If you’ve ever had the pleasure of biting into a warm, gooey, chocolatey creation from Chip Cookies, you’ve had a taste of The Potluck. The Potluck, a commercial kitchen at Community Action Services and Food Bank, exists to support individuals and families as they start their culinary businesses.

Maybe you want to sell entrees at the farmer’s market or baked goods at football games. Maybe you dream of starting a gourmet Australian restaurant or a frozen yogurt delivery service. Many people have these dreams but are dissuaded by the high overhead costs and even higher risks. That’s what we’re here for. The Potluck is a low-risk option for people wanting a start, a testing ground or seasonal support for their culinary endeavors.

Low-risk

You may have heard statistics like six in 10 restaurants fail in their first year. Fortunately, that’s a myth; it’s actually closer to two in 10. But still. On top of perfecting delicious recipes, you’ve got rent, equipment, taxes, regulations, zoning, permits, staffing, marketing, utilities and decor to take care of when you start a restaurant. Nothing like red tape to put a damper on your dreams (and profit margins).

That’s one of the reasons I love The Potluck. We take care of a lot of the administrative stuff so aspiring entrepreneurial chefs can focus on what they’re passionate about: the food. For example, one of our business success stories is Baba Cuisine, a caterer that makes Korean barbecued entrees. They like to cook on-site and use The Potluck for storage and preparation.

When they started, this is all the administrative tasks they had to take care of:

  • Filling out an application for The Potluck
  • Creating a business plan
  • Getting a food manager’s certificate and liability insurance (which is more affordable than you might think)
  • Registering with the Utah County Health Department

A couple of years down the road, Baba Cuisine is still going strong. Now on the administrative side, they only need to take care of passing yearly inspections and paying a minimal hourly rental fee. We determine this rate on a sliding scale based on each renter’s income.

The goal of The Potluck is to minimize risk and expenses. We want to make it not only affordable for anyone to start a business but also more likely that the business will succeed. You see, delicious Korean barbecue needs to make it into the mouths of the people!

Starting place

Some businesses use The Potluck as a place to gain momentum before taking off on their own. Chip Cookies is a great example of this and so is Time Traveler’s Bakery. Unlike Baba Cuisine, which sells hot food, both of these businesses sell baked goods and therefore needed to register with the Health Department. Our kitchen gave them a starting place that had the correct zoning and fit within the Health Department’s guidelines.

Time Traveler’s Bakery was able to get their business up and running without worrying about initial red tape. They now sell their gluten-friendly bread from their online store.

In my years as the kitchen manager, I’ve loved watching the success that comes when motivated business owners work hard to bring their vision to life. It really is exciting.

Affordable variety

The Potluck is also a good testing ground for temporary ventures. Businesses will try out The Potluck and then move on to the next chapter of their lives. It’s a fun experience for the business and it provides locals with a variety of fresh new eating options.

For example, once, a brother and sister, Conner Kennedy and Elli Kennedy, used our kitchen to make energy bites for BYU and UVU football games. But their lives went in a different direction: Elli graduated and moved out of state and Conner became more busy with school than he was before. But they still had a great experience in The Potluck chapter of their lives.

The Potluck doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture in your life; it can be a place to experiment, earn money and learn about yourself.

Delicious, local eats

A lot of our businesses are caterers for seasonal ventures: the farmer’s market, football games, weddings, business events and all kinds of other events and venues.

It’s amazing to see how creative people are and how much their clients love local, authentic food created by their neighbors. Clients are used to paying a bit more for locally-made items, but products made at The Potluck can offer more competitive prices because the overhead costs are low. It’s a win-win!

If you’re passionate about making food and want to turn your passion into a business, consider making your start at The Potluck. Starting a restaurant can deter even the most determined; with the permits, guidelines, regulations, zoning restrictions and fees, it’s hard to know where to begin. But we already have the zoning permits, and our fees are more than manageable. We’ll help you get started creating delicious, affordable, local eats for our community.

For more information about The Potluck, visit http://www.communityactionuc.org.

Jennifer Morgan is the kitchen manager of The Potluck, one of the many services available at Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. CASFB is located at 815 S. Freedom Blvd., Ste. 100. For more information on the educational programs, how to make donations, upcoming classes, food drives and more, visit http://www.communityactionuc.org or call (801) 373-8200.