When your schedule is maxed out with clients and catered dinners, you may consider moving into a commercial kitchen one or two days a week. There are often plenty of restaurants or community centers (church or fire department kitchens) that are willing to sublet their kitchen to you. They appreciate the additional income and you will appreciate not locking yourself into a lengthy contract.
It is not suggested to START your personal chef business with a commercial kitchen as without a client base to pay for that kitchen, you're doing the hope and pray method of starting a small business. Working in client homes, there is no overhead, so if you don't build your client base from the start, you're not simultaneously losing money with commercial kitchen payments.
It's likely there are going to be only a few choices for your new commercial kitchen space, so you may not have the luxury of being picky. If you do have a variety to choose from, however, you're better off choosing the one closest to your service area and with plenty of space for meal prep and storage. Storage is key!
Do note that just because the restaurant or business you're leasing from has a health department approved kitchen doesn't mean that YOUR business has been approved by the health department. To comply with the law, you must contact the health department to let them know that you plan on using this new space to cook and deliver meals for your own business. They will need to visit the space and physically watch you prepare food in the kitchen, discuss your processes and delivery methods. Every point for potential food safety hazard will be reviewed.
The rented kitchen should have space for you to store meal prep containers and other kitchen equipment not supplied by the rental. You cannot bring your equipment back and forth from your home to the rented space as this is another point of potential food contamination.
What about spices? The rented space should have an area for you to store your spices, vinegars and oils. Again, these items cannot be transported back and forth from your home to the commercial space.
There's a lot to think about when renting a kitchen. It's not just about whether the space has the proper appliances, dishwashing area, and prep space. You'll have to consider storage and refrigeration as well. Is there a specified area where you can store your produce and meat before preparation?
What about a cooling area? Your prepared meals may not be cool enough for transportation immediately, so may need to sit overnight before transport. This is something the health department can help with. The health department really is not an institution to be feared, it's a safety measure to help you prepare and delivery food in a non-contaminated way.
It's wonderful to see perspectives on how others run their personal chef business. If you'd like to share your personal chef journey, I'd be honored to have you as the next guest post.