FoodLab Chicago 3.0

FoodLab Chicago 3.0 is an insightful, educational program designed for chefs, restaurateurs, and food industry makers who are looking to take their businesses to the next level. FoodLab Chicago is excited to welcome a third year cohort to engage in weekly 90 minute workshop sessions curated to enhance restaurant profitability, gain a better understanding of food costs, grow the workforce, and cultivate a dining culture which strengthens Southside communities as food service destination nodes. This program consists of three sessions conducted in the autumn, winter, and spring of 2021 and 2022 and is provided at no charge to participants. The autumn session starts in October.  The application deadline has been extended to September 28, 2021.

Applicant Qualifications

· Own a foodservice business that has been operational for at least 18 months with 5 employees in addition to the owner(s).

· Business located in the South Shore, Chatham, Auburn Gresham, Avalon, Englewood neighborhoods (preferred)

· Able to make a commitment of about 5 hours per week for workshop sessions and related assignments

Cohort member Responsibilities

· Attend (virtually or in person) all 5 autumn workshop sessions

· Communicate regularly with FoodLab Chicago 3.0 advisors

· Submit quarterly reports on business revenue and employee headcounts

· Complete at least 80% of class assignments

Tentative Program Dates for the Autumn Session

Monday 10/4
Monday 10/18
Monday 10/25
Monday 11/1
Monday 11/8
Monday 11/15

Dates for the Winter and Spring Session are forthcoming.

Wells Fargo Open For Business Fund Award

We are pleased to announce that FoodLab Chicago has been awarded the Open For Business Fund Grant. Our mission is to provide more specialized integrated services to largely mature food businesses that are owned by black entrepreneurs and that anchor key corridors in the black Chicago communities.

FoodLab Chicago

We partner with restaurant owners for rapid growth and prepare them to access capital and build great company culture. Our growth-oriented, practical, peer-to-peer driven workshops are designed to drive our cohort members to enhance their business practices, resulting in increased revenues, and a strong company culture required to hire and retain great staff.


What We’ve Done

Plate Costing & Menu Engineering

Implementing MEEZ Culinary software to drill down into each plate’s profitability. Menu matrix building to analyze and maximize profitability, including pricing.

Food Innovation & Best Practices

Continue the digital and other best practices of the 2020 pivot through Podcasts and Discussions. CSSI Culinary Consultants will lead this focused effort to produce food innovators.

Multiple Units

Over half of our cohort members are in the process of opening additional restaurants. Operating multiple units requires a whole set of different skills versus operating a single restaurant.  Funding, strategy, organizational design, human resources, managerial control, etc.

FoodLab 1.0 and 2.0

Our Success in Numbers


Cohort Members


Increased Employment


Community Partners

$2.8 Million

Grants & Loans Funded


Increases in Revenue


New Websites Created

Why you’ll want to work with us

Participants generally found the FoodLab Chicago program extremely
helpful, giving it an average score of 9.2 out of 10 in terms of usefulness.

Program participants expressed gratitude for the opportunities that the program provided for them to learn and grow as a business and for the partnerships it helped them forge.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“A great opportunity for business to grow and refresh what they may know. Great
opportunity to meet others who share the same passion as you.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Working with Devita, Hyacinth, Nedra, Erick and John has been a great learning
experience and impactful to the community.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“The program connected us to a market that we had always wanted to work with but did
not have the staff or knowledge to make happen. Through these new partnerships, we
are in a position to more fully realize our organization’s mission, vision and values to build a strong and resilient local food system from farm to fork that benefits people at all stages of the food system.”

See Some of the Restaurant’s Menu Items

FoodLab Chicago Participating Organizations:


Interested in Joining FoodLab Chicago 3.0?