A 10,000-square-foot kitchen officially opened last week in Bed-Stuy with the goal of helping food startups make it.
The FoodWorks, located in the old Pfizer building, includes coworking space, cold storage, dishwashing service, a test kitchen, a temperature-controlled room for ice cream and chocolate making, and a baking center, among other amenities. The idea is that food startups would have a place to get started making their product that’s not their kitchen. In the same way that coworking spaces work for software startups and freelancers, FoodWorks is way cheaper for entrepreneurs than renting their own space would be, and way better than working out of founders’ own apartment’s kitchens. It’s a trend we first covered in Washington, D.C.
“On the one hand have this big beautiful shared commissary kitchen in Brooklyn and what we do there is help nascent food entrepreneurs get started,” explained FoodWorks cofounder and CEO Nick Devane, by phone. “At the same time, we’ve got a full software team. We’re like the AWS [Amazon Web Services] of food. We have that infrastructure so people can plug in and get cooking.”
Devane’s idea is to lower every barrier to entry for starting a food business. On the software side, institutional knowledge would be shared with everyone on the platform, things such as how to find distributors to carry their products or professional services to get people to hear about their creations. In the same way that AWS offers entrepreneurs the service of not having to build their own servers, FoodWorks lets companies right into the kind of knowledge and connections it can otherwise take years in the industry to acquire.
“Right now food is quite antiquated when it comes to distributors, power players and facilities,” Devane explained. “We’re physically in Brooklyn but we can be that sort of AngelList for food. It’s digital infrastructure.”
The physical space in the Pfizer building has been operating as Brooklyn FoodWorks, which has been acquired and renamed by Devane and his partner Mike Dee. Together, FoodWorks has been adding beta users so that their platform comes out ready to use. Currently it has more than 50 mentors on it, with expertise in areas like packaging design, web design, video, photography, co-packing, distribution, fundraising and permitting.
It’s a compelling idea. We wonder if more specialized coworking spaces are on the horizon for industries where shared amenities makes sense but traditional coworking spaces don’t suffice. We saw this recently with Study Hall, a space with a focus on freelance journalists, who need to be able to talk on the phone and can’t worry about bothering officemates who need quiet.