Budding butchers, bakers, and (edible) candlestick makers have another innovative option to provide the vital tools, training, and resources to facilitate movement from startup home food entrepreneurs to the realization of their goals of commercial success.
New York-based Pilotworks (formerly FoodWorks), billed as a “WeWork for food startups,” has received $13 million in expansion capital from Acre Venture Partners, a fund backed by Campbell’s Soup, along with TechStars, a funding and mentoring program. The money will be used for expansion to markets, such as Chicago and Dallas, along with the development of the necessary properties, culinary infrastructure, and staffing.
A company press release reveals the company was founded in 2016 and has since helped more than 250 food and beverage startups get off the ground. Pilotworks says that more than 70% of the businesses it has worked with are women or minority-owned.
“We’re very excited to add so many great strategic partners and continue our work of empowering anyone to start a food business successfully. We will be adding new units: Newark just opened, and Chicago and Dallas are slated to open in December alongside our existing kitchens in Brooklyn, Portland, and Providence, as well as furthering our presence in New York City. We are also excited to continue expanding our services and offerings across the entire food stack,” said Pilotworks CEO and co-founder Nick Devane.
The company’s website says it offers a full range of services that go beyond a mere stove and fridge. Everything from garbage and linen service, to assistance with branding and web design, is available to its members. Companies such as Aida Eats, Mac & Son, BOONBOX, Dank, and Crown Jewel Beverages are veterans of Pilotworks programs.
While the association with WeWork is fine for general identification purposes, it fails to capture the essence of what makes the boom in community commercial kitchens a hot commodity. Pilotworks enters a crowded space that spans options from highly regarded Food Corridor—a community and network of commercial kitchens that offers similar services to Pilotworks in a more federated manner—to individual shared-use kitchen incubators such as Capital Kitchens in Austin. The website Culinary Incubator offers a database and list of 725 shared-use kitchens in the United States.
What looms as a difference-maker for Pilotworks is its association with Campbell’s Soup. The New Jersey-based food and beverage giant could use this network of startup kitchens to find the next great idea to bring in house and take to the global market. That said, Tyson Foods, General Foods, and others also are operating accelerators with the same endgame in mind.
Worth noting is the startup goldrush led by Pilotworks and other similar endeavors focused on major markets that are either population centers (New York, Dallas, Chicago) or food meccas (Portland, Providence). A tour of any farmers market in smaller cities would prove there are some great food-next ideas worth nurturing outside marquee locations.