Waitr, the rapidly growing tech startup that provides restaurant delivery service through its signature app, has acquired select assets of Indie Plate, which shuttered earlier this month, and is launching a restaurant incubator designed to help aspiring chefs in Baton Rouge get their restaurants off the ground.
The Waitr Restaurant Incubator Lab, as the new initiative is called, will be located at Celtic Studios, where Indie Plate had its 1,200-square-foot commercial kitchen and ran its dinner-to-door meal subscription service. Waitr has acquired Indie Plate’s kitchen equipment and has also hired Indie Plate’s entire staff of six employees, who will work at the new incubator.
Waitr founder Chris Meaux had been thinking for a couple of years about developing a restaurant incubator in Baton Rouge, which is one of the strongest markets for the Lake Charles-based Waitr. But it wasn’t until Indie Plate ran into financial troubles earlier this year that Meaux saw an opportunity to turn the idea into a reality and reached out to Indie Plate owner Peru Sharma, who will be joining the incubator staff.
As envisioned, the Waitr Restaurant Incubator Lab will allow aspiring chefs to work out of the kitchen at Celtic and will help them develop brands, menus and meals, which will then be promoted, sold and delivered through the Waitr app.
Significantly, incubator users will also have access to Waitr’s data, which they can then use to know where their meals are selling and which neighborhoods or areas of the market are a good fit for a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“This is a program that is meant for us to give back in some ways,” Meaux says. “But we’re really building restaurants of the future, and Waitr is all about restaurants and helping restaurant partners succeed. This just takes some of the risk out of helping them succeed.”
Aspiring chefs won’t have to pay rent to Waitr to work out of the incubator, but they will have to pay commissions for any meals they sell through Waitr.
Meaux did not say how much Waitr paid Indie Plate for its equipment. The deal also included the company’s subscription list and brand name, though Meaux says Waitr has no plans to use the Indie Plate name. Indie Plate’s meal kit delivery service could be restarted through Waitr at some point in the future, though Meaux has no immediate plans to do so.
In a prepared statement, Indie Plate’s Sharma says, “We’re thrilled to be part of this new enterprise by Waitr. … The staff is genuinely excited to be a hub for such an innovative idea.”
The Waitr Restaurant Incubator Lab’s offices open today at Celtic. Meaux hopes the kitchen will be up and running later this spring. He says a couple of potential users are already on board and Waitr is seeking more.
“We expect to get a lot of interest from aspiring chefs,” he says.
Interested users should inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.