Hatch unwraps packaged food how-to course for local restaurateurs

Hatch recently launched the Consumer Product Goods Bootcamp program, a 12-week crash-course in the skills restaurateurs need to create packaged food products and get them on store shelves. (Jack Jacobs photo)

Inspired by the pandemic, a new program offered by an offshoot of food-and-beverage incubator Hatch is looking to help local restaurants land their wares on store shelves.

Hatch’s Consumer Product Goods Bootcamp program is a 12-week crash-course in the skills restaurateurs need to create a packaged food product inspired by their menus. The products created through the program are expected to be available in local stores by late summer.

The program covers subjects like packaging, testing, government approvals and other ins and outs needed to bring packaged food items to market.

“Making something in the restaurant for service is different from scaling something up for the shelf,” Hatch President and co-founder Austin Green said.

It’s the first major program to come out of Hatch Helps, a budding nonprofit community outreach program under the Hatch banner, which also includes the commissary kitchen concept Hatch Kitchen in Clopton Siteworks on the Southside and the Hatch Local food hall that will open this summer in Manchester.

The packaged goods program’s first group of participants consists of local restaurants Abuelita’s, Soul Taco, Lehja and Saison.

The program is free to participants, with Hatch Helps picking up the tab. Green said program expenses will depend on the products, though he estimated each concept would cost $5,000 to $10,000. Green said that he expected the group would seek out sponsors to bankroll future cohorts.

Karina Benavides, who co-owns Abuelita’s with husband Everardo Fonseca, said she had thought about getting into packaged goods prior to joining Hatch’s program but felt unsure how to navigate the process.

Abuelita’s owners Karina Benavides and Everardo Fonseca. Abuelita’s is one of four restaurants participating in a Hatch program to develop packaged food items out of their menus. (BizSense file)

The Midlothian restaurant opened in 2018 and has a menu focused on Spanish stews called guisos. For its packaged product, Benavides said Abuelita’s plans to develop a birria paste, which would be used by home cooks as a meat flavoring sauce.

“We’re fairly limited in how we can grow the business now, and this is an easy way to get the brand out there,” Benavides said, referring to challenges in hiring staff. “We want people to still come to the restaurant but because Abuelita’s is home, you want people to feel like they can cook the food at home.”

Hatch is still working through exactly where the restaurants’ products will be sold. While Hatch Kitchen facilities are used to manufacture the products during the program, the participants are able to relocate their production if they choose once they’ve completed the courses.

Hatch publicly announced the program May 24, but it has been ongoing since the spring.

The program was cooked up as a way to help restaurants develop new revenue streams out of their existing food items after a difficult year of closures and restricted operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have been thinking of ways to help food entrepreneurs in the community for the past year since COVID started to affect food and beverage businesses,” Green said.

The Hatch mentorship network carries out the instruction, which has largely been one-on-one due to the pandemic. Group instruction may be possible for future participants.

Hatch Helps launched in early 2020 as a community feeding program. The organization pays for ingredients, and Hatch members donate time to make food that’s distributed by the program.

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