The ground-floor retail space of the Tampa Bay Times building in downtown Tampa has been leased by Inside the Box Cafe & Catering, the company has announced.
Expected to open mid-September, this location in the newly renovated lobby at 1000 N Ashley Drive will be the third Inside the Box outpost in the Tampa market. The Tampa-based restaurant has existing locations in Westshore Center and Tampa International Airport (the original N. Tampa St. location has closed).
Inside the Box was an innovative idea back when chef Cliff Barsi masterminded the first one in 2012, an idea that became a reality thanks to a $25,000 grant as the winner of the Innovative Business Plan Award sponsored by the Children's Board of Hillsborough County.
The idea: Hungry diners went to the attractive cafe at 505 N Tampa St. and ordered a box lunch. Maybe a half sandwich or a salad with a couple extras ($6.59), and half of that money went to feed someone in need at Metropolitan Ministries. Take that $3.29 and multiply it by the 3,300 meals they sold in the first three months of business, and that's $10,857. It grew from there, corporate catering becoming a large component of their business model. In the last year, Metropolitan Ministries served nearly 1.2 million meals to local citizens.
But it wasn't just a fundraising project for Metropolitan Ministries. Inside the Box is staffed by culinary students selected from Metropolitan Ministries' residential program who are put through a four-month cooking crash course. The program provides vocational training opportunities for men and women transitioning out of homelessness and poverty, producing qualified employees who are prepared for work in the hospitality industry.