Join our email list for updates on Nonprofit Center trends, trainings and resources.

Join Our Newsletter | 

Topics Below

Shared Kitchen Etiquette

Repurposing Kitchen Query

How To Be a Shared Kitchen Pro – from The Alliance Center

Fork Forage – from The Alliance Center

See also:

Behavior Modifications – Doing the Dishes


Shared Kitchen Etiquette

From an Ask-NCN Discussion

Katie Edwards, Nonprofit Centers Network, 9/8/14
I was recently asked by a group who has recently reopened their space about best practices for shared kitchens. This is one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about nonprofit centers, so I’d like to hear what your pain points are and what you’ve done to try to solve them. Do you rotate kitchen clean up duty among your partners? Post rules and deadlines? Give out rewards when someone unloads the dishwasher?
How have you tackled the issue of sharing a kitchen?


Ardi Korver, Region V Systems, 9/8/14
Eight agencies share the space; appx. 100 individuals are in the building. Our agency rents the building and sub-leases to the building partners. Two people/week are assigned ‘kitchen duty.’ Instructions on what they do is listed below…so maybe twice a year, each person is responsible for the weekly cleaning, i.e., dishwasher, frig, cleaning tables, etc. It works really well…and everyone helps out.


As part of our ‘Building Partner Manual’ the following is listed under a heading, “What is available to me as a building partner?”

C. Kitchen/Break Rooms

For your convenience, there is a kitchen/break room on the main-level and in the lower-level. Feel free to use the refrigerator, microwave, dishes, glasses, and silverware as well as pitchers of water and coffee for your meetings; however, please rinse and place all dirty dishes in the dishwasher when finished, and hand wash pitchers and return to the break room. The main-level kitchen/break room has a coffee machine and water cooler; the lower-level kitchen/break room has a coffee machine, water cooler, and a hot water dispenser. Please make a new pot of coffee when low or empty and replace the water bottle on the water cooler when empty.

Region V Systems strives to provide an environment that is welcoming and communal, but also respectful of all individuals. We encourage everyone to hold themselves to the following guidelines to promote such an environment:

Label the Food; Follow the Label

Whenever possible, put your name on your food or label it as “Free Food,” if it is open for others to take. If you have purchased items for a specific event, please label them clearly with the name and date of the event.

Participate in Potlucks and Other Events
For group events, participate and contribute what you are able. Participate to the level that you are comfortable. Remember, your participation is voluntary.

Share Food Gifts and Leftovers
Gifts of food to Region V Systems (i.e., from vendors) or substantial leftovers from meetings should be placed in the break room and notification sent via e-mail to Region V Systems staff and building partners that it is available. Remainders should be labeled “Free Food” and stored appropriately. Condiments not labeled with an individual or event name are for use by anyone but should not be taken home.

Consider Event Placement
When hosting an event that is not open to everyone in the building, you are encouraged to reserve a conference room and not use common space (i.e., break room). Also, be mindful to send notifications to those invited (i.e., no overhead announcement)

Keep It Clean
When hosting an event, you (or your team) are responsible for clean up afterwards. If you are participating in an event, such as a potluck, you are welcome to help clean up as well. In addition to cleaning up after ourselves, we have a schedule on a rotating basis to do basic cleaning of the kitchen/break room areas. Schedules are posted in the kitchen/break rooms with a list of duties and an e-mail reminder is sent to you at the start of your scheduled cleaning week. If the dates you are scheduled for kitchen duty do not work for you, it is your responsibility to find someone to trade with you.

What does the staff cleaning crew do:

Start and empty dishwasher.
Wipe and straighten up tables.
When needed
Recycle newspaper (main level); take to recycle room (room #158) or place in recycle box located in kitchen/break room.
Replace paper towels (new paper towels can be found in the fiscal area, see Danielle Belina).
Set out plastic ware for people to take home.
Clean microwaves.
Clean out refrigerator.
Clean sink and counter top.
Take home dishtowels/dishcloths to launder.


