Hills Market pop-ups offer new food vendors a low-risk place to practice

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From the July 11, 2013 edition

Let’s face it: When it comes to the foodie movement, Columbus is like a well-(olive) oiled machine, with the city housing plenty of established artisan-fare eateries to satisfy the most finicky of taste buds.

But if you’re looking to tease those taste buds with something a little less well-known in the community, head over to The Hills Market’s Worthington and Downtown locations. Here, new or growing businesses will test their entrepreneurial skills in a low-stakes environment to prepare them for opening their own place in town.

In other words, they’re businesses fitted with Hills Market training wheels, said Jill Moorhead, marketing director for The Hills Market.

What started as a search for a lucrative answer to filling the space on the Worthington location’s veranda ended with hand-picked entrepreneurs catering to the cuisine portion of the business without having to cater to legal obligations.

“We have the restaurant. We have the space. They use it, make mistakes, learn along the way, and take those baby steps,” Moorhead said. “There’s no legal stuff. No rent, no insurance (payment). We cover all the things that make it difficult to start a restaurant. All we do is take a percentage — the same percentage — of sales.”

Moorhead encourages vendors to keep it simple, with each of the five pop-ups serving on average four entrees, a dessert and a drink. But don’t let the low numbers fool you; crepes, plantain sandwiches, crème brûlée French toast, and Thai rice and veggies are just a few of the entrees offered — and they’re not offered long.

“All (vendors) source locally and seasonally, so their menus change week to week,” she said. “And most are there for one day a week. So this is artisan fare that is made totally from scratch with the freshest ingredients possible. It’s the freshest you can get.”