Ghost kitchen business model offers food entrepreneurs flexibility

Call it a ghost kitchen or a cloud kitchen, some successful entrepreneurs have found another way to get other entrepreneurs into the food and restaurant business at a fraction of the cost.

Soon, the Port Kitchens Marketplace will open in a Jack London Square area in a building where others have not succeeded.

It's modeled after the original five-year-old site located at Oakland's Kaiser Center, which has as many as 25 tenants make a wide variety of foods. Founder Mark Dessert is a design architect and an accomplished cook.

"We get small food businesses in that work throughout kitchens and it's kind of a means to have them produce at a very much smaller scale so that they can kind of thrive and grow and kind of get their start up without having to be a huge investment in their own space," said Mr. Dessert.

With such a fully equipped site, there's room for four to six food makers; a place where newbies can get a start or existing firms can expand into new territories.

"They can come in at any level; whether they're just beginning or if they're really an advanced skill company," said Dessert.

Once the concept or the market is proven, tenants can leave the site to strike out on their own.

"We're not committing to, you know, a long term lease. That gives us the ability to manage cash flow and also to collaborate with people who are here in the kitchen. So, it's a community," said Robert Dorsey of Robert Dorsey Catering Events.

This site will also be a food market, something badly needed in Jack London Square. It will also be a venue for gatherings and events when that is possible again.

"We have a shared kitchen in the back. So, that let's us do things like get tenants in that sublet and we all share the cost and that's really the formula for success," said Dessert.

With more companies trying to save, this can be a model for resurrecting many problem, underutilized, failed or abandoned sites.

"As a former architect, I realized  this is taking those spaces that are going off-line; old restaurants, different spaces, to convert them into mixed use so that they can stay part of the community space," said Dessert.

The Jack London Port Marketplace Kitchens and store open on the 18th with Grand Opening ceremonies on the weekend of the 22nd.