How Food Courts are Changing Due to Covid-19

The Lempert Report
August 24, 2020

The Iron District is a multi-level food hall on Iron Street in North Kansas City, Missouri

Rachel Kennedy has degrees in business and nutrition and worked in finance, started a Cuban sandwiches food truck, Plantain District, and has reimagined what a food court is during the pandemic. She has moved it outdoors, as many restaurants have done across the country – however there is a twist.

The food vendors in North Kansas City's Iron District are inside retrofitted shipping containers, and customers sit and eat outside. Kennedy says that the outdoor dining combined with a business model that emphasizes low startup costs might help the food hall thrive in the pandemic economy.

But even before the pandemic she was fascinated by using shipping containers as the model for a permanent bricks and mortar restaurant she was planning. And then started adding more containers to create a place where wannabe restaurateurs can test out concepts with short-term leases.   

Her concept became the Iron District, a multi-level food hall on Iron Street in North Kansas City, Missouri, and is home to seven food vendors, four retail shops, two bars, a stage and a podcast studio. It also serves as an incubator for small business owners for whom the cost of opening a restaurant, or even a food truck, is too high.

With the recent protests against racism and a renewed interest in promoting Black-owned businesses, Kennedy, who is Black, has found herself in a position to model what she’s doing for others.

"Obviously, there’s not many Black female developers in Kansas City or even within the whole United States," Kennedy says. "So when I came up with Iron District, my whole point was to ... try to mitigate a lot of the hurdles that women business owners and minority business owners sometimes suffer from."

Rachel Kennedy gets our kudos for a great idea and for being a terrific leader.