Appliances for a "home-based bakery"

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Joined Jun 28, 2017
My fiance and I bought a home several months ago with a secondary building (formerly used as a daycare) on the property. We are planning on converting that building into a kitchen and office space for my small baking business, which, until recently, I was running out of a shared commercial space. For now, I will be running my business as a "home-based bakery" under our state's cottage food laws.

This week, we WON a full suite of GE Cafe appliances in a contest sponsored by a local appliance store. We'd like to use this prize towards building out my work kitchen. We can apply the value of the original prize ($8,696) to any appliances we want in the GE Cafe line instead of taking the package they put together. I've narrowed it down to two options and would love opinions on which to choose:

Option 1: Convection double wall oven + dishwasher + 48" range-top with 6 burners and griddle
Option 2: Convection double wall oven + 36" range with 6 burners and gas convection oven (we'd have to kick in a little of our own money for this option)

Thoughts?
 
1,218
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Joined Sep 21, 2001
I like Option #2. Its easier to get a countertop griddle or a stove top plancha if you need it than it is to make more oven space. A homestyle dishwasher isn't wise in a commercial kitchen.
And you are a bakery, don't forget.
And congrats on the project and the awesome prize!
 
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4,554
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Do you have natural gas service at your property?
Is the second option, two convection ovens (the one from option 1 plus a gas convection)?
 
601
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Joined May 25, 2015
Unfortunately the HD usually will not allow consumer cooking appliances which those are. And as a commercial business you don't want to use them. They are not designed for everyday use.

Since you will for now be operating under the Cottage Law you might be able to get away with it. But as you should know, your products are limited. If you want to offer regular bakery products in the future, expect to have to replace those appliances with commercial ones. And remember, used appliances fetch pennies on the dollar.

So my advice is to put those appliances in your house and commercial appliances in your business. Do it once, not when you will lose money because you're being made to.

If you outfit your commercial kitchen properly you may not have to operate under the Cottage Law and that should be your goal. It looks like this will be a step backward after operating out of a shared commercial kitchen with all the HD blessings. But much depends on zoning etc. and I kinda think if someone had a daycare business there you might be OK.

Not to long ago we had someone here who was in the same circumstances as you. They couldn't understand why the HD was requiring them to replace all their consumer appliances after a number of years using them. They were understandably upset because of the huge expense and business interruption.
 
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5,299
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
With home based ovens, the largest pan you can fit in there will be a 18”x12”. If you are planning on doing any kind of volume, this lack of space will drive you crazy, you’ll spend more time putting items on and off of those tiny pans than anything else.

A commercial dishwasher takes 2 minutes per cycle, or three with a “extended heavy duty cycle” to was a load, a household dishwasher takes close to an hour. This fact will drive you crazy if you’re doing any kind of volume.

In the grand scope of things, appliances are easily interchangeable and quickly replaceable, it’s the infrastructure that needs to be though fully installed, because if this needs to be changed once you’re up and running, it can be very expensive— both with money and down time
 
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Joined May 25, 2015
And you really aren't getting any kind of deal either. Check out this Baker's Pride at $2852 vs that consumer eye candy at $3849. You save almost $1000! I would see if I could just take the cash and tell them to keep the appliances. Besides, a built-in is the last thing you need and you will probably be repairing it and ultimately replacing when those techi electronics fail. Try to find something then that will fit in that hole in the wall.

 
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My thought is don't skimp on commercial refrigeration!
And I'd be more thrilled with a proper sized 3 basin stainless steel sink for dish washing than a dish machine.
 
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This forum is littered with the insane ideas some people have about operating food businesses out of their homes. Residential homes and food businesses do not mix. I would strongly encourage you to use the opportunity to buy some really nice home appliances and continue using the shared commercial space. Trust me, you will have far less headaches.

While your outbuilding may have been used for a daycare, that does not mean you can use it for a food operation. Assuming that it was once zoned commercially or was granted a variance, you should definitely check and see if that zoning or variance is still in effect. Variances are more common than changes in zoning and variances will often have time limits. Again, however, just because a daycare was allowed to operate on the property, it does not mean that the town fathers are going to allow a food operation to be run on your property and there is good reason for that.

First, the building that houses the food operation will likely have to meet a large number of code requirements such as fire suppression, fire resistant materials, commercial electric and gas, proper ventilation etc. These are not cheap upgrades. What your local town board may not require, your insurance company probably will. So, plan on that.