Christina Crawley, OpenGov Hub, 9/9/14
At the OpenGov Hub in Washington, DC, we also appreciate the kitchen tidiness issue. Because no amount of rules seem to trump (sometimes strange) human habit, we’ve opted to remain extremely light on kitchen rules and supplies. We no longer supply dishes, cups or cutlery because of the reality that dirty things are left on counters. Tenants are welcome to use recyclable coffee cups and cutlery, but any real dishes/cups/cutlery are their own responsibility. If tenants wish to bring their own dishes/cups/cutlery (and many do), they are welcome to use/store/clean them in the kitchen; however, if they are left dirty anywhere in the hub, they are simply thrown away. It seems a bit harsh, but the community agrees that cleaning is always an issue and therefore accept the warning/responsibility regarding their own kitchenware property.
Also, we do a fridge purge (we have 4 large fridges) once every 2 weeks. Tenants are given a week’s warning and only unopened drinks are allowed to stay.
Hope that’s helpful!


Maureen Moloughney, Heartwood House, 9/10/16
Thanks so much for your feedback on community kitchen cleanliness as we’ve just tightened the conditions for our kitchen as well. One of the significant changes is to limit the use of the dishwasher to community events only, rather than daily use for lunch dishes and coffee cups. These can simply be washed, dried by hand and immediately put away. Our hydro bill has reduced by a few hundred dollars per month with this simple change. We no longer permit participants from programs to go into the kitchen without a staff person and we keep the kitchen door closed. We also lock the kitchen after 4p.m. leaving members the option to access the kitchen with their key, if needed. These changes have stepped up the attention to the cleanliness of the kitchen and the efficient use of it. Everyone also knows that our reception staff keep a close eye on the kitchen throughout the day. They know who accesses the kitchen and they are on it if they find the kitchen in poor condition. We also remove unmarked items from the fridge every second Friday. If someone wants an item to stay means he/she will put his/her name on the item.


Kitchens at home and kitchens at work…..leave no room for the messy ones to just walk away and leave the cleanup to someone else!


Tom Olivas, Girl Scouts Orange County, 9/10/14
After working through a complete list of different options, we have put similar procedures to Moe’s and Christina’s in place. The dishwasher is restricted for special events, refrigerators are cleaned out every two weeks and our contracted custodian cleans the counters, tables and appliances four nights a week. This process has worked out well and eliminated a lot of frustration.




Repurposing Kitchen Query

From an Ask-NCN Discussion


Mike Gilbert, The Jones Center, 3/1/16
One of our Centers is in a former hospital. The kitchen has been used by the Community College Culinary program for the last six years and they have outgrown the space and are moving. I am looking to begin using the kitchen as shared space and need resources to research in order to develop my business plan for the space. The materials I think I need are for guidance on programming, marketing and natural partnerships. I also need the things I do not know that I need, if anyone knows what that might be!


Annette Paiement, Cotton Club Coworking & Project Space, 3/1/16
There is a space called the Kitchen Collective in Hamilton, Ontario which might prove to be a good resource. There is also another space called Roux Commissary.


Margie Zeidler, Urbanspace Property Group, 3/1/16
And here’s a super article about kitchen incubators in NYC
Some for-profit, some not-for-profit.



“How to be a Shared Kitchen Pro” from The Alliance Center

Allison Reser, Tenant & Visitor Coordinator of The Alliance Center, emailed this to the tenants:


