Reverie Coffee Roasters has repurposed the large commercial kitchen in its Wichita, Kansas, location into an incubator kitchen for local food entrepreneurs.
New companies lacking the capital to operate their own kitchens yet seeking to scale up commercially can now rent time inside what the company has named the Founders Creative Kitchen.
While requiring some operational finesse, the move has provided an additional source of revenue for Reverie during the pandemic-related downturn.
The facility includes a complete commercial kitchen as well as limited dry and refrigerated storage space. While Reverie already has both Food Packaging (FP) and Food Establishment (FE) licenses through the Kansas Department of Agriculture for its own production purposes, now each business that works in the space must also carry its own licenses.
“If the operator doesn’t know the process, my experience comes in handy,” Reverie Owner Andrew Gough told Daily Coffee News. “We have a shared objective: get licensed. I can provide guidance to help them be prepared for what to expect in an initial and routine inspection.”
Gough said that so far they have a 100% success rate for incoming businesses where inspections and licensing is concerned. Meanwhile, sharing the space and available resources is an ongoing game of Tetris.
“For example, we have limited storage because of our own bakery’s needs,” said Gough. “But when we see what a business actually needs for storage after they work in a new kitchen for a few days, we are all more than willing to make it work together. You just don’t know what you need until you know it. We are new at this, as are every one of our new tenants. We all agree that there’s a learning curve to the entire process.”
Reverie’s flagship location in downtown Wichita opened in January 2018. It includes a beautiful coffee bar, an onsite roastery and a generous commercial kitchen that became the home of Founders Bakery, a “cousin company” launched under the same roof. Reverie upgraded from its Primo PRI-135 roaster to a Loring S15 Falcon upon moving its roasting operation into the new location.
Prior to COVID-19, Reverie was offering fresh daily baked goods as part of a breakfast/lunch menu consisting of sandwiches created with fresh roasted meats and veggies, house-made pickles, sauces and jams, and more. The one kitchen also supported the limited food program at Reverie’s second location at the Advanced Learning Library, as well as its catering business.
And then came COVID-19.
“We unraveled our kitchen operation into thin air until we reopened for carryout three months later as a bakery-only concept,” Gough said. “With limited sales, we were forced to rethink our approach.”
Of the 26 weekly 4-hour blocks available to clients at the Founders Creative Kitchen, 12 have been reserved by five businesses so far, including a wholesale pasta company, a mobile pizza truck and a Japanese bakery.
Said Gough, “Because we are helping businesses accomplish something that just a few weeks ago seemed impossible to do alone, we have really discovered a shared sense of camaraderie among each other and a willingness to be flexible as we all undergo changes.”
As local culinary startups grow from within the shared kitchen, Reverie now has ample room to grow its coffee business.
“We’re still thinking outside the box,” said Gough. “The success of our cafe over the years has always out-shined the growth of our wholesale business. So, with COVID-19 dramatically slowing our cafe sales, the wholesale/commercial coffee sales has seen both strong growth and new customers as an overall percentage of our business sales. We have the most capacity to grow in the roasting operation. We’ve always known this. 2020 has become the biggest year of growth for the roasting operation.”