Next, you have to get by the health department. I can tell you right off that residential equipment will probably not be acceptable. Plan on upgrading the electrical and gas service if you decide to install commercial grade equipment.

Lastly, a food service operation will damage your property's resale value. If this is your forever home, fine. But, if there is any chance that you may want to sell this property at some point in the future, the category of buyers interested in house like this is going to be very limited.

With all this said, I would go with the option to purchase some nice appliances for your home and continue using the shared commercial space for your baking business. What you should really consider is just opening a bakery. Trust me. You will have far fewer headaches than trying to do a quasi baking business our of a guest house.

Good luck. :)
 
601
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Joined May 25, 2015
It's still going to be a losing proposition. Keep in mind that whatever they get for them will be taxed as regular income, or if they do decide to keep them they will owe taxes on the $8696.

I suggest they talk to their accountant before doing anything.
 
926
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
It's still going to be a losing proposition. Keep in mind that whatever they get for them will be taxed as regular income, or if they do decide to keep them they will owe taxes on the $8696.

I suggest they talk to their accountant before doing anything.
And then there's this rock solid advice......^^^
 

pete

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While this is good advice from everyone, I do want to point out that if you go with commercial grade equipment, especially gas, you might be required to put in a hood system, which can be very expensive. It is something you need to look into before you make your final decision.
 
601
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Joined May 25, 2015
Really, it's not dependent on the equipment it's because they are operating a business out of that space and must use that equipment. There will be codes to follow and that may include a hood system among other things.

So, if you don't want a hood system you can't have a business because you can't use consumer equipment.
 

pete

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Halb, it really depends on what state this person lives in and how they define their "cottage" laws. In Wisconsin, the cottage laws don't require professional grade equipment. You can use your own consumer grade oven, etc. But there are other restrictions. You can only sell baked goods (pickled items have slightly different rules), but only items that are stable at room temperature. No potentially hazardous foods, which means no cream fillings, meat fillings, custards, etc. That also means that "real" buttercream is not allowed. This also means that you can only bake and sell. No service. You cannot slice a cake and put it on a plate for a customer to consume there. As such this person could, under Wisconsin law, use consumer grade equipment, but going to commercial grade means that there are now building codes which would need to be followed and that gets trickier. Things such as Turbochef ovens don't require a hood system, but any gas equipment requires a hood system. Of course, cottage laws in different states may require different things.
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
Halb, it really depends on what state this person lives in and how they define their "cottage" laws. In Wisconsin, the cottage laws don't require professional grade equipment. You can use your own consumer grade oven, etc. But there are other restrictions. You can only sell baked goods (pickled items have slightly different rules), but only items that are stable at room temperature. No potentially hazardous foods, which means no cream fillings, meat fillings, custards, etc. That also means that "real" buttercream is not allowed. This also means that you can only bake and sell. No service. You cannot slice a cake and put it on a plate for a customer to consume there. As such this person could, under Wisconsin law, use consumer grade equipment, but going to commercial grade means that there are now building codes which would need to be followed and that gets trickier. Things such as Turbochef ovens don't require a hood system, but any gas equipment requires a hood system. Of course, cottage laws in different states may require different things.
Generally, what you have said here is true. However, what has been said about Cottage Laws and HD requirements and standards for home based food operations is also true. To that extent, you are correct that much of it depends on the state.

What is being overlooked here is the fact that all state laws in the US and every health department I know operates from the standpoint that if something looks and quacks like a duck, its a duck. What I mean by that is if the OP has a guest house that's filled with commercial equipment, is zoned commercial or has a variance to operate a commercial business, and is producing food items from that building for sale to the public, they are going to treat it like a commercial food operation. This means the cottage laws of whatever state he's in will probably not apply and he could be treated as operating a commercial food business. The potential for serious and expensive problems here is immense.

Cheers! :)
 
601
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Joined May 25, 2015
What I mean by that is if the OP has a guest house that's filled with commercial equipment, is zoned commercial or has a variance to operate a commercial business, and is producing food items from that building for sale to the public, they are going to treat it like a commercial food operation. This means the cottage laws of whatever state he's in will probably not apply and he could be treated as operating a commercial food business
If the OP was working out of a shared commercial space now they should be familiar with a commercial food operation. They also could produce anything they wanted for sale to the public.

Now the OP acquires a building that was used as day care on residential property. They won some consumer appliances and got the idea to move their commercial bakery operation into that space and use those appliances. They think they can operate under the state's cottage law.

