Ellie’s cinnamon rolls in Providence? Burger sauce from Chomp Kitchen & Drinks? Marina or zuppa sauce from Quito’s, Bristol’s clam hut?
You can now purchase these new food items at well-known Rhode Island restaurants on Dave’s Fresh Market and other local and online stores for delivery.
On the shelves and in the dairy products window are also fresh corn cakes from La Arepa; packaged teas from Schaestea; Greek dips from Kleos; Indian spice blends from the local restaurant chain that includes Chaska and Rasoi; Aunt Carrie’s Clam Cake Mix; Bucktown Seasoning Blend; BBQ, Teriyaki & Mild Chili Sauces from Flatwaves Food Shack; and Black Pearl clam chowder.
Before long, you’ll find even more items, including pub pizzas, spanakopita, and vegan Greek meatballs from other restaurateurs.
These are Rhode Island’s new “resto-entrepreneurs”. The products come from the team at Hope & Main, the culinary business incubator, a grant from the Federal CARES Act, Rhode Island Commerce and Dave’s.
All have worked together to give the restaurants another source of income that will benefit them and the state economy, said Lisa Raiola, president and founder of Hope & Main.
A $ 130,000 technical assistance grant funded by CARES Act dollars enabled interested restaurants to transform menu items and cooking ingredients into consumer packaged products that can be sold at retail.
Hope & Main developed the program, named DishUp RI, late 2020. The retail restaurant’s first products were launched a few weeks ago and have already collected grant dollars and more, Raiola said.
The first dozen restaurants produced 600 items each for sale at Dave’s 10 locations. That’s $ 150,000 in retail sales, Raiola said.
Two other restaurants have also launched but have used their grant in different ways. Bywater in Warren has added The Bywater Bake Shop to the restaurant. Sin, the Providence dessert store, has developed a way to ship wrapped candy. Both are already successes.
With Omallys Hopper’s makeup business completely shut down, she stepped up the cooking videos she started as a hobby, sharing her Puerto Rican family recipes in her home kitchen. And people got plugged in. Cooking with Omi on YouTube has developed a following of more than 34,000 subscribers. She has even more on Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok.
With an adaptation grant, the new “celebrity chef” is now sofrito for DishUp RI. The aromatic blend, which she uses in many of her dishes, sold out on the first weekend.
More than a dozen other restaurants have made their retail products, Raiola said. Several juice products are still at the registration stage. Other items have packaging issues as they face shortages of glass and other containers.
But it will all work, and eventually around 30 new products will have been generated by DishUp RI.
While restaurants were pulling it out and making take out food to survive the pandemic in the short term. Raiola said what needs to be done in the long term also needs to be addressed.
“How do you make restaurants stand the test of time?” Was the question asked by Raiola.
She said restaurateurs approached Hope & Main with ideas for translating the familiar flavors of their menus into products to sell.
The Sauced Kitchen & Provisions, sauces and marinades were created by Newport Playhouse and are a classic pandemic story. With their dinner theater closed, they served take-out from their home-cooked dinners, Raiola said. Sauces in pots have come off the pivot.
Raiola called it a light bulb moment when they realized that Hope & Main could help create a roadmap for bringing the products to market to generate another source of income for restaurants.
But that would require advice on recipe development and stability testing, packaging and labeling, as well as marketing and sales.
“I know a lot about running a kitchen, but not much about making food,” said Sanjiv Dhar, who owns a group of Indian restaurants including Chaska, Rasoi, Rasa and Kabob & Curry.
“I wanted to create an original product representative of the food heritage of our restaurants, but I didn’t know where to start.”
Like other restaurateurs, his lessons included creating a formula that could be followed for batch production. They also studied packaging concepts that would be designed to attract consumers and prices.
This is where Dave’s expertise comes in. Ken Banalewicz, specialty food and fresh produce buyer for Dave’s, worked with restaurants to explain not only prices, but purchasing habits as well. Buyers quickly look at a variety of similar products before choosing one. Price is important because local products in small series compete with mass-produced items.
He said the products are some of the best local items they’ve tried, and they know they’ll do well in the store.
Products can also be purchased for delivery on the WhatsGood online app.
They are also available at local grocery stores and retailers throughout Rhode Island. Raiola sees the potential to sell them to tourists at the airport looking to take home a taste of Rhode Island.
Frozen pub pizzas from Grainsley’s Kitchen + Drinks are yet to come, which opened in Warwick during the pandemic; frozen spanakopita from Angelo’s Palace Pizza in Cumberland; Thai Chili Marinade from The Shanty in Warwick; frozen vegan meatballs from Yoleni’s in Providence; Bonetown Burgers & BBQ and Smoke & Squeal sauces; Ocean State Sandwich delight; red and green sauces from Tallulah’s Taqueria; a pizza kit from The Pizza Gourmet; and at least six other products.
Visit makefoodyourbusiness.org/dishupri/ to learn more.