Local businesses thrive through pandemic with The Potluck

There’s no denying the impact COVID-19 has had on the restaurant industry. 

Nationally, total sales for 2020 were $240 billion lower than the pre-pandemic forecast, according to the National Restaurant Association. 

At least 110,000 restaurants closed in 2020—permanently or temporarily—and the eating and drinking sector had 2.5 million fewer jobs by the end of 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels. Some local food businesses are thriving, though, thanks to The Potluck—the low-cost commercial kitchen at Community Action Services and Food Bank. 

The Pie Tin and Omanee Foods thrived through the pandemic with help from The Potluck and what they’re planning for the future. 

At the Pie Tin, Kanani Carmack says she’s been baking forever but got the idea to start a pie-baking business because there weren’t any similar bakeries in the area. She knew about The Potluck because she’d previously worked as a caseworker and coach at Community Action, so she applied to get space in the kitchen. 

The Potluck requires users to have a business plan, license, and more. 

Once she had the necessary materials and was approved, she started baking and selling at local farmers and boutique markets, most of which continued to operate during the pandemic. 

When COVID initially hit, she took a break because The Potluck shut down. As soon as it reopened for users, though, she was up and running. She says she has more business than ever because everyone wants homemade pie. 

The pandemic made everyone more excited to get out as soon as possible and go to farmers markets. Her pies also are available for local delivery through her website. Carmack forecasts that her business will continue to grow. She plans to eventually have a storefront with a kid-friendly cafe and community event space. 

At Omanee Foods, Taylor Roberts and his wife started Omanee Foods in 2019, producing a kimchi-making rub so people can make fresh kimchi at home. 

His mother-in-law moved to the United States from Korea a few years ago, and they used her recipes as the basis for their product. He said they found The Potluck when they were searching for a commercial kitchen to rent. 

The Potluck had all the equipment they needed at a price they could afford. Community Action determines rent prices based on the user’s income, so the cost is different for everyone. 

Also, lower-income users get priority at The Potluck. 

Roberts said COVID hasn’t impacted their business. In fact, people are more interested than ever in making their own kimchi at home. They’re especially interested in products that they can order online, like their kimchi rub. 

Omanee Foods now ships products all over the U.S., Europe, and Canada. Now that Omanee Foods is up and running successfully, they plan to add more products to their lineup. 

Next up will be a barbecue marinade for meat, rice, and veggies. Their goal is to become a national brand, selling in places like Whole Foods and other stores. 

The Potluck at Community Action Services and Food Bank has helped The Pie Tin and Omanee Foods grow during the pandemic. Carmack and Roberts plan to continue developing their businesses. For more information about The Potluck, go to communityactionprovo.org.

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