Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Recession Food

The economic downturn has affected the food business -- I've read about a bubble in restaurants that's now being shaken out, I'm aware that Whole Foods and other upscale high-priced food sources are losing business, and so on.

Today's L.A.Times today wrote up another kind of recession business: Where culinary dreams take shape, The business in question here is a commercial kitchen for rent, mainly to start-ups who can't fund their own facility. In L.A. only food prepared in a certified kitchen is legal for sale, so such a place is all the more desireable:
There are dozens of stories behind the bowls and stoves and recipes at Chef's Kitchens, an incubator for food businesses. Stories of people shedding careers or adjusting to new and unexpected challenges. People with a dream and a cleverly decorated cookie or a family tamale recipe or the goal of owning a restaurant.
In these bad times, the Chef's Kitchen owners are able to make money from people who are looking for a way to make money -- aspiring caterers, wannabe restaurant owners, would-be farmers' market sellers, hopeful suppliers to Whole Foods, etc. The optimistic kitchen renters probably manage to pay the rent as they go along, so the profits of the incubator don't require that the budding chefs' endeavors succeed.

Seems as if supporting peoples' hopes for success -- realistic or not -- leads to one of the only growth industries as people lose jobs, investments and real estate go bad, and so on. I admire the entrepreneurs who founded this business, as it's really completely honest, unlike many businesses that in fact prey on the newly desperate, or offer them unrealistic advice and unfounded optimism.

As the owner says: "You really need to not just be a good cook, but a good businessperson. ... People who think they are going to jump in and cook a few chocolate chip cookies and make a living at it are probably setting themselves up for failure."


~~louise~~ said...

I've been wanting to spend some time finding out how the food business was being affected by the recession. So many places are closing out here in the Hamptons. Sorry to say they didn't make it through the winter or these times.

Thanks for the post and the article Mae.

Mae Travels said...

I've noticed quite a few ways that news stories tell us the food business is hurting. It's hard to tell by direct observation,though. Is Whole Foods really having fewer customers? Maybe it's just the time of day. And so on.