Culinary Incubator Fosters Hundreds of New Foodservice Companies

“We’ve launched hundreds of new companies, many of which may never have come to fruition if they didn’t have the type of resources that we provide,” said Al Goldberg, founder of Mess Hall.  

In Oct. 2014, Goldberg opened Mess Hall, a 10,000 sq. ft. facility in Washington D.C. The goal of Mess Hall is to provide commercial kitchen space and support for foodservice businesses operating in the city. As a former caterer himself, Goldberg experienced the struggle of finding a space that was affordable and provided sufficient utilities.

“I was commiserating with a bunch of other would-be food entrepreneurs and found that they were in the same boat. At that time, in 2012, there were shared office spaces that were coming up, there were certainly shared cars already and some shared bikes, stuff like that. So, I thought what we really need is a shared kitchen concept because that’s what you really need to defuse the costs,” said Goldberg.

Mess Hall also offers support with licensing, branding, website, social media and more. Currently, Goldberg says they have 45 members occupying their space. With their subscriptions, members receive access to dry storage, refrigerators and freezers—all outfitted with Camshelving® Basics Plus Series.

“When I was building out Mess Hall, I was at some trade show in New York. I saw [the Cambro] setup and it was crazy-easy to assemble and the versatility was unparalleled,” said Goldberg. “We wanted to future-proof the kitchen as much as possible. I wanted to use a brand that has been around for a long, long time and we knew wasn’t going to go anywhere in case we wanted to add because we figured we’d grow all that we could.”

Camshelving makes it easy for members to keep shelves clean during use and to prepare for new members before they arrive.

“When one member leaves, we can just take the shelves off, run them through the dish machine, clean them, sanitize them, or anytime we need to periodically. It was just going to be super easy to clean, super easy to change around and rearrange with our ever-revolving needs,” said Goldberg. “We do have people who have since graduated and 100% also gone on to buy Camshelving as well.”

After seven years in business, members still use the same Camshelving Goldberg purchased for Mess Hall initially.

“It’s been one of the most consistent products. I can’t think of a time to buy any replacement parts,” said Goldberg. “’Anytime we’ve bought something, it’s just to expand it. There’s never been any maintenance issues, it’s been pretty indestructible.”

During Covid-19, facilities like Mess Hall boomed with foodservice professionals turning to consumer packaged goods and ghost kitchen concepts. “We’ve actually been inundated with requests lately to bring a community kitchen or a food incubator type environment to some of these areas that are changing. We’re looking at a few different places right now to see if it makes sense to open up additional Mess Halls,” said Goldberg.


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