A new commercial kitchen and food incubator, the Food Incubator + Network Centre (FoodINC), will open in Preston in Melbourne’s north on Friday, April 29, offering food start-ups and hospitality entrepreneurs a dedicated space and support network for their businesses to flourish. Bookings and memberships are now available for the purpose-built commercial kitchen facility in Preston to allow local food and hospitality entrepreneurs to turn their creative ideas into viable business operations.
FoodINC has been conceived and delivered by Melbourne Innovation Centre, Melbourne Polytechnic and Melbourne’s North Food Group in response to the gap in access to affordable, commercial-quality facilities and education services for small food businesses in Melbourne.
From established restaurant owners branching out into retail products such as baked goods or at home dinner kits, to entrepreneurs with a ‘side hustle’ business at home in need of commercial facilities to scale up their production, FoodINC offers space and support for food businesses at every stage in their journey.
FoodINC aims to remove the barrier for small businesses to access commercial-grade facilities and the expert support needed to turn passion projects into long-term, sustainable ventures.
Lou Zarro, manager of FoodINC from Melbourne Innovation Centre reiterates the importance of the initiative in context of the new food business landscape, “Melbourne’s hospitality industry has experienced tremendous change following the disruption of COVID-19, from staffing issues to the rise of food delivery services and the changing tastes of the community.
“The development of FoodINC recognises the need to realign professional support and facilities for the food service industry and ensure that food start-ups can access a wealth of professional development and collaborative industry expertise to fuel their business success.”
Sebastian Topet of The Melting Pot Sweet Co., a maker of hand-crafted cookies and sweet delicacies, will be one of the first small businesses to use FoodINC:
“Joining the FoodINC community will give me access to fantastic facilities and allow my business to scale up while providing the right training and expert advice to grow in the long term.”
Sebastian, who previously worked in the travel industry, created The Melting Pot Sweet Co. during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Sebastian will now look at employing an extra person to assist with production.
FoodINC’s network support
Melbourne Polytechnic’s industry-expert educators will lead support services, providing training across compliance, occupational health and safety, and food safety. Food start-ups joining the FoodINC community of learning can draw from the institute’s rich portfolio of short and nationally accredited training and degree programs. These education programs include commercial cookery, hospitality, winemaking, horticulture, bar and cellar operations, plus bachelor’s degrees in business and agriculture.
Kerryn Lester-Smith, director of strategic partnerships at Melbourne Polytechnic explains how the institute is supporting newfound passions:
“We’re seeing a new wave of entrepreneurs following the impacts of COVID-19, with many hospitality businesses needing to diversify their offering to stay profitable, coupled with many Melburnians considering a complete career change.
“From those looking to explore an idea but unsure where to begin, to people operating small businesses from home and looking to upscale, FoodINC nurtures many facets of small business recovery,” Kerryn says.
An annual membership to FoodINC costs $350 with kitchen access available at $40/hour. The membership offers an on-boarding welcome pack, networking and mentoring opportunities, online training resources, subsidised professional training and development from Melbourne Polytechnic, plus access to commercial kitchen appliances.
Training and education opportunities include understanding the costs associated with establishing a food business, mandatory food safety compliance, marketing and digital support, plus connections to financial, logistics, legal and sales networks through FoodINC partners.