A client called today with a lease issue. She had been renting an old restaurant commissary kitchen for over 15 years. In the beginning, she had a five-year lease, but when it expired, she and the landlord agreed that a month-to-month arrangement was fine; he had no plans for the property, and she figured it was best not to obligate herself for a long term if she didn’t need to. This worked for 10 years until the landlord was approached by a developer, offered a great price, and decided to sell. The developer wanted the land – not the building – so my client had to move.

Lawyers Won’t Help Now

Month to month means exactly that, and even a great lawyer probably would not be able to help here. I know I’ll get plenty of emails from caterers that say that they have had a similar arrangement for decades without a problem, and if that’s true, they’re lucky. If my client would have had a lease, the developer would have been forced to deal with her also, but since she was month-to-month, she got nothing except 30 days to move her business.

Could Be Worse

Corporate drop-off caterers know that while location is important, it isn’t nearly as crucial as a restaurant location. You can deliver from anywhere. It might take 15 minutes longer to get downtown if you have to relocate, but you can adjust. Most of your drop-off customers probably don’t even know where you are located, and, even if they do, I’m sure hardly any have ever visited you at your office.

Now What?

A good lease is one of the most valuable assets you can hold. The longer the better, with an option (your option) to re-new / re-negotiate every three to five years. If you want to live dangerously, that’s up to you. If you do face a quick move, however, here’s how you can keep your business operating:

  • Check real estate ads regularly and always be aware of empty commercial kitchen space.
  • Make a deal with institutions that have kitchens that are rarely used. Churches are an excellent source here.
  • Look for old big independent restaurants. They may be able to lease space to you until you find the proper location.
  • Consider a shared commercial kitchen. There are many nomad caterers who use these facilities as their home.
  • Contact caterers who don’t do what you do. A big wedding caterer may let you use their kitchen since they may have week-day downtime.

Business brings lots of surprises, so again, I suggest that you do everything you can to keep your location situation stable. If you do have a problem, however, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Have a great catering week!

Published by Michael Rosman

Michael Rosman has spent more than three decades in the food industry. He built a $1.8 million a year corporate drop-off catering operation from the ground up in suburban Boston. Throughout his company’s steady growth he kept detailed records of the process. His membership website is a compilation of tips, tools, templates and behind-the-scene trade secrets that he and his team have created over the years.