Ken Jarka

As the president of the Greater Minneapolis Hotel Association, Ken Jarka discovered he’s not the only hotel GM in downtown Minneapolis with an empty hotel, and thus several empty kitchens.

The Hilton Minneapolis is hosting guests in the hotel which requires having a viable food and beverage program, but while they’d normally be running at 50 to 60 percent occupancy at this time, they’re currently closer to 2 percent, he said.

As a way to earn some extra revenue, he’d like to rent the kitchens out by the month, starting with the banquet kitchen on the third floor. The banquet kitchen includes a fully equipped pastry kitchen on one side of it and there’s enough space for around three restaurants to rent the space, he said. He asked restaurateur Erik Forsberg (Erik the Red and Devil’s Advocate), who has been volunteering to help strategize how to bring people back downtown, for advice on who might be interested and how much space a restaurant would require. “Cooler space, freezer space, I have it all,” Jarvis said.

The GM envisions a restaurant using it as a form of ghost kitchen from which to run a takeout and delivery operation or a food truck. They would not be able to sell food to the hotel guests. He’s asked the union and they have no problem with renters bringing in their own employees, Jarvis said, but with the caveat that if they do need to hire additional workers, they’d consider hiring the hotel’s union workers first.

The downside, however, is that the kitchen is on the third floor, which makes transporting food down to the street level a bit more challenging. Downtown Minneapolis’s absence of workers, lovers of the arts and sports fans has been a challenge for restaurants, as well as hotels. A hotel that wants to rent out its kitchens, said Pat Weber, owner of a restaurant consultancy, Mise en Place, has the added hoops to jump through of Minneapolis taxes and parking expenses for both employees and customers. Finding a parking spot is no longer difficult.

Just as the suburbs are having an easier time attracting diners than downtowns, so are rented kitchen space. “Kitchen rental space is a good supply today,” Weber said, and if you want to make salsa in Plymouth, you can find a commercial kitchen set up for around  $14 an hour.

But that’s not to say there couldn’t be a market for renting a professional, hotel kitchen for a start-up project, where you need lots of space for socially distancing and ample storage space and privacy. Other downtown hotels have considered the advisability of renting out their kitchens as well, he said.

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