Northern Virginia Magazine article about ChefScape, March 28, 2017:
Northern Virginians who dream of one day dominating the hospitality trade can test their business acumen at a growing number of communal kitchens, shared spaces evolving from utilitarian storehouses into hubs of economic development.
Would-be restaurateurs were once limited by the amount of available counter space at home and access to time-saving appliances. Renting commercial kitchens during off-hours was one way to grow the business. But scheduling often proved erratic, and professional guidance was typically off the table.
Chefscape, which debuted last spring in Ashburn, has attracted a clientele composed of seasoned chefs, expansion-minded bakers and raring-to-go food truckers.
Co-founder Rob Batchelder knows the terrain well, having operated a pair of food trucks (Union Dog, Tailgater Toby) for several years.
“We can provide value because we’ve done the trucks,” Batchelder says of the real-world experience he shares with new recruits, adding, “We can’t make your business successful. But we can help you get from A to B very quickly.”
Batchelder books appearances at local wineries, breweries and festivals on behalf of food truckers (for a fee), arranges pop-up dinners led by participating chefs and assembles holiday menus from members’ specialties.
Chefscape also hosts educational seminars in conjunction with pro-business groups such as Loudoun County Department of Economic Development and the Mason Enterprise Center to assist clients with administrative challenges.
Tailgater Toby was recently converted into a promotional vehicle members can use to road-test dining concepts. “We’re going to start our own truck leasing program to help them basically kick-start everything,” he says. “They can build up their audience prior to spending thousands on a truck they’ve never really operated before.”
Frontier Kitchen CEO Brenda Brown has seen her business double since temporarily setting up shop two years ago, a growth spurt that’s resulted in over 10,000 square feet of launchpad split between her distribution base in Lorton and a baking-friendly operation in Haymarket.
“We’re not just offering a facility. We’re offering a full service for startups,” she says of her vision.
Brown’s background in business consulting informs the Foundations Program, a 16-week boot camp focused on training members to tackle regulations, certifications, web design, fundraising and any other potential impediments to success.
“They’ll have a chance to pitch their company to a panel of investors at graduation,” she says of the Shark Tank-like vetting process awaiting the inaugural cohort.
Her latest innovation: building a relationship with Amazon’s food shopping outlet, Fresh. With over a dozen members already shipping their wares (gourmet ice cream, baklava, salsas) across the mid-Atlantic, Brown is beefing up ancillary services—setting up virtual stores, shooting promotional pictures, packing up and shipping out orders for clients—for those interested in online sales.
“We don’t want to keep them forever,” Brown says. “If we’re being successful, they’re going to graduate out into their own space as a stable, strong company. And that’s our goal.”