  1. Wash, dry and put away your dishes. Bonus points if you do someone else’s dishes.
    • Next time you go to wash your dishes, go ahead and put away the dishes that are dry and wash all the dirty ones. If we all get in the habit of this, someone will return the favor.
  2. Put your name on EVERYTHING.
    • Find yourself a sharpie, and label all of your tupperware or any other personal belongings you might bring into the office. Otherwise, chances are that it will disappear into the abyss.
    • Don’t forget labeling things in the freezer!
  3. Return communal dishes to their proper place.
    • The Alliance Center supplies forks, spoons, knives, plates, bowls, cups and mugs for you to use. There are be 6-8 of each item in the kitchenettes on the upper floors, and the remainder belong in the first floor kitchen. you don’t ave to bring one up! Dishes and silverware tend to migrate up when you make your lunch on the first floor and eat it upstairs.
    • Please return Serendipity mugs to Serendipity.
    • Do not take communal dishes/silverware home!
  4. Share and eat leftovers. (We are already great at this!)
    • On the first floor, any food/beverage that’s on the community shelf in the fridge or left out on the silver tables is up for grabs. Please put the date and allergy information on leftovers you intend to share. And if you’re hungry, check here before you buy something!
    • What is the community shelf, you ask? It is the top two shelves in one of the refrigerators on the first floor. It is marked with orange tape!
  5. If you make a mess in the microwave…
    • …clean the mess in the microwave!

Rewards for a clean kitchen:
Here’s some of the things Alliance Staff will do to incentivize shared kitchen cleanliness:

  1. If you notice someone doing a lot of dishes, or doing any other random act of kindness, let us know! We will reward them!
  2. We will be adding labeling stations in the kitchens.
  3. In addition to monthly refrigerator clean-outs, we will do regular Tupperware purges, the first one starting yesterday. All unclaimed containers will be moved to the first floor and become communal. If you’d ever like to borrow tupperware, you may do so from the stash on the first floor.
  4. On April 18, you are invited to the Fork Forage. This is a catered lunch for tenants, but in order to enter, you must bring 10 forks (or other excess dishes on your floor) down to the first floor. More details to come! Reserve the time on your calendar.




Fork Forage @ The Alliance Center

(follow up to Allison’s “How to Be a Shared Kitchen Pro”)


Dear Tenants,

Cart After Dish Forage

As part of my role here at The Alliance Center, I go around to the kitchenettes on each floor periodically to clean them up. Among things like putting out clean towels, washing dirty dishes, and refilling soap, I collect dishes that have migrated upstairs and bring them back down to the first floor. Here’s what the cart typically looks like after I do this:

I need your help to maintain kitchen homeostasis!

Each kitchenette on the upper floors should have 6-8 of each communal kitchen item- small plates, large plates, bowls, FORKS, spoons, glasses and mugs. However, when you make your lunch on the first floor, eat it in your suite, and wash the dishes on your floor, you are essentially carrying kitchen items upstairs. Forks especially tend to collect on the upper floors. I’m asking for your help in bringing them back down, but I’m going to try to make it fun…​

Fork Forage
Tuesday, April 18, 12-1pm
First Floor Event Space
The Fork Forage is a free, catered lunch for tenants, but you MUST bring down 5 or more forks (or other dishes in excess) from your floor’s kitchenette down to the first floor to gain access to the meal! Here’s how it will work:

  1. On your way down to the first floor, scan your floor’s kitchenette for excess dishes. There should only be 6-8 small plates, large plates, bowls, FORKS, spoons, glasses and mugs.
  2. Grab at least 5 forks or other dishes in excess and bring them downstairs.
  3. Put the dishes away in the proper location on the first floor, and receive your meal ticket from Alliance staff.
  4. If the kitchenette on your floor already has the proper amount of small plates, large plates, bowls, FORKS, spoons, glasses and mugs (no more than 8 of each), then put away all dry dishes, wash all dirty dishes, and snap a picture (preferabbly a selfie) of your kitchenette in it’s perfectly clean state. Show this picture to Alliance staff to receive your meal ticket.
  5. Enjoy your meal in the first floor event space with fellow tenants, and don’t forget to wash your dishes and leave them on the first floor!

BONUS! Whoever finds the jewel fork (pictured below) and brings it to the first floor kitchen will receive a special prize.

Jewel Fork for Fork Forage.jpg
Add this event to your calendar

Finally, (thank you for reading this far through the email) if you have any favorite types of food or caterers, let me know! I’d like to support local, yummy restaurants for the Fork Forage if possible. Thank you!


NCN Blog Entry: What’s Your Coffee Culture?

