A brand new food truck concept hopes to offer opportunities for entrepreneurial food lovers to test out their unique food ideas.
Link Up Foodie was founded by Michelle Burt, a woman whose background is more corporate than culinary, but whose passion for delicious food began as a young girl when she spent time baking in the kitchen with her mother.
"I married young and had three children," Burt says. "Two of them grew up with juvenile diabetes. So, eating on time, eating often, and providing meals that were hearty – it was not only a challenge, but a mission. As a result, diet became very important. So, I honed my culinary skills at home. I still cook at least six or seven times a week."
Burt received her degree in management from Cardinal Stritch University and launched her corporate career in IT. After many years functioning as liaison between technology and end-users, she transitioned into IT consulting before starting her own business doing background checks for Fortune 500 companies.
"I merged that business in May 2013 and decided to pursue my passion in food," Burt says. "So much of what we have to do in business is removed from the passion. So, I want to take the skills that I’ve learned, my business acumen, and help others to realize their dreams."
In a nutshell, Burt says, Link Up Foodie about making connections between the community, foodies and farmers.
"We want to leverage our passion into a successful business," she says. "Foodies have such a passion with what they do, and a lot of the time when they want to market their products, they have a lack of resources – or a lack of knowledge around the marketing. So, we want to provide a platform for that."
Burt has invested in a food truck, equipped with two burners, a 24-inch grill and a cold salad bar area and refrigeration, which she plans to offer up to at least four prospective food businesses who are interested in serving up healthful, unique food items.
"We provide the infrastructure and platform for them to test market their product before they move into brick and mortar businesses," she says. "We’re offering a certification process that ensures the business lines up with our mission. It includes submission of menu items to a tasting focus group to determine if the food is transferable to the food truck model."
Once entrepreneurs establish certification, they’ll be given access to commercial kitchen space at MKE Kitchen, a community kitchen at 531 E. Keefe Ave.
Each handler will operate with a unique name and will have access to the truck on a regular schedule so that they can serve their food to various audiences in Milwaukee.
And, unlike starting a food truck business from scratch, Link Up Foodie hopes to provide a means to offer aspiring businesses a mechanism to support one another, learn from one another and leverage collective buying power to give businesses an economic advantage, even when first starting out.
"The interesting thing about this model is that I’m not looking to be a big conglomerate in a franchise food business, but I’m looking to help others share in the profitability," says Burt. "And fit is a big part of the picture. I don’t care what business I’ve been in. Finding the right people to work for you and with you is absolutely key to the success. It’s about getting the right combination, the right match."
Burt has established her own brand, called Retired Foodies, which will debut its menu at Catalano Square during the Street Eats Mobile Food Fest on Friday, May 16, from 4 to 8 p.m. in the Third Ward.
"We’re starting off with lobster rolls, from which we’ve cut out a lot of the fat and mayo by using a cucumber yogurt based sauce. We’ve got a red wine coleslaw with that," she says. "We also have frogmore stew, chicken wings and a Greek chicken wrap."
Burt says that, in launching her business, she hopes to attract a variety of like-minded individuals to assist her in making Link Up Foodie a success.
"I’ve helped to build companies, to make them successful," Burt says. "I’ve owned my own company, and I’ve seen success with that. Now I’d like to pass that along to others."
To access a calendar which shows where Link Up Foodie can be found, as well as menus from each of the truck’s handlers, visit linkupfoodie.com.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.