When The Food Corridor first started, the goal was to fill the gap in what services were available for food entrepreneurs, and the commissary and incubator kitchens trying to serve them. The team worked with people and kitchens in various sectors of the food startup economy, but it didn’t take long to figure out that their specialty would really lie in shared-use kitchens and providing software as a service. Today, The Food Corridor has its sights set on being the leading SaaS and thought leader for shared-use kitchens.
“Early on, we were doing the two-pronged approach,” focusing on both food entrepreneurs and shared-use kitchens, said spokeswoman Rachael Miller. The team realized they couldn’t do everything at once, though, and decided to really focus on the kitchens. “We understand that there’s this massive pain point of lack of support for these shared-use kitchens, and that’s the hole that we’re trying to fill,” she said.
The Food Corridor now has more than 55 kitchens in 28 states on its platform, and through those kitchens, it’s working with more than 900 food businesses. The company has focused on developing tools for shared-use kitchens to become more efficient, such as automated invoicing, scheduling, calendar management, and space or equipment rental management. While software options exist for versions of these needs in other industries—calendar management software for yoga studios, for example—Miller said there were kitchen-specific needs going unaddressed.
Each kitchen is different: Some rent out blenders or meat slicers or shelf space, and most offer a unique combination of these or other assets—and those services each create unique revenue streams. The Food Corridor has created software that can accommodate kitchen-specific goods and services while serving the varying needs of each kitchen. As a result of its software, Miller said, some kitchens have gained an efficiency boost that then enabled them to take on additional clients. The Food Corridor is now partnering with Purdue University to put out a shared-use kitchen toolkit, which it plans to roll out in March.
While The Food Corridor has shifted to focus more on helping the people who run shared-use kitchens rather than the food entrepreneurs directly, it does still try to provide support for both—like connecting food entrepreneurs with shared-use kitchens that could be a good match, for example.
The Food Corridor provides food entrepreneurs with access to “ecosystem services” such as discounts on some types of insurance through the Food Liability Insurance Program, and it’s currently building community features to be able to engage with shared-use kitchen members. For now, Miller said, entrepreneurs are encouraged to join The Network for Food Business Entrepreneurs.
For kitchens, programming is proving to be a valuable source of revenue. Miller said kitchens are increasingly offering copacking services, food safety and sanitation classes, and other types of programming that can generate revenue but also support and benefit the businesses using their spaces.
“For a food entrepreneur trying to figure out how to scale their business, the more programming that shared-use kitchens can offer to entrepreneurs, the more successful they’re going to be,” she said. And the more efficient a kitchen is in using its space, the more services or clients it can offer or accommodate. Some kitchens have even started marketing the products that their client companies are making, said Miller, who cited one shared-use kitchen that put together beautifully arranged gift boxes featuring food products from its client businesses during the holiday shopping season.
Ultimately, The Food Corridor is striving to be “a community-focused business”—Miller noted that, “it's hard to build a business without soul these days"—that supports the various players in this space. Because, as she sees time and again, things that benefit a shared-use kitchen often benefit the entrepreneurs using the kitchen, and vice versa.
“We have our SaaS and that’s our core product,” she said. But the driving question is always, she added, “How do we cultivate community?”