Henry O’Brien describes Newmarket Kitchen as a ‘gym for food businesses’. It’s a great location for food startups to flex their creative muscles and grow.
“The concept is simple, Newmarket Kitchen provides a kitchen space for food startups, caterers and independent chefs,” says O’Brien. “It’s a place where food business startups can come and test their idea and build their business.”
Opened in April 2015 and based in Bray, Co. Wicklow, Newmarket Kitchen has many different membership options to suit food businesses of all sizes and at all stages. Also, if a food startup wants to try out the facility for a day, it can.
“If you have been selling at a farmers’ market, for example,” says O’Brien, “and want to expand, we can help with your idea.”
Ideas and ingredients
“The one thing our members find most useful is the fact they become part of a community here. Often, entrepreneurs find themselves working alone, but at Newmarket, they are in a creative environment where they can ask others for advice, whether that be about packaging, marketing or sales.”
An essential ingredient of becoming a food business is the legal one. “You have to register your business through the HSE. We have an Environmental Health Officer that helps our members. You will also need insurance, and we can provide that through our preferred supplier. We help food businesses grow. It’s like taking the raw ingredients to the final product,” says O’Brien.
Access all day and all night
Members of Newmarket Kitchen also have 24/7 access to the facilities. “The food business is not a nine to five business,” says O’Brien.
While all the companies require preparation space, there’s also the need for large refrigeration space. “That’s one of core functions, to make sure the startups have the facilities they need to make headway. We keep all the services up to top standard as well as ensuring the areas are clean and meet proper hygiene standards.”
A tough competitive playing field
The food business is one of the most competitive there is and O’Brien is in no doubt as to the difficulties involved in breaking into the sector.
“It’s tough. Most startups fail, but then most pick themselves up, pivot and try again. That’s what being in business is all about. If the first thing doesn’t work out, don’t give up, learn and start again. We understand that – the journey of the entrepreneur – and that’s why our flexible approach works. The companies that are with us don’t have to risk large initial outlays. They can quietly and confidently build their idea in a relatively risk-free environment.”
How many food companies have been through the facilities doors?
“Over 50 since April last year, some who are still with us today and others who are more seasonal,” says O’Brien.
“Currently we have 19 food producers (members) using our facility on a day-to-day basis. These range in size and type, from independent chefs baking goods for cafes, makers of prepared healthy meals delivered to gyms, a fermented cabbage (Kimchi) producer, catering companies and everything in between.
“Our goal is to create a ‘cooking community’ where people can come in, use our facility and help each other out where possible. We’ve seen a number of members pass through the Supervalu Food Academy and others who are currently in the process of being listed.”
What’s the typical cost of membership?
“We operate a monthly membership model with rates starting at €450 for off-peak hours (evenings & weekends). The monthly cost varies depending on the producer’s space requirements and times of operation. We also offer dry pantry, fridge and freezer shelf space at an additional monthly charge.”
Any recent success stories you’d like to mention?
“In February 2015 we had a visit by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the run-up to the general election. We’ve also had some positive newspaper features and reviews during the year, including a full page in The Irish Times, thanks again to Marie Claire Digby. In June, Newmarket Kitchen was chosen as a finalist in the ‘Local Development Company Enterprise Awards’.
“As if that wasn’t enough, Newmarket kitchen has been nominated in the ‘Emerging Business’ category at The Bray Chamber Endeavour Awards to be held on October 14.”
Any ‘take over the world’ plans?
“Right now we are focused on perfecting our business model and keeping our members as happy as can be.
“Once we have that in place we plan to expand within our current premises first and then look at finding a new unit closer to Dublin city.
“With the rise of food delivery companies such as Deliveroo and UberEATS, we believe there is enormous potential for people to set up a direct to consumer food business, cutting out the need for retail premises or owned kitchen. One example of this is Block Burger.”