Food entrepreneurs get access to commercial kitchens – The Royal Gazette

Created: Jan 03, 2023 08:00

BEDC’s Shalini Johnstone, center, with Trevor Johnstone and his wife, Maricela, operators of Plant-Based Fuel BDA (Photograph provided)

The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation has launched a program to help food entrepreneurs on the island operate their businesses in fully licensed commercial kitchens.

BEDC said the goal of the Underutilized Commercial Kitchens for Community Users program is to provide interested entrepreneurs with an affordable, quality work environment to support the start-up or expansion of their business and at the same time provide commercial kitchen owners an installation income that they otherwise would not receive.

The initiative has two components: a buddy program that introduces entrepreneurs to commercial kitchen owners, and direct BEDC rentals to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Jamillah Lodge, BEDC’s acting executive director, said the organization regularly receives inquiries from aspiring culinary entrepreneurs seeking information on the availability of commercial kitchens for their businesses.

She said: “With all the inquiries we received, we realized there was an opportunity to support small businesses looking for space.

“We know there are underutilized kitchens around the island in churches and community clubs.

“We know that some licensed kitchens on the island are not being fully utilized.

“So the idea is to connect them with potential entrepreneurs interested in preparing and selling food.”

Once matched, both parties are free to strike a deal.

Three of the matching program kitchens are at St James’s Church in Sandys, One Stop Variety in Pembroke and Midland Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hamilton Parish.

The BEDC plays an even more active role in the second part of the program; it rents space in community kitchens, including at Bethel AME Church near Shelly Bay, and then rents the space out to community users.

William Spriggs, Director of Economic and Cooperative Development at BEDC, is the Underutilized Kitchens Project Manager, supported by Program Manager Shalini Johnstone.

Mr Spriggs said: “Some people don’t need all the equipment of a 24/7 kitchen. They may only need a few hours a week.

He said the program gives entrepreneurs the option to leave a home kitchen or move from a part-time business to a full-time business.

Trevor Johnstone and his wife, Maricela, run Plant-Based Fuel BDA, the foodservice company that provides high-quality, creative plant-based/vegan foods.

In addition to catering, meal planning and personal chef services, the company offers a weekly take-out menu, all prepared in Bethel AME’s kitchen.

Mr Johnstone, the chef and owner, said he started working in the Bethel AME kitchen on July 1 and spent full days there from Monday to Thursday.

He said the program is “good, good, good – I like it”.

Mr. Johnstone added: “I am able to do more in terms of production and production volume. I can do bigger catering jobs because now I have the space to prepare and store food.

The BEDC said all of the kitchens in the program are fully accredited and meet health code standards.

So, in addition to eliminating the need for small businesses to go into debt by purchasing expensive equipment or signing a long-term lease, one of the licensing requirements is also taken care of.

To date, most kitchens in the program are owned by sports clubs and churches, but BEDC is also open to openings of underutilized restaurant kitchens.

Ms Lodge says: ‘Our aim is to identify more kitchens and let people know they are available.’

Potential kitchen owners or tenants are asked to contact BEDC to express their interest in the program.

BEDC’s Jamillah Lodge (Photograph provided)

BEDC’s William Spriggs (Photograph provided)