Topics Below

Coffee for Small Spaces

Coffee for Large Spaces


Coffee for Small Spaces


From an Ask-NCN Discussion

Jenny Camhi, Leichtag Foundation, 1/4/16
Here is a very deep question for the New Year: We want to invest in a good espresso/coffee system for our Hub space. We don’t have an extremely high level of traffic, so we can use a system that just makes one cup of coffee at a time. We want this to be a system that helps “activate” the space…our goal is two fold: 1) make a great cup of coffee and 2) bring people into the kitchen to create positive collisions.

Advice?? Thanks!

Chelsea Boos, Community Programmer, Arts Habitat Edmonton, 1/5/16
here are some of the tastiest and sociable coffee methods.

David Gise, Managine Director @ Centre for Social Innovation NYC, 1/5/16
In our experience its not the machine that determines whether the cup of coffee is “great” but the coffee itself. Perhaps you can align yourself with a coffee company (provider) that aligns with your organizational values and then have them come in to do a tasting with your community.

We use a local social enterprise here in NYC (COFFEED) and they’ve done a lot to reinforce that we live our values, have helped bring our community together through tastings and sponsorship of food at various programs/events and have even been a great referral engine for new members.

Most coffee providers will also provide a machine at no (low cost) and service them for free. Analogous to a getting a free printer so you have to pay for the ink. It obviously will depend on your traffic though.

Shelby Fox, Director/Operations Manager @ Knight Nonprofit Center, 1/6/16
Our vending machine company provided a Keurig and then had a coffee and tea “pod” dispenser like a vending machine where people could buy coffee pods and then use the Keurig for free. However most people ended up brining in their own pods and not buying them so the company ended up removing it however I think that also had to do with placement on our part that it wasn’t used as intended. But the Keurig is GREAT! Then you could just go and get some coffee pods then it is a one cup at a time process and people can get what they want. If it is semi high traffic of mostly visitors I would suggest going the vendor route however if it is mostly everyday tenants you are trying to encourage to get together then you could buy the machine and provide sweetener etc and maybe take turns purchasing the coffee or depending on your budget buy it for a while and see if it is being utilized correctly. I have not done it yet but want to set up a “coffee and collaboration corner” somewhere in my building to encourage this also. Let me know what you decide!

Jimmy Martin, Facilities Director @ Chicago Literacy Alliance, 1/6/16
The Literacenter employs a single-use machine from Mars called the Barista. It’s the largest unit they offer, but they have smaller versions. You can buy them or you can go through a vending company who will then service them as needed. They use single packets, similar to Kuerig, but these are recyclable through Mars. You can usually get the Flavia packets through a vendor cheaper than buying them online, also.

The coffee is good for what it is and the machines work quite well as long as the packets are emptied regularly. We haven’t had an issue we couldn’t resolve on our own or with a little phone support. The only issues we’ve had have been user error related, as most things usually are.

The Flavia packets are approximately $0.50 a pop, but you as the facility operator never have to worry about cleanup or preparation other than having the packets available for your members. Plus, the machine looks great wherever it is.


Alexis Paza, Community Catalyzer @ Tides, 1/6/16
If a center is looking at single-serving coffee machines, I’d strongly recommend searching for an alternative to “K-Cups”, like the Mars version from Literacenter highlighted below. Keurig, owned by Green Mountain and maker of K-Cups, has committed to making a fully recyclable K-Cup by 2020, but for now 13 billion+ end up in a landfill every year. Even if each user does the work of breaking down each cup (grounds, plastic, and foil) after use, most communities in the US do not have recycling facilities to handle the kind of plastic currently used for the cups (plastic #7).

Both the Atlantic and Mother Jones have done some great write-ups on K-Cups, if interested.

Robert Zeidler, President @ The Cotton Factory, 1/6/16
A good friend of mine has created a very successful coffee roasting company over the last 5 years. ( One thing he emphasises is that the grinder is just as important as the actual coffee machine. You should read his comments and think about your choice of grinder (

I would also ask you to think twice before buying any system that generated the volume of non-recyclable plastic that the Keurig system does. There are other one cup options. If you are in any way concerned about the environment, you will be shocked at the volume of waste these coffee systems generate.

