How many good ideas have been abandoned and forgotten simply because there was a lack of equipment, money or the right environment to make them happen? Probably far too many. As we all know, the practice (unfortunately) does not only come with a large dose of creativity, commitment and passion, it also poses a number of other obstacles along the way. Gastronomy, in particular, is a field where financial investments and high organizational costs deter many newcomers before their plans really get off the ground and have the chance to blossom and flourish. But there has to be another way, thought the three food entrepreneurs Matthias Kroisz, David Weber and Marko Ertl, and put an exciting idea into practice.
In the 10th district of Vienna, they created their joint project Herd-Open Kitchen in the former Siemens cafeteria building in 2017. This is a professional kitchen for all those who need a kitchen with lots of space and top appliances without having to dig too deep into their wallets. Start-ups as well as established companies can blow off culinary steam, test and develop their business ideas or spice them up, in the truest sense of the word. “With a coworking kitchen, you can rent space without making a big investment,” explains founder Marko Ertl. “And if things don’t work out, you simply cancel the contract. There’s no high risk involved.”
I’ll make my kitchen as I please.
These guys know how difficult it is to find a good kitchen. In 2013, when the three founded Wrapstars, the first food truck in Austria, they had to find one themselves. A catering business must always be registered in a licensed kitchen. At the beginning they didn’t want to build their own, because it would be much more efficient and cheaper to share one with other like-minded people. Herd was based on what are known as commissary kitchens in America, where cooks can use work space and equipment for a rental fee. The growing popularity of such coworking kitchens has evolved over time from several trends: Today, there are an increasing number of self-employed entrepreneurs, more specifications and safety regulations in gastronomy and more followers of the sustainable philosophy of sharing.
The concept here is simple: “We take care of everything except the cooking.” Herd-Open Kitchen is a fully licensed and equipped kitchen. In an area 700 m2 in size there are combi steamers, boiling pots, dishwashers and hotplates, which are currently used by 20 members. The landlords here are the founders, who take care of everything from the electricity bill to cleaning the appliances and pest control. This allows users to fully concentrate on cooking and their products without being distracted by such secondary activities and costs. This saves time – and nerves. No wonder that in big cities like London, New York and Berlin more and more coworking kitchens are springing up. Cooks, catering services, food trucks or bakers are all happy to set up shop there. True alternatives are rare. “For start-ups, for example, it was typical to cook more or less illegally at home.”
For newbies and old hands
Kitchens like Herd are particularly useful for people who want to set up their own business in the catering and food industries. Many facilities even run additional incubation programs. “In the beginning, the most important thing is to get customers and generate your first sales,” says Ertl. In addition, you also don’t have to be as frugal as you would be in your own kitchen. This means newcomers can directly start off using the same equipment as the pros. But why do the latter also like cooking in a coworking space? Established companies are just as happy to receive support, but on a different scale. They have room to grow and can continually adjust their production and capacity utilization without any risk.
Co-working is caring
But what is the biggest advantage for everyone? The community feel, of course. After all, good cooperation is essential in the kitchen, no matter if it’s a team of twenty or a newly formed duo. Although everyone at Herd is responsible for their own ingredients and makes their own dish in the end, coworking makes it possible to exchange ideas, ask questions and get feedback. “A community emerges all on its own,” says the Herd founder, and this creates an ideal working atmosphere. In addition, everyone is familiar with the same problems and pitfalls and can help each other, following the motto: Shared suffering is only half suffering.
First and foremost, the community atmosphere should encourage and motivate. “I think a lot of people have the wrong idea about what it’s like to be a founder,” says Ertl. “Gastronomy remains a tough business, so you have to dig in your heels and push your way through.” The knowledge that they are not alone in this helps. In fact, for many people this type of kitchen is an ideal springboard for their own business ideas. At the end of the day, such offers show that the entire catering industry is like a single big coworking space where people support and encourage each other. Because of this, the plunge into cold water suddenly doesn’t seem so scary anymore, but, on the contrary, really exciting!