So with that, all I can say is it's not a good idea to use consumer appliances for a commercial operation. Whether or not what they are trying to do is viable is another matter.
 

pete

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Currently, in Wisconsin, under the laws, as they stand, there is no sales cap on what a baker can sell. They can produce however much they want, and as long as they don't stray away from the guidelines of what they can produce, they aren't required to be inspected by the health department. Again that means selling only non potentially hazardous baked goods (no unbaked treats, no candies, no Rice Krispy style treats,no chocolates, no mixes, no non baked items and again nothing cream filled, custard filled, meat filled, nor any thing else that requires refrigeration, which includes items like buttercream and some baked goods that contain vegetables as it makes them too moist to stable at room temperature. Right now it doesn't matter how large or small their operation is, if they stay within the guidelines they do not fall under the purview of the HD, although that may change as they are trying to put a $25K gross sales cap on cottage industry bakers. That doesn't mean that they are subject to other codes such as zoning, building and fire codes or subject to the terms of their insurance policies. Yes, currently, in Wisconsin there is a major loophole, but it is a loophole nonetheless. Technically, I could be running a $100k baking operation, sticking to the guidelines that keep me compliant with the cottage laws and the HD can't do thing one. Of course, having any employee on payroll would change that up drastically and, of course, there is the liability issue. So I don't know that the "if it looks like a duck, quacks like at duck..." analogy holds when it comes to cottage industry laws and the HD.
 
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Joined Jun 28, 2017
Hi everyone,

I really appreciate the wide variety of advice and experience you are all bringing to this conversation, and your comments have definitely helped me think through my decisions around the appliances. I did not particularly intend for the discussion to move towards zoning, health inspections, and other regulatory concerns, but since it has, here is some information that will hopefully clarify our situation somewhat…

Zoning:

Our new house is located in Fairfax County, Virginia. Our home and accessory building are zoned “R-3,” which means residential with specific density limitations. The Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance permits residents to run businesses from their homes and from accessory buildings on their property provided that the business meets a list of fifteen criteria outlined in the ordinance and that the resident obtains a “Home Occupation Permit” from the county. The criteria outlined in the ordinance focus on maintaining a residential appearance for the exterior of the building, the number of permitted employees, and the hours employees may work. There’s also an oddly long section about the restrictions surrounding horses and horseback riding lessons. My business meets all of the “Home Occupation” criteria.

Certain types of businesses are explicitly outlined in the ordinance, but food businesses are not one of them. This means that before we can obtain the “Home Occupation Permit” we have to file a “Use Determination Request” with our county Zoning Administrator. The Zoning Administrator must rule that the business fits the definition of a “Home Occupation.” However, the Zoning Administrator has issued multiple rulings determining that food businesses fall within the scope of a “Home Occupation” as defined by the ordinance, so the “Use Determination Request” is really pro forma at this point.

TL;DR - We are good to go on zoning.

Health Inspections/Cottage Food Laws and Etc.:

In Fairfax County, businesses that deal with food are governed by one or more of the following four regulatory agencies, depended on their business structure, location of the business, and the type of food the business handles:
  • The Fairfax County Health Department regulates “Food Establishments.” Under county code, “Food Establishments” are not explicitly defined (this becomes relevant later), but are categorized for the purposes of inspection as “Full Service Restaurant,” “Fast Food,” “Mobile Food Unit,” “Caterer,” or one of several designations for institutional food service. These designations help one get a sense of the types of businesses that are meant to fall under the county’s purview. At some point in the very recent past (aka still referenced on websites and inspection databases run by state agencies), the Virginia Department of Health was in charge of regulating these types of establishments through thirty-five local level agencies which may or may not have corresponded neatly to the boundaries of Virginia’s ninety-five counties. The Fairfax County Health Department uses the “Fairfax County Food and Food Handling Code” as its regulatory standard. This code is essentially an unmodified copy of the 2017 FDA Food Code (this is also relevant later).

  • The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) regulates “Food Processors” operating “Food Establishments.” Under state code, “Food Processors” and “Food Establishments” are not explicitly defined (do you sense a theme here?), but these businesses are required to label all products and submit ingredient lists and processes for all products. This gives you a sense of the type of businesses that are meant to fall under VDACS’s purview. VDACS then separates “Food Processors” into two tiers: 1) Businesses that are regularly inspected and may produce a wide variety of items, including goods that must be time/temperature controlled, and 2) Businesses that are only subject to a pre-operational inspection and must follow more restrictive regulations, including limitations on the types of goods they may produce and on net sales for certain products. Both tiers of “Food Processor” businesses can be run from either a “private home” or a “commercial kitchen” and are subject to the same regulations and standards regardless of where they are located. VDACS uses the “Virginia Food Laws” as its regulatory standard. The “Virginia Food Laws” were written independently from the FDA Food Code and differ significantly from that code in that they are shorter and less prescriptive. For example, in the FDA Food Code you will find language referring to the precise “foot candles” needed to illuminate a particular work surface, while in the Virginia Food Laws you will find phrases like “Every place used for the preparation…of any food shall be properly lighted.”

