Lori Granito, Kitchen Sync Culinary Incubator, Managing Director, Go Gourmet Group of Companies
By Kenny Lau
As co-founder of Kitchen Sync, Hong Kong’s first culinary incubator for start-up food entrepreneurs, Lori Granito has made it accessible for those without much capital to realize their dream of launching a successful culinary business in a city which she has called home for the past 25 years. Her entrepreneurial spirit and “can-do” mindset have encouraged many individuals to embark on their journey of personal and business transformations.
Granito is also the owner of Go Gourmet Catering and the award-winning Magnolia private kitchen. The ongoing success of her companies speaks for itself and is directly attributable to her vision, energy and skills. With a strong commitment to women entrepreneurs, Granito is a community leader with recognized achievements, and more importantly, she is making a difference by helping those who are in real need of support.
“I think a lot of people underestimate just how tough the food business is,” she says. “While people in Hong Kong love to try new foods, for an entrepreneur, navigating the combination of high rent and sometimes arduous licensing process can be daunting. Apart from rent, staffing is probably one of the biggest challenges in the industry now.”
The concept behind Kitchen Sync is very similar to that of a tech incubator, except that it works with food start-ups in their early stage. One of the biggest obstacles in starting a food-related business in Hong Kong is the extremely high cost of setting up a commercially licensed kitchen or a “food factory.” The culinary incubator, often referred to as a “shared-use commercial kitchen,” is a time-tested successful concept swapping out office space for kitchens.
Kitchen Sync’s Culinary Kitchen exists to help food entrepreneurs overcome the barriers laid upon potential businesses by providing an equipped, commercially licensed, shared-use kitchen. The kitchen is full of the necessary tools to turn an idea into a viable commercial reality, and it has everything: professional ovens, refrigerators, freezers, mixers, worktables, pots and pans, utensils and storage space.
The most essential part of the equation with Kitchen Sync as a culinary incubator is that it makes it financially possible for a start-up food entrepreneur to take advantage of professional kitchen space while they grow their business. Members pay a monthly fee for a fixed number of hours, and they can use the incubator to launch, produce and sell their products, doing so all in compliance with Hong Kong’s regulations.
Granito comes from a family of entrepreneurs, and most of her family are owners of their individual businesses. She started at a young age and had a wide range of businesses: selling praline candies she made in junior high school, launching a lawn-mowing business with her brother when she was 12 (for which she was responsible for making sales and serving lemonade while her brother did the actual mowing), and opening a “magic show of tricks” with a gift she received for Christmas.
Because of her achievements, Granito has received numerous accolades in local and international press outlets, including the Sydney Sun Herald, Travel and Leisure, Time, Newsweek, Forbes, Essence and The Robb Report. Her television appearances include TVB Pearl’s Money Magazine, CNBC’s The Winners, CNN’s Global Office, and a six-week run on Bloomberg’s Asia Confidential.
She was previously named Entrepreneur of the Year by Skal Hong Kong, a hospitality industry organization, while Magnolia was awarded Sassy Hong Kong’s Favorite Private Kitchen in 2013, 2014 and 2015. She is a highly sought-after speaker and was a featured lecturer at HKU’s MBA program, Google and AXA, in addition to serving as chairwoman of the Hong Kong Women Business Owner’s Association and as vice-chair of the Soho Association.
“After 25 years in Hong Kong, my focus is going to be on continuing to mentor up-and-coming food entrepreneurs with great business ideas; we are also crossing into food tech and developing an online B2B platform connecting wholesale food buyers and sellers. It is incredibly rewarding to see people enjoying something you’ve created.”
“For aspiring food entrepreneurs, you have got to be tough to make it in this business. Be prepared to fail, but also be prepared to dust yourself off and get back in the game. I would also say that people should not jump into it blindly without some research and that they need to make sure they are not doing the same thing 20 other people are doing.”