Mesa builds restaurant ‘incubator’ with COVID relief money

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The city is looking to find a space along Main Street in downtown Mesa for a kitchen that can teach entrepreneurs how to run a restaurant.

MESA, Arizona – The city of Mesa plans to use up to $ 3.5 million of its COVID-19 relief funding to build a “restaurant incubator” for local entrepreneurs who want to learn more about the industry food.

City officials are looking for a location along Main Street that could house a commercial kitchen and a public food court for businesses needing help finding their place in the local restaurant market.

Several restaurateurs would use the shared space to develop skills in menu design, portion control and kitchen management. Up to seven restaurants could potentially serve customers in the incubator’s dining room.

Jeff McVay, the city’s downtown transformation manager, told city council last week that the project was intended to help restaurants that have closed or downsized during the pandemic.

“Our main goals with this are to help restaurants that have been directly affected by COVID,” McVay said.

Mesa plans to use part of the funding allocated to it through the American Rescue Plan Act to develop the building that will house the restaurant’s incubator.

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Congress approved in March the distribution of $ 1.9 trillion in ARPA funds to help cities and states recover from the economic effects of the pandemic.

Mesa recently decided to spend $ 3 million of her $ 53 million in ARPA money to establish a high-tech crime center.

City manager Chris Brady said the $ 3.5 million budgeted for the incubator project would be a “one-time investment” as Mesa would rely on a separate entity to operate the facility.

The city is considering contracting out the operation of the incubator to a non-profit organization like Local First Arizona, which has already manages a community kitchen for contractors near Main Street and Mesa Drive.

Kimber Lanning of Local First Arizona said the organization’s shared kitchen is currently in high demand with locals looking to learn more about the restaurant industry.

“We could fill it four times, that’s the number of companies we currently have on a waiting list,” Lanning said.

Mesa Mayor John Giles said he believes the restaurant incubator is a great use of ARPA funds and that the facility could have a significant impact on downtown businesses.

“The city center is doing very well but there are still a lot of black spots,” said the mayor. “So there is still work to be done downtown. ”

Once a downtown location has been chosen for the incubator, city officials will present a contract to council for final approval.

More information about the project can be found here.

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