ReGrow Midland occupies restaurants while helping families in need


Each week, the staff of the Menu manager prepares 150 meals to distribute in the community as part of the ReGrow Midland program.

The food will reach families across the Midland region. For county residents, the program offers a healthy meal each week. For restaurants, ReGrow’s guaranteed weekly income allows them to retain their staff and stay in business.

ReGrow meals ready for distribution.ReGrow has helped the menu manager get back on his feet after COVID-related closures and restrictions while addressing staff shortages. Proceeds from the program enabled the dinner design studio and restaurant service to resume operations in Midland with the purchase of a commercial kitchen building. In 2020, the company had to relocate due to COVID restrictions on gatherings, merging its operations with an existing commercial kitchen in Shields.

“There’s probably no part of ReGrow that hasn’t benefited our business,” says Kelly Osborn, owner of Menu Manager. “We were able to secure a few full-time positions and several part-time positions. Because the ReGrow program is a guarantee. It doesn’t matter if COVID locks us in again or whatever happens, we have such a guarantee – at least until next June, at least for a year. And that should give us the space we need to expand into other areas, which we are already planning. “

ReGrow Midland is a joint initiative of the Midland Area Community Foundation and the Midland Business Alliance, conducted in partnership with the Michigan Baseball Foundation, private investors and community members. The objectives of the program include tackling food insecurity in the region while providing a stable income and mentoring to restaurants.

This week, teriyaki chicken with sautéed vegetables and rice is on the menu. Shier’s recently expanded its ReGrow menu offerings after hearing feedback from program beneficiaries.Currently, ReGrow consists of nine participating restaurants, including Shier’s Deli, The Menu Manager, Great Hall Banquet & Convention Center, Whine, Bucks Run Golf Club, Taco Universe, Egyptian Koshery, Red Oak and Melasses.

Restaurants prepare 1,000 meals a week for distribution to centers in Midland County, receiving income for each meal. Distribution points include the Bridge, West Midland Family Center, Greater Midland Coleman Family Center, and North Midland Family Center. ReGrow has served 40,000 meals to date.

Menu offerings prioritize flavor and nutrition while maximizing production efficiency

Meals prepared by partner restaurants offer tasty and healthy family dishes designed to offer nutritional variety. In a typical week, diners may receive teriyaki chicken with sautéed vegetables, lasagna, or meatloaf with polenta cakes and roasted carrots.

Jason Story is the Culinary Director of the Midland Country Club.According to Jason Story, Culinary Director of the Midland Country Club, participating restaurants use recipes optimized for production in a large-scale setting while maintaining quality. Story served as a culinary and business mentor for the ReGrow program, working closely with partner companies.

“We created this with a model that already exists to ensure that the meals on offer are nutritionally balanced, healthy, tasty, but at the same time the cost of preparing the meals is very low with the raw ingredients,” says Story. . “The meals were also designed to be relatively light on labor. “

Addressing staff shortages in the restaurant industry

The labor shortage continues to impact restaurants as workers seek higher-paying positions with greater flexibility, Story explains. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the food service industry and drinking places reached 8.7% in August 2021, higher than the total US rate of 5.2%. The ReGrow program aims to tackle these issues by teaching hiring and retention strategies to restaurateurs.

The labor shortage continues to impact restaurants as workers seek better paying and more flexible positions.“The industry is not adapting as quickly as it should, and ReGrow is looking to help not only through this one-on-one initiative, but by identifying ways to help mentor and coach and provide educational support. and training, ”Story said. “One of my jobs with partner restaurants is to find out if they run into any obstacles or try to move forward, they have this resource in me. We are exploring other ways to provide this kind of training, education and also to be able to recruit more talent so that it is not as difficult to find people to fill positions. “

Shier’s Deli used guaranteed funds from the ReGrow program to purchase long tables optimized for meal production as well as two panini presses for deli sandwiches.For Menu Manager owner Kelly Osborn, this type of mentorship helped navigate the planning and troubleshooting needed to reopen the business. ReGrow also provided a support structure to ensure meals arrive at distributor sites every week and the production process runs smoothly.

“ReGrow is not just a program to get food businesses back on their feet after COVID,” Osborn said. “Last week we attended a meeting on training needs and several different areas of running a business. And Chief Jason [Story] gets it; He understands. He knows that trying to find a place is difficult, especially when you don’t have the margin. So he looks at things from a holistic perspective. And he is always available, always ready to meet. When we moved, he even took our meals and delivered them to us.

Organizers of ReGrow Midland hope the initiative will help build partnerships with companies with long-term development goals, building on a framework of improved efficiency and organization.

Strategic improvements at Shier’s Deli included an updated menu board.Shier’s Deli on Saginaw Road in Midland used guaranteed funds from the ReGrow program to purchase long tables optimized for meal production as well as two panini presses for deli sandwiches. Shier owners George and Kristen Shier went on to craft other improvements, including a refreshed menu board and redesigned seating.

“It’s one of the few things we can really count on,” says George Shier. “It’s always a guessing game as to how many people are going to walk through the front door, but that way we know that every Tuesday we have 150 meals to go. “

Shier’s Deli has also rearranged the seating.“The program is designed to be something the restaurant can do to complement their other business functions versus support so you can add real money to your bottom line,” says Jason Story. “What we’ve seen a lot of our partners do is use that money for capital spending or to bring back employees or increase their workforce. Being able to invest in new equipment and tools makes the work they do in their traditional business easier, more efficient and more productive. Being able to build their team helps managers and owners stay in a position where they can focus on running the business.

Those interested in receiving food under the ReGrow Midland program can contact one of the distribution centers to confirm the days and times that food is served. There is a suggested donation of $ 2 per meal received.

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