Have to make baked goods in commercial kitchen in order to sell online?
February 10, 2009 4:56 PM   Subscribe

I want to sell baked goods via the Internet. Do I have to prepare them in a commercial kitchen, or can I make them at home?
posted by Dansaman to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on your local health department. You most likely need a commercial kitchen and good insurance for it to be 100% legit.
posted by foodgeek at 4:58 PM on February 10, 2009

You will need to check with your local health department. It's likely that your home can be permitted, provided you're able to jump through the various inspection hoops -- which will certainly include surprise inspections.

Here's example info from the Seattle-area agency.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:06 PM on February 10, 2009

It's likely that your home can be permitted

Based on second-hand information from a friend who tried this for his small business, I would amend this to not very likely at all. (Do you have stainless steel counters? Does your kitchen have its own bathroom and outside access for deliveries? Is your neighborhood zoned for commercial use? The requirements vary somewhat by location, but are generally pretty difficult to meet unless the kitchen was specifically designed with commercial use in mind.)
posted by ook at 7:55 PM on February 10, 2009

In case you find you cannot get by with a home kitchen, here is an idea on how to get access to a commercial kitchen more inexpensively:

Seek out large churches in your area and offer to "rent" the kitchen during the week in the evening when the church is more likely to be empty. The larger churches usually will have commercial quality kitchens.
posted by olddogeyes at 8:00 PM on February 10, 2009

What ook says. Chances are extremely slim. Zero if you have a pet.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:29 PM on February 10, 2009

You could luck out and have a kitchen incubator or kitchen rental facility locally. Failing that you'll need to look at anything from a church to a social club (Elks, etc.) that will rent its kitchen or rent space from an existing commercial operation.

That said, many many food businesses (like catering) begin in someone's kitchen. I think it's a matter of flying under the radar at first, mostly. Once you're big enough to be noticed, you'll have cash flow for renting. There's one I read about recently that addressed the transition to commercial production specifically, because she was so successful so quickly. I'll see if I can remember what it was. But I think for the first phase they were able to produce out of her home legally.
posted by dhartung at 9:07 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was in college, there was a cookie baker that rented the pizza place I worked at. She would come in while we were closing, and was cleaning up while we opened.
posted by Marky at 12:19 AM on February 11, 2009

In most western countries I imagine there are pretty strict regulations against it but in reality is it that different to baking a cake for the local school fair day?

I have friends who run a Jam / Preserve business from their home (in Australia) (but they only produce i'd say 50 Jars of Jam a month or two) and sell at the local delicatessen.

The risk is if someone gets sick, and they happen to be of the litigous nature. You can't get insurance if you dont' meet the standards so you coudl end up in a bit of trouble.
posted by mary8nne at 2:55 AM on February 11, 2009

When I took the Illinois Food Service Sanitation course, there were ways to do this that weren't as onerous as having a separate bathroom or separate delivery areas. I don't know many commercial kitchens that have that...

The upshot was that the Critical Control Points had to be within specifications. They often don't specify materials, but the performance of the materials. Non porous surfaces. Cooking equipment that doesn't have corners or voids that are uncleanable. Refrigeration with thermometers that show that the refrigerator gets to and stays at 32-34 degrees. Freezers that get to zero. Dry storage that is pest-resistant. Sinks that allow you to wash-rinse-sanitize your equipment. Etc.

The important thing is to get a food safety license.
posted by gjc at 5:46 AM on February 11, 2009

That said, many many food businesses (like catering) begin in someone's kitchen. I think it's a matter of flying under the radar at first, mostly.

Having also taken the same or similar food safety class as gjc, I find the above suggestion completely irresponsible. Yes the laws are difficult to bypass, and are somewhat meant to deter you from running a commercial food business from your home. But such requirements are important for a reason, like protecting your "business" so that it can stay open and meet health codes which most people expect when they purchase something to put in their bodies (FOOD).

Be responsible and just rent some kitchen space. The church idea is a good one - also take the time to introduce yourself to area business not only to rent out their space, but network.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 9:57 AM on February 11, 2009

in reality is it that different to baking a cake for the local school fair day?

In most US states and municipalities it is, yes.

And if you're sending food to customers through the US mail, I would guess (not a lawyer or a food services professional myself, though) that you're potentially subject to Federal regulations as well.

I don't know where Dansaman lives, but he needs to be aware of his local regulations and the regulations of the places he'll be shipping food to. I have a vague memory, for instance, that Pennsylvania has particularly draconian laws about food safety, which is why the cookies I buy in my local store (in Massachusetts) that are made a couple of towns over (in Massachusetts) have some kind of Pennsylvania state seal of approval on them.

Good luck, Dansaman!
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:13 PM on February 11, 2009

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