Thursday, June 21, 2018
Business

Metropolitan Ministries opens Inside the Box Cafe, noontime deli in downtown Tampa

DOWNTOWN — Since starting a box lunch catering service 14 months ago, Metropolitan Ministries has sold and delivered nearly 8,000 orders for sandwiches and salads to offices around the bay area.

Each order averages $13, making a profit that the faith-based organization uses to buy goods for Boxes of Hope, a collection of food to feed a family of four about nine meals.

On Monday, Cliff Barsi, the chef who cooked up the catering enterprise called Inside the Box, brings the business to a downtown storefront. Entrees will continue to be made fresh each morning in the homeless shelter's main kitchen, then brought to the cafe where the public can order lunch.

"We think outside the box at Inside the Box," said Barsi, 49.

The 36-seat cafe was made possible by board member Bob Basham, a founder of Outback Steakhouse restaurant brands, who offered a modest rent for space in a building he owns on Tampa Street near Madison Street.

"We're like a tapas deli," Barsi said. "Everything is half-size so individuals can mix and match."

Half salads — Italian antipasto, metro chef, chicken spinach Caesar, Greek pasta or rustic cobb — cost $3.95. The same for half sandwiches, including roast beef, prosciutto and chicken, turkey club, grilled vegetables, Italian antipasto, ham or pastrami and corned beef.

Box lunches are set at three prices: half sandwich or half salad and two extras, $6.59; two half sandwiches or two half salads and two extras, $9.89; add a third extra, $10.99. Extras can be a drink, side salad or dessert.

Blue Bear gourmet fruit popsicles are $3. "The snack that gives back,'' said Barsi, naming flavors such as spicy grilled pineapple, roasted banana rum, key lime pie and blackberry yogurt.

Like the catered lunches, profits from the cafe will go toward food for the homeless.

"Catering executive lunches began as a way to leverage our kitchen resources," said Tim Marks, president of Metropolitan Ministries. "We market them as a meal for you and a meal for them. If your box arrived with the No. 604 that means your order fed our 604th family of four."

Job training is another benefit, in addition to the cash return used to underwrite meals for the homeless, added Marks, who noted that Barsi teaches culinary school training at Metropolitan Ministries' Tampa Heights campus.

Two graduates of the Uplift U program will supervise the cafe, Marks said. The formerly homeless students are now "fully employed, learning a living to be self-sufficient," he said.

Three other shelter residents will be unpaid interns getting training in customer service and maintaining cleanliness.

Marks and Barsi see the retail store as the launchpad for more cafes, more catering jobs and employment opportunities, and possibly a food truck.

"With conventions and visitors coming, I can't think of a better time to be active in the downtown community,'' Marks said.

Share business news with Amy Scherzer at [email protected] or call (813) 226-3332.

Comments
Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Eight passengers who were aboard a Southwest Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after one of its engines blew apart filed suit Wednesday against the airline, Boeing and the companies that manufactured the eng...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Tesla sued a former employee Wednesday, accusing the man of hacking the automaker’s computer systems and stealing company secrets, shedding light on what chief Elon Musk had suggested was the work of a secretive internal saboteur.But the employee, Ma...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

TAMPA — Mortar & Pestle, a fledgling Seminole Heights eatery with a mom-and-pop pharmacy theme, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Seacoast Bank was listed as the creditor with the largest unsecured claim: $1.4 million.The restaurant...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Lucky’s Market is considering a move in to the old Albertsons box space in Clearwater, according to preliminary plans filed with the city. Lucky’s master broker, Rick Lewellyn, was listed on an agenda as discussing renovating the existing property wi...
Published: 06/20/18
Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

LAND O’LAKES – A Sarasota developer is proposing to turn a vacant Winn-Dixie store in central Pasco into a Sprouts Farmers Market or similar specialty grocer.Benderson Development filed preliminary plans Monday with Pasco County to redevelop the form...
Published: 06/20/18
Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

CLEARWATER - Clegg Insurance Group of Clearwater announced on Wednesday it has bought Brandon-based Advanced Insurance Brokerage.The merger creates a firm with more than 2,000 customers and more than $10 million in annual premiums. Terms were not dis...
Published: 06/20/18
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? It’s the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Published: 06/20/18
Citizens considers hiking homeowners insurance rates about 8 percent

Citizens considers hiking homeowners insurance rates about 8 percent

Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s is weighing another round of hefty rate hikes.Staffers with the state-run insurer of last resort have proposed raising the average rates for homeowners by 7.9 percent — just under the legislative cap of 10 percent ...
Published: 06/20/18
A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay homes sales while prices keep rising

A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay homes sales while prices keep rising

Tampa Bay’s two largest counties showed anemic home sales in May as prices continued to rise due to a tight supply.In Pinellas, sales of single-family home plunged nearly 12 percent from the previous May, the second-worst showing in a year. Prices, t...
Published: 06/20/18
Pinellas County files suit against companies who built Public Safety Complex

Pinellas County files suit against companies who built Public Safety Complex

CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Public Safety Complex was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, but officials now say the $81 million fortress has water leaks and cracked walls.The county filed a lawsuit this month against Harvard Jolly, the S...
Published: 06/20/18