By Avery Wageman
Restaurant incubator and test kitchen, The Cannery, will be opening on July 12 on Broadway Avenue. The business’ mission is to provide resources, tools, and an affordable space to burgeoning food and beverage entrepreneurs in order to strengthen their businesses.
Previously a farm-to-table restaurant owned by the Pagel family, The Cannery is now run by Proof, a company based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, home of the original restaurant incubator.
Members of the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce discovered Proof at an event several years ago, and after a research trip to their incubator, the Chamber saw the potential for a test kitchen in Green Bay, according to Ron Franklin, Director of Entrepreneurship for the Chamber.
“In order to build a thriving downtown, it needs a thriving restaurant scene,” said Franklin. “Most of the businesses moving in [to The Cannery] are existing businesses that are either food trucks or smaller operations that [are] trying to get their feet [to] land in a physical location. We’re taking away the learning curve and the steepness in doing that by offering this space.”
Proof’s 8-week virtual educational course and application for tenancy must be completed in order for restaurateurs and food and beverage entrepreneurs to take residency at The Cannery. The online course covers topics including operations, finance, branding, and leadership.
“Everybody’s super busy, so we don’t do a course that requires somebody to be in a room at a certain point or time during the day,” said Josh Rogers, Incubator Director at The Cannery. “It’s self-led because everybody has got their own life going on, so it could be paced out at their own speed.”
After completing the course, entrepreneurs may apply to become a tenant at The Cannery so long as they have an existing foundation for their business.
“A lot of people know how to cook, but they don’t know how to run a labor report or do a menu analysis, or things like that,” said Rogers. “And that’s kind of the stuff we teach here, in a more hands-on type of way… We’re taking people who have ideas that are kind of ready to go, giving them a place to polish that idea.”
If their application is accepted, entrepreneurs will have access to a lease of about 12-18 months, possibly up to 24 months, to use the test kitchen space at The Cannery. Leases are intended to be an affordable alternative to renting a space on their own.
The Cannery will have six tenants, and is hoping to finalize a seventh by its July 12 opening.
Fivethumbsup, Irie Jamaica, Colombian Flavors, Olive’s Pizza, and Honey & Cream Cafe will be The Cannery’s first residents, alongside Titletown Brewing Company, which will act as a mentor tenant for these businesses.
In the future, The Cannery plans to simultaneously house a total of nine businesses.
In addition to the virtual course and test kitchen space, Proof provides The Cannery tenants with access to experts such as Rogers for support and knowledge on how to successfully run their businesses and guides them through the incubator process.
Beyond working in the restaurant industry for 20 years, Rogers explained that his area of expertise is in systems and leadership development.
“Between everybody on the team [at Proof], there’s probably about 150 years of restaurant experience… just because that’s what we’ve done our entire lives,” said Rogers. “Everybody has owned their own restaurant at some point or another, or worked for the corporate world at a pretty high capacity, or you know, just opened up other restaurants for other people. So, we have tons of experience on the restaurant front, and the idea is to kind of share all of that knowledge and skills with the new generation.”
With the guidance of Proof and its experts, tenants of The Cannery will be run as fully-functioning restaurants serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as an all-day, full-service bar.
The Cannery will be open six days a week, and eventually will strive to be open all seven days. Tenants with breakfast and brunch concepts will be serving from 7 a.m.-2 p.m., and from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. tenants with lunch and dinner concepts will be serving. The full-service bar will be from 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Upon “graduation” from the restaurant incubator, entrepreneurs are intended to feel prepared to venture out on their own and successfully move into their own space.
“The hope is that in 18 months, 2 years, when they leave the space, when they feel and we feel that they have learned enough to get to the point where they can take a location outside of the Cannery, they’ll be able to move to a downtown location…anywhere in our community, to be able to grow their business, build that solid foundation,” said Franklin. “Restaurants also bring people in. You think about a lot of the destination restaurants that we have in Green Bay, that people travel [to]. They don’t just come from 3 blocks away to walk to the restaurant, they’re driving from De Pere, Kaukauna, Howard, into Green Bay to go to Hagemeister Park, or go to Copper State or some of the fine dining places that we have downtown. That’s what we’re trying to create, because all of it starts with a solid restaurant base. Restaurants bring people downtown, people downtown means we need more housing, we need more services, it builds the entire ecosystem for the community.”
For more information about The Cannery, apply to the test kitchen, and their social media, visit their website at https://thecannerygb.com. To learn more about Proof and its restaurant incubators, check out proofincubator.com.