Launched in 2016, Sharing Kitchen is a social enterprise that recruits underprivileged or middle-aged persons for food production by making use of shared kitchens. The initiative aims to give entrepreneurial food production opportunities to grassroots persons, particularly women and NGOs, through providing a co-cooking space and related support in the practicalities involved in running a business.
The building of a sharing economy has emerged as a key part of achieving sustainability and community cohesion. Proponents have suggested that a sharing economy can more equally distribute resources among society, where citizens have full access to communal assets rather than ownership by each individual. One such example of underused assets that could benefit from a wider practice of the principles of a sharing economy is the restaurant industry in Hong Kong. The kitchens of the over 9,000 restaurants in Hong Kong are frequently unused during non-peak hours, leading to economic loss and inefficient business operations.
Launched in 2016 with government support, Sharing Kitchen recruits grassroots or middle-aged persons for food production by making use of the kitchens of six existing restaurants during non-peak hours. The restaurant partners allow these “grassroots chefs” to use their kitchens rent-free and the food produced is sold on-site. This venture not only helps restaurants to develop new products and increase revenue, but also boosts the confidence of the grassroots chefs and motivates them to work and earn a living. By doing so, Sharing Kitchen works to revitalise local food production, develop a thriving Made in Hong Kong brand, and benefit the wider population of low-income groups. Sharing Kitchen also provides participants with additional training in market research, product packaging design, project management and brand marketing skills, while also linking them with professional chefs in order to further refine their cooking talent. On top of using the kitchens of existing restaurants, Sharing Kitchen opened its own large co-cooking kitchen space in 2019, equipped with state-of-the-art cooking equipment, in order to allow an increasing number of grassroots chef participants to join the enterprise and operate their own food production brand.
Since 2016, when there were only five grassroots participants, over 80 chefs are now part of the Sharing Kitchen venture. There are now two restaurants partnering with Sharing Kitchen. Its new co-cooking space, branded as Co-Cooking HK, is projected to train over 479 grassroots women and provides them with more than 420 training sessions. The products available have since expanded from desserts and cakes, to include seasonal elements (e.g. mooncake) and even full catering services. There are over 900 different registered products in the kitchen. In addition to selling these products on-site, Sharing Kitchen has broadened their sales channel to include their own online shop, other major online sales platform such as HKTVmall, various local bazaars, and other consignment points. Sharing Kitchen was awarded the Meritorious Award by the government in its annual Social Enterprise Award Scheme in 2017 for its innovative business model, and was also nominated for the South China Morning Post’s Spirit of Hong Kong awards for its innovative promotion of corporate citizenship.