Grubhub, an online food delivery platform, is teaming up with East Garfield Park’s The Hatchery food incubator to provide business grants, run a pitch competition that would let a winner use one of The Hatchery’s private kitchens for free and help teach the burgeoning entrepreneurs the business skills they need to succeed.

The Hatchery, 135 N. Kedzie Ave., is a business incubator geared toward restaurateurs, caterers, bakers and other food-related businesses. Members get to take advantage of coaching services, kitchens and food storage. The partnership is part of Chicago-based Grubhub’s efforts to give back to their home city. While they have worked with organizations and initiatives that have a West Side presence, this is the first time they teamed up with a West Side-based organization.

The Hatchery was established by the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC) because its long-running business incubator at 320 N. Damen Ave. wasn’t best-equipped to support food businesses. It wanted to put the new incubator in an area that needed development, physically closer to West Side entrepreneurs who would benefit from its services.  

Since opening in December 2018, it has offered workshops and classes to the general public. Members get wraparound supportive services, including classes to teach them the ins and outs of starting, marketing and managing a food business, as well as how to navigate the city licensing process. Members can use shared kitchens and, after using them for 34 hours, they are eligible to rent out one of 56 private kitchens that they can customize as they see fit. Members also benefit from on-site food storage facilities, meeting rooms and event spaces. 

According to Natalie Shmulik, chief strategy officer at ICNC and The Hatchery, entrepreneurs from Austin, East Garfield Park, North Lawndale, West Garfield Park and West Humboldt Park “qualify for free memberships and free shared kitchen use time.”

When The Hatchery was still being built, one of the concerns residents and community activists raised was how much it would benefit West Siders. Shmulik said The Hatchery has 3 to 4 cohorts a year, and West Siders make up 34% of the current cohort. She said that the majority of the members live in Chicago. 66% of the cohort are women, and 62% are classified as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).

As part of the partnership, Grubhub will be holding a pitch contest, with the winner getting to use one of The Hatchery’s private kitchens for free and get a stipend to buy kitchen equipment to suit their needs – which Shmulik described as a $50,000 value. 

Liz Bosone, Grubhub’s vice president of restaurant success, said they were still developing the contest rules, but that they aim to have the rules set by mid-September, with the goal of holding the contest in early November.

Grubhub is also “developing new educational materials to guide The Hatchery Chicago’s entrepreneurs interested in utilizing third-party delivery to grow their businesses.” That would include help with promotions and marketing, as well how to get the most out of the meal delivery platforms and ensure “efficiency and timeliness.”

“Everybody who goes through our Sprouts incubation program is going to have access to insight and experience from Grubhub,” Shmulik said.

Finally, Grubhub will finance member scholarships and grants to members looking to buy kitchen equipment. Shmulik said that this will go a long way toward expanding the membership pool and reducing the financial strain.

“Finance is a number one challenge [for new businesses],” she said. “Anything that we do to reduce those will help our members focus on growth.”

According to Grubhub spokesperson Sabina Nur, all of this comes down to $300,000 worth of investments over the next 12 months – but the company is into this partnership for the long haul.

“[Grubhub] looks forward to maintaining a long-term relationship with the Hatchery as they focus on creating opportunities for people in the hospitality industry, especially on Chicago’s West Side,” she said.

Bosone said Grubhub’s community investments aim to support independent restaurants, reducing hunger and increasing opportunities to get people into the hospitality industry. What The Hatchery does for women and BIPOC entrepreneurs, she said, fits into those goals. 

“Our partnership with The Hatchery Chicago is especially exciting because their mission to help local entrepreneurs build and grow successful businesses is exactly what we do at Grubhub every day with our own restaurant partners,” Bosone said. “Not only are we offering financial support, but teams across Grubhub are working with The Hatchery Chicago to offer deeper, meaningful engagement that can help put their entrepreneurs on a path to sustained growth and success.”

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...