Move Over Food Halls

The Lempert Report
June 17, 2020

Enter food hubs...

As restaurants struggle to stay alive many have moved to take-out only, but some, just up the block here on Main Street have gotten together in a parking lot every week and opened up their stands – much like a Farmers Market – to offer people take out, groceries, produce, meats and yes, even toilet paper. Yes they are social distancing and yes they are offering a few tables – far apart – where people can even enjoy “eating out”.

While certainly not a new idea, the model has been refined in Cary, North Carolina where “Ko.mmunity” takes orders up until Thursday for pick up on Saturday report the News Observer newspaper.

Ko.mmunity vendors are Zenfish poke shop, Papa Shogun, Baba Ghannouj, Slingshot Coffee, Botanist and Barrel and others., a restaurant that led the idea, was among the first restaurants to open up its pantry to customers and operate as a small-scale grocer, in addition to serving takeout. Chef Smith said doing that allowed the restaurant’s 11 managers to keep their jobs, and that three cooks could come back to work and that several servers became delivery drivers or ran curbside pickup. A third of the restaurant’s revenue returned.

In Carrboro, their food hub has grown to include two dozen different vendors preparing as many as 1,500 orders per week. The vendor list includes Acme Food & Beverage, which helped launch and organize the hub, Glasshalfull, Grey Squirrel Coffee, Carrboro Coffee, Oakleaf, Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas and others.

“You can have numerous hubs, just like numerous supermarkets, and they can all be successful,” Tom Raynor one of the founders told the newspaper. “There’s going to be a seismic change in the way people eat. ... Food is a language everybody speaks. It’s a really important part of the (coronavirus) conversation. But it’s a long-term conversation.”