Chattanooga restauranteur launches Restaurant Recovery Program

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – The Proof Incubator was co-founded by Mike Robinson and Mia Littlejohn a few years ago after years of working in the food industry.

About 60 food and beverage-related businesses from across the state have been through their Restaurant Recovery Program in the past year. It was a concept they had been considering for years, but one that took on new meaning when the pandemic hit.

The two worked with Josh Brown, senior small business specialist at the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Chattanooga State Community College to develop the plan.

“We knew that the fallout would be pretty rough in the restaurant industry I mean we kinda spent our lives in it. And so we quickly kinda designed simply a four week at the time crisis management program if you will, crisis response. And it’s evolved more into kind of a growth and acceleration how to innovate, how to pivot if you need to pivot,” says Robinson.

Robinson says that the program evolved as the pandemic panned out.

“No one really knew anything so it’s kind of just like drinking from the water hose or building a plane while you’re flying it and as it evolved you know, the pandemic evolved, people got more information and the course started to change with it,” he says.

Josh Brown with the Tennessee Small Business Development Center says that much of the funding for the Restaurant Recovery program came from CARES Act funding passed by Congress.

And while he hopes the program can make a comeback soon, he says that’s all dependent on Congress passing another Covid relief plan.

“The funding that we had set aside through CARE Act money we effectively burned through by the end of December last year so we’re still trying to figure out where we can get money to keep this going. They’ve already carried this program out to – they’re doing in Knoxville and I believe in Crossville,” says Brown.

Brown says the program has forced restaurants to think more long-term about their future.

“It forced restaurateurs to think about, to change how am I surviving today and tomorrow into how do I change what I’m doing to survive the rest of the year and into next year,” he says.

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Local News