If you are already a big restaurant, or an entrepreneur with big food ambitions, there are plenty of commercial spaces you can rent to help build your edible business. But if you’re just someone who wants to experiment with cooking on big commercial appliances, but you’re stuck in a studio apartment-sized space, Tinker Kitchen is probably more for you.
Based in San Francisco’s Mission District and opening in just a few weeks, Tinker Kitchen is a maker space that food enthusiasts can rent. It’s 1,700 sq. feet of high-end cooking equipment and dining space with industrial sized appliances (oven, wok, fryer, etc.), highly specific equipment like pasta extruders and ice cream makers, and plenty of dining space if you want to throw a private dinner party for your friends or teach a class on some cooking technique.
Just don’t try to make a business out of it. “We are aimed at people who usually wouldn’t step into a commercial kitchen,” Tinker Kitchen creator Dan Mills told me, “We’re not here to produce food to sell.” He sees Tinker Kitchen as a venue for people experiment with food in ways they can’t at home, “It’s food for personal enrichment,” he said.
Mills, who previously worked in software development and even did a stint at a sous vide food pouch delivery startup back in 2014, has been building Tinker Kitchen for two years. He thought the undertaking would be easy, but the project has been beset by issues with contractors, navigating the many city permits needed to build such a place and getting the enough power and gas directed to the space.
Right now, Mills is awaiting one last permit, after which he expects to open Tinker Kitchen next month on September 1. People can get a monthly membership for $125 a month at launch (going up to $150 thereafter), or a day pass for $30 a day (going up to $40). Mills said the space will also make money by hosting events and classes. The entire space will hold roughly 46 people, and the kitchen area can have about 20 cooks working at the same time.
Tinker Kitchen is funded by Mills as well as friends and family. The company recently launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $20,000 and surpassing its $15,000 goal. Mills says the campaign was to help catalyze the community (which has been waiting for two years) and provide resources to get even more specialized equipment.
Going after the enthusiast instead of the commercial audience is a smart play for Tinker Kitchen. There’s lots of competition in the shared commercial kitchen space from the likes of The Food Corridor, Kitchen United and Pilotworks, which just shut down two of its locations. Being in San Francisco also seems like a natural fit for Tinker Kitchen as the town is filled with affluent people who love gadgets and food.
With Tinker Kitchen launching in just a few weeks, we’ll see if Mills can build a business by letting others experiment.