Shelby Bradbury@ Sierra Health Foundation, 1/8/16
We hire a local coffee vending company, for example:

There are currently 18 organizations (80 +/- individuals) of various sizes at our center. The committee that organizes the day to day happenings arranged a system of payment by dividing up each month of the year to be paid by one large group or several smaller groups. These supplies are to be used only by the tenants and any meetings must be supplied separately by the hosting organization.

The monthly delivery is coffee, tea, sugar/sweeteners, creamers and filters for two break rooms. Each break room was equipped with a coffee maker and air pots to dispense.

This system has worked very well for the 7 years that we have been here. The monthly totals are $375-475 depending on how much they use each month.




Coffee for Large Spaces


From an Ask-NCN Discussion

Nada Zohdy, Open GovHub, 6/7/2016
I’m emailing to ask about something that probably dictates most of our work lives: coffee.
I’m curious to know what kind of coffee machines/makers you all use, particularly machine in large shared spaces?
Our 20,000 sq ft center has 160 desks plus lots of visitors coming in an out on a regular basis, so the machine gets lots of use.
We currently have a Peet’s ‘bean to cup’ brewing machine that grinds coffee beans for each cup and offers coffee, espresso, cappucino, hot chocolate, etc. But it seems not a week goes by when we don’t have some kind of functioning error.
As you can imagine, coffee machine dysfunction can be a major source of tenant dissatisfaction!
Does anyone have any recommendations for a machine with a variety of coffee drink options that can withstand frequent use with minimal dysfunction and maintenance (and hopefully isn’t too costly)??

James Thomson, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives @ New Path Foundation, 6/7/16
Here at our common roof locations we just use commercial grade coffee makers with carafes; they are supplied by a local company who maintains them and drops off supplies (i.e. coffee pouches and filters). We purchase cream, milk, sugar, stir sticks, etc. The cost for this is billed back to the tenants who have agreed to share equally; those not wishing to be a part of this pay on a per use basis. Everyone shares in the responsibility of making coffee as the need arises…our reception staff usually get the first pot of the morning and then staff from the tenant organizations make additional pots throughout the day. We chose to stay away from the more fancier machines that make a variety of drink options over concerns regarding upkeep, maintenance, etc.

Jimmy Martin, 6/7/16
Our space is similar in size to yours, and we’ve had some success with the Mars Barista. This unit uses Flavia packets which make it similar to a Keurig, but with the option to recycle the packets. We choose this option, but the cost and effort adds up. The machine itself is very dependable, and maintenance is simply removing a jammed packet every now and then when someone doesn’t empty the used packet bin when prompted. We’ve had two units for over a year and have experienced very few issues.

Pros – lots of options, very little work to maintain, looks great, very impressive

Cons – brewed cups are small, so people brew double to compensate (increasing expense), lots of work and some cost to recycle packets, sometimes confuses/intimidates new users (not immediately intuitive)

We’re currently considering a move, however, to a different brewer that uses simple, fully biodegradable coffee pods. We’re looking to improve the coffee flavor/cup size and reduce cost.

Rebecca Landau, Property Manager @ Urban Land Conservancy, 6/8/16
In my previous office, we had a large, impressive Starbucks machine, but the coffee was ridiculously expensive and the machine seemed to breakdown frequently. We also had to purchase filter paper for it. Ultimately we went to a Keurig machine which was piped directly to the water source. We ordered the coffee from Amazon and it was shipped for free to the office. There is a company that has figured out a way to recycle the pods. You order a bin (which you pay for) and then when it is full your ship it in for free.

This turned out to be much more inexpensive, and there was no coffee wasted. You can of course, also brew tea, chai, and hot chocolate in the machine.

Nonprofit Centers Network

1536 Wynkoop Street, Suite 103
Denver, CO 80202

The Nonprofit Centers Network is an Initiative of

Copyright The Nonprofit Centers Network 2016-2021. All rights reserved.

Privacy Policy | Site Requirements | HTML Sitemap | XML Sitemap