  • Some state agency whose name I can’t remember regulates businesses that produce pure dairy products and ice creams.

  • In most cases another agency deals with businesses that produce meat things, but not necessarily all things that have meat in them.

The lines between what type of business is regulated by which agency is somewhat blurry. For example, if you own a bakery that serves customers but also makes/packages/sells cookies to a local retailer, then you should technically be regulated by both the Fairfax County Health Department and VDACS, but in practice will only be regulated by Fairfax County. Or, if you own a wedding cake business that you run out of your home kitchen, you should technically be regulated by Fairfax County (because you’re not selling that wedding cake in a big box with an approved label on it, you’re taking it to an event and setting it up), but in practice you will be regulated by VDACS.

My business could easily be defined as a “Food Processor” and then be regulated by VDACS. My business could also be defined as a “Food Establishment - Caterer” and regulated by the Fairfax County Health Department. Both definitions have benefits and drawbacks, which I will not go into detail about right now because this post is already super long and probably boring. As a “Food Processor” I would have an easy path towards operating the business from our extra building and any construction can use residential material/standards provided that they make it possible to keep the kitchen clean and functional as specified in the Virginia Food Laws. As a “Caterer” I would have a more difficult path towards operating the business from our extra building and any construction/equipment would need to meet commercial standards as specified in the Fairfax County Food and Food Handling Code, which is based on the FDA Food Code.

Personally, I really hate this kind of regulatory messiness and I think rules should either be enforced as written, re-written to reflect practice, or taken off the books.

TL;DR - Yes, I can legally work out of a kitchen in a private home and that kitchen can be built to residential standards, but also it’s complicated and not necessarily what I want.

The Extra Building:


I think I may have given a slightly misleading/incomplete description of the "extra building" on our property. The building is a 700 sq ft. single-story cement block building with its own electrical service and a decent sized panel that's mostly unused. The building is plumbed and already has a gas line. The gas line currently has capacity for several appliances, if we need to add additional capacity, the gas company needs to swap out the regulator at the meter and they will do that for free.



I know there’s other stuff to respond to, but that’s all the writing time I have today. Thank you again to everyone.
 
5,299
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
In the final analysis, these are the questions that really count:

1). Who are your intended customers?
2) what do you want to do with the business and property after, say, 10 years?

1) If you want to go the wholesale route—which many bakeries do, customers ( stores, businesses) and more importantly their insurance co.’S will want suppliers that operate on commercial properties and that are regularly inspected

2) If you only want to operate for a few years and just do farmers markets, then sure, go ahead. If you grow the business you will have to eventually move into a commercial property, and all the money spent on fixing up a residential property can’t be recuperated. That is to say, you’ll have a heckuva problem selling or leasing the property or even the business itself.

Me? I’d lease out your existing structure to a daycare operator, and use the rent money to rent out a commercial kitchen in town. This way you have “0” problems with permission and regulations, ( and interpretations Therof) save your money until you can find a proper commercial unit, and stay flexible until you’ve established your customer base.
 
926
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
The ambiguities in the law that do not provide a clear definition of your operation can work for you and it can also work against you.

In the first instance, the ambiguity would allow the powers-that-be to define what you are doing any way they wish to comport with any preordained outcome they wish.

On the other hand, it would appear you can likewise take advantage of that ambiguity in the same manner, as well.

Either way, should you ever become ensnared in such a sticky mess, it would be a very long and very expensive battle. Such entanglements kill food operations. Most pros in this business are hyper aware of this fact and try to steer clear of them.

Hence, all the prophecies of doom within our comments. Its not that we are trying to park a dark cloud over your hopes and dreams. Rather, many of us have had our fair share of issues with the various regulatory bodies associated with the food industry and we know first hand how easily even the most simple of matters can spiral into a dark, carnival of clowns nightmare.

Anyway, good luck in whatever you decide to do. Stop back from time to time and let us know what you have decided to do and how things are going.

Cheers! :)
 

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