Caterer offers alternative to county lake kitchen

News editor

Melissa Bartel of Panhandlers Catering told Marion County Commissioners Thursday that she was open to making her business’ kitchen available for startups to rent, as an alternative to the county spending $75,000 to update one of the kitchens at the county lake hall for that purpose.

Bartel was one of nine county residents who attended the meeting to discuss county Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman’s proposal to open a certified kitchen in the lake hall to rent to entrepreneurs and have cooking classes.

Bartel said her business focuses on catering large events. In between those events, she could rent her kitchen out to people who want to start a business making and selling food but don’t have the resources to build and equip a commercial kitchen of their own.

She suggested cooking classes could be done at school kitchens, which would have the extra benefit of allowing classes to move around the county, provided schools would allow the classes.

Questions about financing, operations raised

In response to questions about how a certified kitchen would be financed, Huffman said she is ready to apply for a $44,000 grant, with another $26,000 coming from other grants the county has received and $5,000 from county taxes.

Charles Kannady asked what the costs for the kitchen would be. Huffman said she expects to spend $23,000 on equipment. The remaining $52,000 would be operational costs, including the first year’s wages for a kitchen manager. That would be a part-time worker who would be in charge of scheduling rentals.

After the first year, it would be up to the kitchen manager to bring in enough business to pay their own wages.

Kannady also asked what the projected return on investment was. Huffman said she didn’t have any projections of how much it would be used.

Gordon Pendergraft asked if there was a written business plan, like a bank would require for a business seeking a loan. Huffman said she didn’t have one prepared.

Discussion also included whether a kitchen would interfere with lake hall rentals, requiring health certification to rent the kitchen, and caps on how much time a business could rent the kitchen.

 

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