Commercial Kitchen Tech Guide

For the purpose of this guide, a commercial kitchen is a licensed shared-use kitchen or cooking area established to make food for selling purposes.

Before you get started

Conducting a feasibility study and surveying prospective tenants in order to determine the amount and type of demand for the kitchen is a good first step.

Contact a health inspector to discuss your plans

Contact Kristee Morgan at the Tompkins County Health Department to establish a relationship. An early relationship can save you the hassle and cost of having to fix unforeseen problems later on in the process. Talk with Kristee about your liability insurance needs and then contact your insurance company.

Check on planning and zoning regulations

Contact the Tompkins County Department of Planning & Sustainability to see if a commercial kitchen is allowed in the location being considered.

Create a kitchen plan

Having an idea of what products will be created in your kitchen and how many tenants will use the kitchen will determine the equipment and layout that you need. Consider how you can build your kitchen for a wide variety of future tenants. If you might have retail tenants in the future, you will need to provide specific, high-standard equipment for retail tenants. This equipment is not required for wholesale operators, but they can use the same high standard equipment retail operators are required to use. Separate storage spaces for tenant products should be maintained. A kitchen plan must be submitted and approved by the regulating agency before construction begins. Work with the Health Department to determine the state or local regulating agency you need to contact. Be prepared to discuss with inspectors how the kitchen is set up to minimize cross-contamination.

Consider retail versus wholesale regulations

Retail food preparers face different regulatory standards than wholesale food manufacturers. If your facilities are up to retail food preparer standards, then wholesale tenants will also be able to use those facilities. It may be cheaper or easier to build wholesale facilities, but then the variety of potential tenants may be limited. Potential retail tenants include caterers, farmers’ market vendors, food truck operators, or others who prepare ready-to-eat products directly for sale to the public. Another potential interest for retail tenants is the sale of value-added products at farmers’ markets. Value-added products have been processed - like jams or salsas. Unprocessed products, like raw vegetables and berries, are exempt from licensing or kitchen requirement under section 276here. Any finished food product that requires refrigeration is not allowed to be produced as a Home Processor. Some examples of prohibited items are also listed here. Home processors whose residences contain separate segregated facilities for food processing, may apply for licensing under Article 20-C. For more information visit:

Consider who will manage the kitchen

It will be helpful to have a coordinator who can communicate between all kitchen tenants and inspectors to make sure everyone is on the same page, aware of each other’s processes, and know of important issues (storage, cross contamination threats, etc). Coordinators are especially important for managing the kitchen schedule and being a go-to person for problems when a tenant is using the kitchen.