and my basement is not physically detached from my house. This may be the end of this discussion right here. I am waiting to hear back from the health dept (perhaps this is more of a zoning issue but I think health would probably know the answer equally?).

What is an indirect drain???
post #18 of 22
see: State cottage laws

posted / maintained by a member here.

indirect drain is one where there is a vertical air gap in the pipes - ie the drain simply "dumps in air" and there's some arrangement to "catch" the outfall and route it to the sewer. prevents backups, etc.....
post #19 of 22
I have 2 kitchens, one for style, other is like a compact restaurant kitchen, I couldn't live without my mini restaurant
Never judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes, because by then he'll be a mile away and barefoot
Never judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes, because by then he'll be a mile away and barefoot
post #20 of 22

I also have 2 kitchens. One is a large gourmet kitchen that was professionally done, while the other is more for quick dishes that don't make as much time to prep. For example, if I want to throw a roast in the oven for 2 hours, I use the "micro-kitchen". 

post #21 of 22

  If you want to start your own business maybe this is the business you should be in.(especially if your going to do all the work and investing much $) A comfortable living is possible from people who dream of selling their products to big chain stores, and yes you will need to invest a fortune in all the right equipment which is why there are bakery equipment auctions. (a whole other subject) There may be something like Kitchentown in your area. I will agree ---a local restaurant supply business person (caterers too) who has been in the business for decades, knows all the local food business rules/regulations.  There are still grey areas that even the local health dept. will admit exist such as  conflicting state, city and federal rules.

post #22 of 22

I know its been a few years since you've made this post. but I am in the same seat you were in on '09 and would like your advice as to what were your results. I'm in Texas but the rules and regulations are very similar.I am thinking of buying a Duplex and turning the other side into a commercial kitchen. 

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