FOODWORKS Restaurant Platform Expands to Columbus

FOODWORKS is helping local, independent restaurants reach new lunchtime audiences.

The Chicago-based company is bringing its food incubator model to Columbus, connecting eateries with operating space in office buildings, retail developments, universities and other dining venues.

FOODWORKS has launched its presence in Columbus feeding lunchtime crowds at five Ohio Health facilities. The concept is a division of Compass Group, a global hospitality provider that already works with Ohio Health.

Jim Kallas of FOODWORKS says they followed their existing business to launch in Columbus, but now will start to explore other markets like education, business and industry, and sports. Columbus’ reputation as a test market doesn’t hurt, either.

The initial group of nine Columbus restaurants came at the recommendation of Compass Group’s boots on the ground in the city. FOODWORKS primarily works with smaller, privately-held restaurants, preferably those that are women- or minority-owned.

Columbus’ initial group of restaurants includes:

  • Wurst Und Bier
  • King Gyros Greek Restaurant
  • Lemongrass Fusion Bistro
  • Dos Hermanos
  • Sweet Carrot
  • Kinetic
  • Mixing Bowl Asian Grill
  • Mark Pi’s Chinese
  • Iron Grill BBQ – American Fare

The restaurants feature a curated menu of their signature dishes. Operators can bring food in or use the on-site kitchen facilities. A restaurant stays at any one location for a week before rotating to another facility – it keeps the lunches interesting for diners.

Kallas says FOODWORKS has an algorithm to track demographics of locations and what would be successful. They also track sales, customer counts and feedback – valuable information for a restauranteur that potentially wants to test out a future location.

Additional restaurants can get involved in one of two ways.

“Once restaurants get into the rotation, they recommend other restaurants that they know,” Kallas says.

Restaurant owners can also apply via an online application. From there, FOODWORKS representatives will vet a location to make sure it’s a fit.

There’s no up front investment or lease agreement for FOODWORKS’ restaurant partners. Instead, in exchange for providing physical space and equipment, as well as marketing support, business advice and counsel, FOODWORKS partners on a revenue share model.

Kallas says the initial reception in Columbus has been one of the most successful for the program which is now in eight markets.

For more information, visit foodworks.org.

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Susan is the editor of TheMetropreneur.com and associate editor of ColumbusUnderground.com, and also covers small business and entrepreneurial news and the food scene in Central Ohio. Susan holds a degree in Communication with a minor in Professional Writing from The Ohio State University. She sits on the board of the Central Ohio Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and loves coffee, whiskey, cooking and spending time with friends and family.