When Matt Gray and Jon Mager first conceived of FreshLab, the restaurant incubator inside Eli Fish Brewing Company, they envisioned providing a kitchen space for aspiring restaurateurs who had food service experience, experience in food prep, industry knowledge, and a creative idea they wanted to try on a small scale before moving into launching a restaurant.
That's exactly what FreshLab is getting, Gray told the Batavia Development Corp. board Friday morning, with John and Jill Kratz, who are opening Eat Well Grill in June in the vacant space at FreshLab.
John is the long-time general manager of Bob Evans and Jill works at St. Joseph School but has also been running a food preparation business on the weekends using the kitchen at the YWCA.
Eat Well Grill will provide salads and bowls similar to what Jill has been preparing for her business Commit to Well, with proteins from beef, chicken, and shrimp to go with whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.
It's a paleo diet. While it's healthy for everyone, it will be especially good for people with dietary problems, John and Jill deal with in their own family, which is how they got involved with creating the recipes for their dishes in the first place.
"There are a lot of great food options in the community but we think what is missing is something that is nutritionally sustainable," John said. "What we're looking to provide is something in the framework of sustainability."
As much as possible, ingredients will be locally sourced, John said.
Commit to Well has a strong customer base already and the Eat Well Grill will fill a need for those customers by providing meals when they're needed.
"I know a lot of my customers like the meal prep service but sometimes they forget to order and they're calling me at the end of the weekend to see if there is anything left over," Jill said. "They need something at lunch or at the end of the day and they're not thinking ahead because we're all very busy."
A walk-in and order grill is just what those customers need, she said.
John said, and Matt confirmed, demand for meals that fit this nutritional value is a growing trend across the country and in larger urban areas, including Buffalo and Rochester, it's increasingly common.
Examples from the menu:
- The Greek, a salad with romaine and kale, quinoa, grilled chicken, cucumber, tomato, olives, and feta cheese;
- Caveman Cobb, a salad with romaine and arugula, napa cabbage, cucumber, tomato, corn, red onion, steak, and walnuts;
- Green Goddess, a salad with arugula, spinach, romaine, cucumber, hard-boiled egg, bacon, and grilled chicken;
- Spicy Shrimp, a bowl with rice, napa cabbage, arugula, carrots, tomato, grilled shrimp, sriracha sauce, and green onion;
- Happy Garden, a bowl with rice, romaine, carrots, tomato, cucumber, broccoli, beets, and grilled chicken;
- Good Harvest, a bowl with quinoa, spinach, arugula, beets, red onion, feta cheese, grilled chicken, and walnuts.
Gray said the Eat Well Grill will be a great match at FreshLab with Eden Cafe and provide customers a good alternative to the Eli Fish menu.
The BDC board approved Eat Well Grill for a small business loan for $25,000 from the BDC's revolving loan fund.
The grill will employ two or three people. John will work at the grill full-time and Jill will continue to work at St. Joe's while running the meal-prep business out of the YWCA kitchen on weekends until the business grows enough to move into a single, larger space.
Photo courtesy FreshLab.