Food Business Incubator Program

Food Business Incubator

The Food Business Incubator Program offers technical assistance and other resources to food businesses in Cambridge, with a focus on historically excluded owners as well as first-time food entrepreneurs. The program helps Cambridge food entrepreneurs strengthen and grow their business through low-, or no-cost opportunities.

The Food Business Incubator Program currently includes the following opportunities:

The Cambridge Food Truck Program allows first-time food entrepreneurs to test branding, menu ideas, and business concepts before making larger-scale investments by providing low-cost public space for food truck vending. For vending and application information, visit

The Food Business Workshop Series offers professional training tailored to the needs of new or early stage food business owners and offers expertise on timely topics in the modern food business landscape.

The Cottage Food Operations Permit is issued by the Cambridge Inspectional Services Department (ISD) and is a type of food handler permit required to operate a Cottage Food Operation in Cambridge. A Cottage Food Operation is defined as a person who produces cottage food products only in the residential kitchen of that person's primary residence and only for sale directly to the consumer.

Food Business Workshop Series

2023 Food Business Workshop Series

Food business owners and entrepreneurs are encouraged to enroll in as many workshops as are relevant for their business needs. Registration is required for workshop participation, and class size is limited for select workshops. All workshops are open to the public, but if demand exceeds capacity priority will be given to Cambridge residents and businesses, participants in the Cambridge Food Truck Program, and members of historically excluded communities. All workshops are free to participants.

The following workshops will be offered Spring and Summer 2023:

ServSafe Certification Training

The ServSafe Training has reached the maximum number allowed registrants.

Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2023 Trainer: Berger Food Safety Consultants

Location: Cambridge Public Library Main Branch, 449 Broadway Community Room (Level L2) Time: 1 – 8 p.m.

ServSafe Certification training is a common and important requirement for food service employees. Food businesses ranging from brick-and-mortar operations to food truck operators and specialty caterers are all required to produce proof of ServSafe Certification for many activities in Cambridge. This two-part workshop offers attendees the opportunity to take an in-person ServSafe training module and then a ServSafe test administered by paper and led by an experienced ServSafe trainer. This training is ideal for first-time food businesses looking to do catering or pop-up markets in Cambridge. Translation services can be made available upon request.

This course includes a training, a break period, and testing session. While the room is available until 8:00 p.m., past students have required less time for the exam and completed the day in 5 hours.

Green Restaurant Menu Practices: Sourcing and Waste Reduction

Register online here

Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2023  Trainer: Irene Li of Prepshift

Location: Zoom Time: 12:00 – 1:15 p.m. .

Ingredient selection and food cost are things all restaurant owners can control and improve. Upgrading ingredients and reducing waste go hand-in-hand to maintain and even improve restaurant profitability.

In this webinar, Prepshift will discuss: 1) working with local farms and aggregators to make local sourcing convenient, reliable, and profitable 2) how to prioritize easy substitutions with year-round availability that maximize sustainability without compromising on quality and 3) strategies for reducing business waste from implementing tracking systems, to improving employee education and creating incentives for long-lasting change.

Prepshift workshops draw on the trainers' personal experience as restaurant owners, managers, and service providers, and also feature expertise from other local organizations.


Green Restaurants: Energy Efficiency and Packaging

Register online here

Date: Wednesday, June 7, 2023  Trainer: Irene Li of Prepshift

Location: Zoom Time: 12:00 – 1:15 p.m. .

Restaurants have infinite ways to reuse, reduce, and recycle. In this webinar, Prepshift will give practical tips with the best return on your time and financial investment to green your facilities and improve your packaging. Topics covered will include: basics of packaging types, environmentally friendly options, how to make small changes to fixtures and access State equipment rebates, and other strategies to save money on cost of goods.

Prepshift webinars draw on the personal experiences of the trainers as restaurant owners, managers, and service providers and also feature expertise from other local organizations.


Previously Recorded Workshops

COVID-19 has changed the way food businesses think about budgeting, marketing, and promotion. Prospective businesses who never had to think about debt, or plan for multi revenue streams, suddenly face these factors as key components in their business planning. To address this changing reality and support food business owners who have been historically excluded from economic opportunity, the Community Development Department (CDD) recently offered two online workshops tailored specifically to the needs of food businesses.

Both workshops were led by CommonWealth Kitchen, a food business incubator nonprofit that operates two shared commercial kitchen facilities in Boston and one kiosk in Kendall Square. The Kendall Square kiosk features a rotating selection of CommonWealth Kitchen food business graduates.

Market and Opportunity Analysis 

Opportunity and market analysis are critical aspects to transform mere ideas into viable entrepreneurial ventures. In order to build a successful food business, you must identify your market, the needs of your potential customers, and how your product can meet those needs. 

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Budgeting for your Food Business 

Whether you are planning to start a food business or already are in the startup stage of your food business, budgeting is one of the most essential factors to help you succeed in the food industry. Having a well-researched and strategically outlined budget will help you better manage your food business and better perform in decision making.

Estimated Food Business Start Up Costs Worksheet

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Cottage Food Operations Permit

The Cottage Food Operations Permit is issued by the Cambridge Inspectional Services Department (ISD). Click here to start the permit application online through the City’s Viewpoint platform. If you don’t already have a Viewpoint account, you will be prompted to create one before starting your application.

The following resources offer helpful information and advice about setting up a Cottage Food Operation.

The Resource Guide for Cottage Food Operations Permit has been translated into these languages: Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, and Spanish.

Informational Session:

The Cottage Food Operations Permit Info Session Presentation slides have been translated into these languages: Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, and Spanish.


For More Information

For more information about the Food Business Incubator Program and starting a food business in Cambridge, contact Christina DiLisio at or 617-349-4601.