The food community was rocked last week when Pilotworks, a startup that provided new food businesses with shared kitchen space, shut down abruptly and without warning, supposedly because they failed to raise enough capital to continue operations. In the Brooklyn location alone, the closure left almost 200 entrepreneurs stranded and scrambling to find a new production facility.
Ever since the news broke, we’ve been putting together a list of alternatives for food businesses in search of kitchen spaces, aided by a community looking to support entrepreneurs during this surprise transition. One of the most comprehensive resources is The Food Corridor (TFC), a startup with a platform where food businesses can book commercial kitchen spaces during their off hours and get support for things like health code compliance and invoice management.
Now, a new transplant is doing something similar in the Bay Area. Cookitoo is an online marketplace for unused, off-hours commercial and cloud kitchen space. Restaurants, catering companies, and private chefs can list their kitchen space for rent on the Cookitoo platform, and food entrepreneurs can surf those listings to find a space that fits their needs. Businesses can search for kitchens based on their availability, equipment, storage, location, and price.
Cookitoo was founded in 2016 in Australia under the name “Sprout,” and the startup set up shop in San Francisco last month. They officially launch in November but already have a few spaces listed on their site.
According to Cookitoo co-founder Caroline Lepron, who I spoke to over the phone, the startup differentiates itself in a few ways from TFC. Firstly, While TFC is a full-stack SaaS model, Cookitoo is more of a straight-up marketplace for kitchens. Cookito also has a slightly different focus. They chiefly list underutilized spaces with commercial kitchens — such as cafés, universities, schools, and churches — that are unused for at least part of the day. TFC mostly lists shared kitchen spots. Cookitoo is also devoting a lot of energy to cultivating cloud kitchens in particular so that new food entrepreneurs can easily expand into delivery.
Cookitoo also provides more details about each space — it lists not only the price per hour of each kitchen, but also all of the equipment and available times for any given space. TFC, on the other hand, prompts you to contact the kitchen directly to get details.
TFC charges participating kitchen spaces $179/month plus 4 percent of all transactions. Cookitoo doesn’t charge anything to list a kitchen on their space, but add a 20% commission on top of each rental booking.
The Pilotworks closure indicates how great a need there is for these sorts of flexible, shared kitchen spaces to nurture new food businesses. TFC and now Cookitoo are necessary tools to help connect budding food entrepreneurs with the space and resources they need to scale.
While Cookitoo is focusing resources on the U.S., Lepron said that they would maintain operations in Australia so as not to leave the roughly 90 kitchens in their network high and dry (cough, cough). They’re in the midst of raising a seed round which they expect to close by the end of this year.