Food business program that helped South Side Staples seeks to train more restaurateurs


When Aisha Murff suddenly found herself at the helm of the famous South Side Shrimp Shack, she knew she had to learn, even though she’d never run a restaurant before.

Murph, the daughter of a Los Angeles-born actress, became the owner of Hare’s Gulf Shrimp when her husband, Finney Hare, passed away in 2021. Big move.

“It’s literally black history,” Murph said.

She enrolled in business courses, but the best fit for her new position was the Greater Chatham Initiative’s Economic Development Group’s FoodLab Chicago program.

The FoodLab program’s purpose is to grow the food business on the South Side. The aim is to teach an aspect of the industry that owners interested in food often overlook.

Tamieka Hardy, program manager for the Greater Chatham Initiative’s FoodLab Chicago program, stands in South Chatham on Friday, February 17, 2023.Ashley Lezhin/The Sun Times

Launched in 2020 and having trained 40 restaurant operators, the program is now accepting applications for the following training series: Up to 25 people will be accepted for training starting in March.

Applications are being accepted until February 23rd and can be found on the program’s website. foodlabchicago.comOwners of any kind of food business that has been in operation for at least 18 months can apply. Particular priority will be given to participants from Auburn Gresham, Avalon Park, Bronzeville, Chatham, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing and South Shore.

The six-month program’s curriculum includes correct food pricing, website development, and building the right infrastructure to provide delivery services.

“We are working with South Side food service companies to provide coaching and educational resources to help restaurants better know their numbers and make informed decisions,” said Tamieka Hardy, who runs the program. is to do,” he said. “If each dish is profitable, the restaurant itself is also profitable.”

Imani Muhammad, owner of Imani’s Original Bean Pies & Fine Foods, was part of the first group of 2020 programs. She started her business about 15 years ago at the request of friends and family who tried her pie at a school fundraiser.

Success is more than a good product.

Imani Muhammad, owner of Imani's Original Beans Pies & said:  Fine Foods will host Navy Bean Pie on Tuesday, February 14, 2023 at his restaurant at 2423 E. 75th St. in Chatham on the South Side.Ashley Lezhin/The Sun Times

Imani Muhammad, owner of Imani’s Original Beans Pies & Fine Foods, has navy bean pies at his restaurant at 2423 E. 75th St. in Chatham on the South Side on Tuesday, February 14, 2023.Ashley Lezhin/The Sun Times

“It helped me to see the numbers and get the grants. This is very important for small business owners because sometimes they get caught up in the day-to-day business and ignore the numbers aspect,” said Muhammad. said.

She credits the program with marketing and pricing.

For Murph, the program helped her develop a website and start ordering online. She estimates that business at Haire’s has increased by 15% since going through the program.

“Whether you’re starting a business or have been in business for years, whatever you want to do in the food industry, get involved,” she said. “It’s very good coaching, training and beneficial for whatever you want to strengthen.”

Michael Loria is a staff reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. Reporting to Americaa non-profit journalism program aimed at enhancing the coverage of the paper in communities in the South and West.

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