Launchpad food court opens at MIT, with restaurants owned by BIPOC and immigrants

Massachusetts Institute of Technology students just got new on-campus dining options. Working with CommonWealth Kitchen – a Dorchester-based non-profit incubator that helps food industry entrepreneurs launch their brands – the prestigious tech university recently opened a food court called Launchpad at MIT inside its Stratton Student Center.

The Launchpad includes three companies: Bibim Box, a Korean restaurant offering bibimbap, salads and sandwiches; Las Palmas, which focuses on Dominican cuisine; and Las Carolinas, a Venezuelan restaurant specializing in arepas. The three restaurants inside the Launchpad are owned by BIPOC and the immigrants.

The new restaurants replace Cafe Spice, Shawarma Shack and Shinkansen Bullet Train, whose leases expired during the pandemic. MIT also lost its longtime location at Anna’s Taqueria this year.

Every business that operates inside the Launchpad gets a turnkey kiosk (i.e. fully operational from the start) and signs a lease that requires them to pay a percentage of sales instead of a fixed rent. . MIT licenses the space to CommonWealth Kitchen, which then grants the space to operators, who will have completed its incubator program.

“We think there’s a ton of potential in this model of providing various businesses with their own turnkey point of sale and integrated customer base,” Bonnie Rosenbaum, CommonWealth Kitchen communications director, explains via email. “By removing one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of immigrant-run small food businesses – construction, equipment purchases, fixed rent – we are enabling talented but resource-poor owners to grow their businesses. business and create new jobs.

CommonWealth has already showcased some of its operators at a kiosk in Kendall Square, including Jamaica Mi Hungry, which then opened a physical space in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood and a pop-up restaurant in Allston in addition to its now seasonal food truck and restaurant. closed in New Hampshire.

Rosenbaum says that if all goes well in Launchpad’s first year, CommonWealth Kitchen will begin to run new businesses in the space in the future. “Our hope is to replicate the model in other colleges and institutions as well,” she said.

In the meantime, hungry students at MIT now have a lot more to choose from at lunchtime.

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