A new south Kansas City restaurant promises to serve up “some of the best down home cookin’ in town.”
But it also will be a “classroom” where students in a new University of Missouri-Kansas City’s restaurant management internship program can get hands-on experience while earning an hourly wage and college credit.
Cornbread Buffet will be in a 7,700-square-foot space on the east side of the Landing Shopping Center. It hopes to have a soft opening Friday, Aug. 24.
Three men with ties to the restaurant industry came up with the idea: David Block, president of Block & Company Inc. Realtors, leasing agents and property managers for the Landing, who said he has worked with hundreds of restaurant clients throughout the country over his 43-year career; restaurateur Ivan Marquez, who had such local operations as Frida’s Contemporary Mexican Cuisine; and Tony Mendes, managing director for the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UMKC.
“David and I were talking, over two years ago, about the need to help restaurant entrepreneurs avoid going out of business,” Mendes said. “A lot of them have great cuisine but they don’t know how to run the business. (With the internship) they will learn both the front-end and back-end of the restaurant business, which is very unique.”
It also is a way for UMKC to get more involved in the community and to bring more dining options east of Troost, he said.
Students will get first-hand experience managing the restaurant under Marquez. He also will bring in guest speakers on such subjects as insurance, fire hazards, health department inspections, and working and negotiating with food vendors and restaurant equipment suppliers.
Marquez will work with Mendes on the curriculum. Students can be enrolled in UMKC or go through its Entrepreneurship Scholars program.
They will work in the restaurant a minimum of 10 hours a week, earning $10 per hour and three credit hours during the 15-week course. The restaurant will also be staffed by full-time employees.
The Regnier Institute and the Full Employment Council have partnered with UMKC to fund up to 10 students through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, funded by the Department of Labor.
It will be open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for breakfast and lunch weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends. It also will be available for private parties and special events.
Breakfast items will include omelets cooked-to-order, grits, hash browns, fresh fruit and cereal. It also will have a waffle station.
For lunch, customers should look for fried catfish, fried chicken, fresh fish, and rotating daily specials such as meatloaf, shrimp pasta, salmon, eggplant Parmesan, lasagna, smothered pork chops and desserts. It also will have a salad bar.
The buffet will feature its namesake cornbread three ways: one sweet, one spicy with jalapenos and one traditional.
The students also will create a menu item later in the semester and then discuss it with customers.
The buffet will be $12.99 for breakfast and lunch on weekdays, and $14.99 on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Landing Shopping Center, 1336 E. Meyer Blvd., is just east of Troost and about a mile from Brookside.
The Cornbread Buffet space was home to a Ponderosa Steakhouse for more than 25 years and then Lutfi’s Fried Fish. It has been dark for eight years, but the equipment has been updated and the dining room refreshed.
“I have been trying for multiple years to give people an opportunity to learn how to start their own business and they don’t have to pay that college tuition to potentially learn the same thing,” Block said. “And we’re going to try to do a retail across the hall.”
Other tenants in the 131,500-square-foot Landing include Payless, Citi Trends and Fashion in Motion.