Sarb Mund is an accountant by training, but this CPA loves food as much as he loves numbers. So when Vancouver issued its first food cart licences in 2011, he jumped at the opportunity to create a tandoori restaurant on wheels.
Soon, Vancouverites were lining up in droves to sample his naan-wrapped butter chicken and lamb tikka masala. Behind the scenes, however, Mund was frustrated by the lack of decent commercial kitchens where he could prep his food. The only options available were either run-down, had inflexible hours or charged the same exorbitant fees whether you needed an oven for eight hours a day or a single burner a couple times a week.
Determined to offer food entrepreneurs something better, Mund got to work creating Commissary Connect. Launched in 2012, the shared-use kitchen operation currently boasts 45+ members, ranging from vegan chefs to ice cream makers to a catering business run by Syrian refugees.
Members enjoy 24-hour access to dedicated workstations, modern appliances and affordable rates rooted in a “pay-for-what-you-use” philosophy, plus a collaborative and supportive atmosphere. Meanwhile, a pop-up retail space and food cart are available to help promote or launch new products.
Driving it all is Commissary Connect’s patent-pending technology that enables online booking, tracks equipment usage and depreciation, powers Wi-Fi-enabled door locks and more. “It really makes these kitchen spaces run as efficiently as possible,” says Mund. “There’s really nothing else like it.”
In 2017, Commissary Connect opened its second location, catering to the needs of bakers and other confectionery companies. Now, Mund’s team is preparing to launch a third, HACCP-ready facility complete with a food lab and test kitchen. Over the next five years, he hopes to set up another seven across the province, while plans are underway to license their technology so organizations elsewhere can create thriving, profitable food hubs.
To help keep all those plates spinning, Commissary Connect turned to Bioenterprise. The agri-tech accelerator connected them to patent lawyers, food safety consultants and other key partners and provided funding to hire marketing experts and engineers. “That makes a big difference to a company that’s running as lean as we are,” says Susan Levang, Commissary Connect’s general manager.
Most important, says Mund, is the strategic assistance Bioenterprise offers through regular check-ins, planning sessions and thoughtful counsel. “We love having the support and the partnership of Bioenterprise as we move forward,” he says. “It’s definitely a journey we’re taking together.”
Photo credit: Emile ten Den
& Alison Page