Incubators represent a shift in the industry climate towards collaboration instead of competition. It began with co-branded restaurants and pop-up events driven by chefs working together. Now, undiscovered talent is being tapped. At food halls, owners bring different culinary forces into one common space. In that same spirit, incubators team industry veterans and rookies together. With the mutual goal of developing a successful concept, they set up an incubator—a testing ground for menus, design and audience—that embodies the convergence of their shared ideas, talent and drive.
While it’s always risky to start a new restaurant, incubators have a safety net built in. Before hopping into bed with a concept, those supporting the project (typically financially) fully vet the entrepreneur and their project. Plus, to get it off the ground—and even once it is up and running—incubators tend to be all-hands-on-deck operations. While the brainchild behind the concept drives the bus, mentors are in place to offer advice, support and insider knowledge.
Perhaps the largest example of this type of program is the Restaurant Concept Incubator at Trinity Groves in West Dallas. Industry icon Phil Romano and his investment partners set forth to find young entrepreneurs with a viable restaurant vision, but who possibly lack the space, money and full know-how to make their idea a reality on their own.
Romano’s there to give the green light and the “green” to bring these ideas to fruition. He readily admits that he’s got a special knack for restaurants. But instead of launching more new concepts on his own, his goal is to impart his knowledge and foster new entrepreneurial talent, serving as a mentor to help millennials develop ideas to reach their own demographic.
Kitchen LTO is an incubator within the Trinity Groves incubator. The “Limited Time Only” spot reinvents itself three times a year, with a different chef at the helm each time. Just like the other Trinity Groves concepts, applicants are screened by a selection committee. Then, potential chefs and designers are voted on through Trinity Groves’ website and social media channels, leaving the ultimate decision up to the public.
Turning tables. Every four months, a new chef rolls out their own menu while a new designer puts their stamp on the interior’s transformable elements. Currently, Stefania Morandi’s contemporary design pairs with Eric Shelton’s new American menu for a limited run.