For kitchens that are not owner-operated, hiring staff will be one of the most critical initial tasks.
Ideally, you want to hire a kitchen manager or incubation coordinator well before your opening day. Waiting until the last minute can slow your marketing and leasing activities, making it difficult to reach your occupancy and revenue goals on time. Some organizations hire many months, or even years, in advance so the manager can develop services before the kitchen opens and oversee the facility and funding development. It is smart to hire at least a couple months before opening so the manager can develop management systems, engage in marketing, and begin recruitment efforts. If you will be launching incubation services, hiring prior to opening will enable you to offer pre-incubation services to assist entrepreneurs in moving from idea to start-up phases in time for the physical space to open. If staff need time to complete industry training programs (food safety, incubation management, etc.) or establish strong connections with the local community, they may need more time to get up to speed.
Roles and Positions
Staffing levels vary considerably depending on the kitchen size and business model. According to a 2016 survey by American Communities Trust, the most common arrangements are one full-time staff or two to five full-time and part-time staff.1 The survey found that 20% of incubator kitchens had just one full-time employee.2 This vast difference in staffing structure demonstrates there is no singular “right” way to staff your kitchen. The diversity of your kitchen services will dictate how many people you hire and how much they work.
Founders often underestimate the amount of staffing they need for operations and implementation of programs. Kitchens may opt to hire contractors or part-time employees for specific duties, such as marketing, bookkeeping, cleaning, or fundraising in order to reduce the workload on the kitchen manager or the owner-operator.
In general, the kitchen will have an administrator or manager that is either hired or part of the ownership team. The size of your kitchen and the number of programs or services you offer will often dictate how much personnel is needed. Nonprofit kitchens may require additional staff for mission-related activities such as services, outreach, stakeholder engagement, and fundraising.
Below is a list of potential kitchen roles:
- Executive Director
- Kitchen Administrator/Manager
- Administrative Assistant
- Incubation Services Manager
- Program Director/Manager
- Human Resources Manager
- Development/Fundraising Director
- Maintenance Manager
- Facility Manager/Coordinator
- Marketing/Communications Director/Coordinator
- Accounting Specialist
- Procurement Manager
- Operations/Event Manager
- Retail Manager
Kitchen Manager/Administrator Duties
A kitchen administrator is often the very vital, catch-all position for the person who manages day-to-day tasks including:
- Marketing and recruitment
- Billing/financial management
- Special event management
- Technical assistance to members or clients (regulatory compliance, business development, etc.)
- Tracking performance and outcomes
In addition, their facility management duties often include monitoring the following:3
- Standard operating procedures compliance
- Safe food handling procedures
- Cleanliness and sanitation
- Safety and security monitoring
- Cleaning and shared-wares supplies
- Refrigeration temperatures
- Storage management
- Waste management
- Routine maintenance and equipment inspection
- Deep cleaning
Application and Interview Questions
When screening applicants, you will want to focus on questions that give you insight into their experience and capabilities. You might also wish to include icebreaker questions that help build rapport and convey your workplace culture, such as “If you can only have one pizza topping for the rest of your life, what would it be? (cheese is included).”
Here are some example job application questions and interview prompts:
- Have you worked in a shared kitchen before?
- If so, what was your experience like?
- What is your culinary background?
- Do you have any relevant certifications or training? (such as ServSafe)
- Please elaborate on your skill sets related to this position. (Ask specifics related to job description such as, “Have you ever owned or managed a business before?”)
- Tell us about a time you managed conflict in the workplace.
- Why do you want to work here?
Because shared kitchens require a wide array of skill sets to keep the lights on and the doors open, you may find yourself crafting some complex job descriptions. If you need staff to manage multiple duties or programs you will want to seek candidates with a specific set of skills and experiences. Overall, kitchen management requires facility management, food service knowledge, and administrative oversight, not to mention a high level of emotional intelligence to communicate with all types of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Strong ability to communicate effectively is vital for kitchen managers.
In addition to these core management skills, incubation programs generally require candidates with business training and a coaching mindset. Programs focused on serving immigrants and refugees often seek bilingual or multilingual candidates with cultural competency. Passion for your kitchen’s mission should be a consideration, as it helps to build strong team cohesion and create a rewarding workplace culture.
Example job description template:
About your kitchen
Broad job description
- What does this position oversee?
- Does this position manage any employees?
- To whom does this position report?
Position responsibilities (specific)
Experience and skills required
- Work eligibility or visa requirements
- Certifications, if any
- Technical expertise
- Demonstrated previous experience in role for which they are applying
Experience and skills preferred
- Anything that is a “nice to have” or would make a candidate more effective in the role, but is not essential to satisfactorily performing job duties
Expected workload and schedule
- Is this position full-time? Part-time?
- Will it require working hours outside of a traditional 8:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday work day?
- Physical requirements
- Additional perks if appropriate to include, such as admission to kitchen events, flexible remote work time, fitness memberships, transportation passes, etc.
How to apply
- Best channel to send application (email, website form, etc.)
- Should they include a specific email subject line? “Kitchen Manager Position”
- Be clear about the date and time you will no longer accept applications.
Temporary Staff and Consultants
Temporary staffing may be a good solution if there is budget uncertainty, such as if funding is secured only for a limited amount of time. Sometimes it is in everyone’s best interest to hire under temporary conditions. In these circumstances, it is good to discuss the length of contract explicitly at the time of hire and include terms in the contract. Too much reliance on temporary staff can hinder your ability to build institutional knowledge, strong client relationships, and consistent management practices in your kitchen. Aim to balance the need for temporary staff with strong leadership and management systems so you can keep the kitchen running smoothly when there is turnover.
Another option is to hire consultants to act as temporary program managers during the launch phase. This gives the program a strong start from an experienced leader who can manage start-up duties, design effective management systems, and train permanent staff. Facilities that hire permanent staff at the outset sometimes hire consultants to draft operational plans, policies, and procedures. This can help reduce the workload on managers (or owner-managers) allowing them to focus on recruitment and day-to-day management. Hiring a professional to develop policies can be especially beneficial if staff lack experience writing these documents.
1 American Communities Trust. (2016). U.S. Kitchen Incubators: An Industry Update. http://www.econsultsolutions.com/report/
2 American Communities Trust. (2016). U.S. Kitchen Incubators: An Industry Update. http://www.econsultsolutions.com/report/
3 Adapted from the 2017 Report: Shared-use Kitchens: A Policy Landscape Report