New Loop Food Hall Plans Business Incubator For Minority Entrepreneurs

By Louisa Chu
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A new Chicago incubator, dubbed “Apron Exchange”, will provide women and minority entrepreneurs with equipment, assistance with labor from culinary schools, and a place to sell their food.

Chicago Tribune

Another food hall is coming to the Loop — and this one also promises to be a business incubator for young, female and minority entrepreneurs.

Food hall Forum 55 is slated to open in October, transforming the former Under 55 Cafe food court on the lower level of 55 E. Monroe St., in the Mid-Continental Plaza building.

Forum 55, featuring 10 stalls and a marketplace, will be open weekdays only for breakfast and lunch. Vendors will include local restaurants, to be announced next week, said a spokesperson.

Expect a deli, a breakfast-focused stall, a pizza stall, a sushi stall and more. The food hall will also feature what’s touted as one of the biggest salad bars in the city, stocked with produce from Midwestern farms, including Windy City Harvest in Chicago, Falling Waters Farms in Indianapolis, and MightyVine in Rochelle, Ill.

The incubator, dubbed Apron Exchange, will provide entrepreneurs with equipment, assistance with labor from culinary schools, and places to sell their food within Forum 55.

One incubator partnership already in the works is with the Urban Transformation Network, a faith-based urban gardening program.

President Don Patterson said he and his youth and senior gardeners at church gardens and vacant lots across the city are planning to grow tomatoes, peppers and herbs in hoop houses 11 months out of the year.

The new food hall project comes from the owners of the former food court: Eurest, a $1.6 billion food and vending organization, which is a division of $16 billion food-service management company Compass Group USA, based in North Carolina, with $25.7 billion parent company Compass Group, based in the U.K.

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