Guest blog contributed by Ashley Colpaart, CEO of The Food Corridor
Shared kitchens are the perfect melting pots for collaboration and offer a host of shared benefits to their members. But sharing a space comes with added security considerations, and this is especially true if you grant 24/7 access to tenants.
You should already have an Operations Manual in place, which details your security arrangements to protect your tenants’ belongings and ensure their safety. This is essential as a preventative measure but also acts as a manual for dealing with situations as they arise.
But what are the other key considerations in keeping your shared kitchen facility safe and secure? Read on for a look at the latest security tech, best practices, tips, and tricks to give you that all-important peace of mind.
The Importance of Investing in Proper Security
Security impacts all aspects of your business. It is vital that your tenants feel safe in your space. They won’t be able to thrive without having trust and reassurance that their stock and their business’ vital intellectual property is safe and secure.
A secure facility is also essential from a food safety perspective. If you don’t know who is coming in and out of the kitchen, you can’t be sure what’s going into the food. If fridges and dry stores are not secure, vermin or malicious actors could be getting in.
Having a reliable entry and tracking system in place gives you peace of mind and can also vastly improve your efficiency. Being able to monitor and manage tenants’ movements remotely means you can be less hands-on and focus your valuable time in other areas of the business.
Overall, the safety and security of your kitchen facility is one of those essential expenses. It may feel hard to cope with the initial outlay, but you’ll be mighty glad you did if something goes wrong. With that in mind, here are our top tips and important considerations to get your shared kitchen safe and secure.
Tips to Keep Your Shared Kitchen Safe and Secure
Mandatory Security Deposits
A common mistake shared kitchen operators make is to be too lenient on taking a security deposit. No matter how good your relationship is with a tenant, you’re running a business and you need to cover yourself.
Make a security deposit mandatory for the duration of membership to make sure you’re covered if they misbehave or suddenly decide to cancel with no notice. You never know if a tenant is going to be a nightmare to manage and a security deposit gives you a little peace of mind just in case.
You may also choose to implement a cleaning deposit or key deposit depending on your situation or stick to one overall security deposit to cover all eventualities.
Comprehensive insurance can be hard to come by for shared kitchen operators due to the nature of the business and the risks involved. Many food producers use the Food Liability Insurance Program (FLIP) for a policy to protect their businesses, but NICK (Network for Incubator and Commissary Kitchens) and members have reported their facilities being declined for various reasons including offering 24/7 access, allowing members to use the kitchen’s equipment, and allowing members of the general public to use the kitchen.
If you can find a solid insurance policy though, it goes without saying that this can offer peace of mind for you and your members. Some of the tech listed below may also help in bringing down the risk and improving your chances of being accepted onto a policy.
Develop Good Local Relationships
One free and easy way to add an extra layer of security is to get friendly with the local cops and your neighbors. It could be as simple as offering a cup of coffee when you see them and inviting them in for a tour of the facility. That way, they know you and the layout and will be better able to assist you should the worst happen.
NICK member Tabitha Vandergriff got to know her local police force with great results. She explains, “We’ve developed a fantastic relationship with our police force in the area. We invited them to host their community engagement event Coffee with a Cop at our facility. Anytime I see an officer just hanging out in our parking lot…I invite them in to ‘see what we’ve done to the place’ and I let them know they’re always welcome to come in for a pot of coffee”
Carry Out a Cost-Benefit Analysis
Depending on the size, function, and budget of your shared kitchen, you will have different security needs. A thorough analysis of your security needs will help you make decisions about the type of security measures to invest in.
It may be that you upgrade over time, or if you have cash available, it might make more sense to get your security features set up from the beginning. The next section covers key security measures and tools to consider investing in. Take the costs and benefits into account and carry out your analysis.
Key Security Measures and Tools to Consider
Entry and Tracking Systems
Controlling access to your facility is one of the most important parts of your security system. A reliable tracking system is important for two reasons.
First, for keeping track of how much your tenants are using the kitchen so that you can accurately bill them. It acts as a back-up accountability check so that if they overstay their scheduled hours or there are any other issues or disputes, you have solid data to resolve them.
Second, in the event of an emergency, like a fire, flood, or break-in, you know who was inside the building at the time which is important both for safety and security reasons.
Entry and tracking systems could be as simple as handing out keys and having a guestbook at the door or could involve key fobs, swipe card systems, or code entry locks.
If you’re really serious about investing in the security of your shared kitchen facility, you might consider smart locks. These systems are more expensive but offer a host of benefits to take the stress out of security.
One of the best options, RemoteLock, offers a cloud-based smart lock management platform that allows you to monitor and control your security system remotely and sends you security alerts and access notifications to keep you updated on the move. In fact, we partnered with RemoteLock to provide a exclusive discount. Contact Sarah Schwieger (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell them The Food Corridor sent you for a discount or use “TFC50” to get the $50 off discount!
Cameras are one of the best security investments you can make. A CCTV system is no longer the huge outlay it used to be, although it is still a significant investment. Assess whether you need a single camera at the point of entry, external cameras around the perimeter, or a full set of indoor and outdoor cameras.
Not only will external cameras deter criminal activity, but they also provide a record of who is using the kitchen to back-up your time tracking and billing. Internal cameras help to keep tenants honest as well as reassuring them that you are taking security seriously.
Apart from acting as a strong deterrent and all the other benefits, a surveillance system will improve your likelihood of getting a decent insurance policy.
Many shared kitchens provide lockable cages for tenants to store ingredients and property. The best examples are lockable cages on wheels that act like a portable pantry that can be wheeled easily into the kitchen.
You may question the effectiveness of an alarm system as a deterrent weighed against the relatively high cost. Systems aren’t cheap, especially if they are connected to emergency services, but installing an alarm system will help you in getting a better price on your insurance policy.
A good lighting system equipped with motion sensors on the outside of the property helps to deter criminals, but it also helps to keep your members feeling safe and secure. If you allow 24/7 access, it is especially helpful for those who arrive back at the facility late at night or early in the morning, like bakers, food truck operators, or outside caterers.
The key areas to keep well-lit are the main entry and exit points, waste disposal areas, delivery bays, and parking lots. Anywhere where security is a concern, and where goods and people may be moving in and out at all hours.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
Security is an unglamorous yet essential investment for your business. When something unexpected happens, you’ll be glad you had the right tools and procedures in place to mitigate the risk to your tenants and your business.
Ultimately, it’s down to you to weigh the security risks versus the costs of the tools and solutions on the market. It’s always best to prepare for the worst and invest as much as you can afford in securing your facility, in order to prevent shelling out for much larger costs in the future, should the worst happen. As the old saying wisely says, “A stitch in time, saves nine.”
The Food Corridor’s shared kitchen management software has a host of tools which help to automate and take the stress out of running your shared kitchen, including help with regulatory compliance, insurance, and tenant tracking and management, the software that takes a lot of the hassle and stress out of keeping your kitchen legal, safe and secure.