At the Smart Kitchen Summit (SKS), we love to highlight people who are forging new paths in the food world. But for those who are trying to jumpstart their own CPG food business, or scale up production, finding affordable commercial kitchen space can stop their idea in its tracks.
Ashley Colpaart is trying to lower that barrier to entry with The Food Corridor; a platform which connects budding food entrepreneurs with commercial production space. She’ll be speaking about how her startup is harnessing technology to disrupt the specialty food industry at SKS this October in Seattle.
To get you excited, we asked Colpaart a few questions about how she envisions the future of new food businesses, which CPG trends are on the rise, and why she considers her company “the Mindbody of food.” Read the full Q&A below.
This interview has been edited for clarity and content.
Q: How is the Food Corridor unique compared to other shared kitchen startups?
A: The Food Corridor is a tech-enabled platform that lets shared kitchens across the country operate more efficiently and grow more food businesses. Without owning any physical space, The Food Corridor is powering 80+ shared kitchen facilities across the US and Canada. Our network of co-cooking spaces is providing 4000+ chefs, caterers, food trucks, craft food producers, and delivery-only concepts a space to legally produce food and grow their dream business.
Q: You recently launched the app The Kitchen Door — what exactly does it do?
A: At The Food Corridor, our mission is to enable efficiency, growth and innovation in local food. Since our launch, we’ve done this through our kitchen management software that helps kitchen managers better operate all the moving parts of a shared commercial kitchen. This month, we are excited to launch our newest app: The Kitchen Door.
On a daily basis, food businesses contact us searching for a clean, friendly, and stable place to launch and grow their businesses. In response to this demand, our team has built the most comprehensive database of trusted commercial kitchens who have space available to rent.
The Kitchen Door is the go-to place for food entrepreneurs to search and contact an exclusive kitchen space to produce their goods.
Q: You’ve likened The Food Corridor to MindBody — the cloud-based management software for wellness classes — but for shared kitchen space. Why do you make that comparison?
A: Liking The Food Corridor to Mindbody actually led us to secure one of our favorite angel investors. In the early 2000’s his wife encouraged him to invest in a small software company that was helping yoga studios manage and book its yogis. It provides cloud-based business management software for the wellness services industry.
Similarly, The Food Corridor is a cloud-based business management software for the food industry. Our software handles tasks unique to a shared kitchen like hourly bookings, equipment rentals, compliance management, monthly plans, invoicing, and bill payment. The removal of these tasks, which used to be manual, frees up our kitchen owners to focus on increasing their number of renters, incubating clients and providing innovative services and programs.
Q: How do you see the cottage food industry space evolving over the next 5 to 10 years?
A: This may ruffle some people’s feathers, but I’m of the belief that the home kitchen is not equipped for growing a food business, specifically when it comes to scalability and consistency. The commercial kitchen, which is subject to safety standards pertaining to food and energy usage, is an important part of maintaining public health. That said, the cottage industry plays an important role for hobbyists following their passion for food and for budding food entrepreneurs testing recipes and getting direct feedback from consumers.
Like the rise in co-working spaces, I predict a rise in “co-cooking” community-based commercial kitchen spaces. Paying a monthly membership fee to access a commercial kitchen that covers cleaning, water, waste, electricity and equipment repairs definitely takes a lot of stress out of the mix for food producers. With the rise in automation and the total cost of production of professionally-made food, the domestic kitchen may be becoming obsolete. I see co-cooking, community, and shared-use kitchens as the meeting places, gyms, and yoga studios of the future.
Q: What’s one of the most unique/bizarre foods you’ve seen made in one of The Food Corridor’s shared kitchen spaces?
A: Well, we are based in Colorado, so we see our share of marijuana or CBD inspired products — we are at a pretty high elevation after all. Pet foods seems to be super popular (you first-world dogs, you!) and of course, the sustainable and insect protein companies seem to also be making a go at it. I tend to get excited about the “delivery only” and “pop-up restaurant” concepts that we see taking hold.
Oh, and we do collect a list of creative food company names that we share across our team. Our favorites include: Fast and Curryous, Pride Enjoy, Subtle Tea, For Goodness Cakes, and Bruce Tea (to name a few)! There is not a lack of creativity in the food industry. That’s why we like it here.
Thanks, Ashley! If you want to see her speak more about the future of the cottage food industry and commercial kitchens, make sure to get your tickets to the Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle on October 8-9th.