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Twinsburg -- The owner of Red's Place Gourmet Buffet and Catering has launched a new venture aimed at providing nutritious meals for schools and day care centers.
Innovation Foods, an offshoot of Red's Place, began when Red's Place started providing school lunches and specialty catering in 2009 for childcare centers and charter schools. The project expanded into its 5,000-square-foot facility at 2071 Midway Dr. Jan. 7.
"We've been doing that for about four years now and we kind of outgrew being able to do it out of Red's Place," said Red's Place owner Tom Lane.
With the expanded office and kitchen space, Lane and his staff are able to produce up to 8,000 meals a day. The facility currently employs 17 people and is rented from M&M Highland Road Properties in Macedonia.
While Red's Place will continue catering, Innovation Foods will deal primarily with private schools and day care centers in the greater Cleveland area. Lane said his catering service is set apart from competitors by having Hope Servera, a full-time dietician, on staff.
"Our focus really is on providing the best nutritional quality and pairing that with the best customer service," Lane said. "We feel so strongly about the nutrition of our products that we have a registered, licensed dietician on our staff."
Lane said he caters to schools with high populations of disadvantaged children who may get most of their nutrients from their school lunch.
"The school lunch end of things is important to me because growing up from kindergarten through graduating from high school, I ate a free or reduced [price] lunch every day," Lane said. "So, there's the business side of it that's important to us, but there's also that personal side to it. Most of the schools we service range between 95-100 percent of the students qualifying for a free lunch. They tend to be children where that meal is a very important part of their day."
Armed with a reinforced staff and expanded kitchen space, Lane said he now has the resources to solidify Innovation Foods as a quality provider of school meals.
"It allowed us to have actual office space for our staff," Lane said. "Coming into this facility also allows us to increase what we're allowed to offer because now we're under daily inspection with the USDA versus an inspection every six months. Having this facility, having it be brand new and having a lot of state-of-the-art equipment, really allows us to guarantee the quality of what we do."
Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Abby Schroll, who has worked with Lane on catering Chamber events, said the new facility spares Lane's staff the pressures of sharing space with other Red's Place operations.
"It's really nice," Schroll said of the new facility. "I know they did everything out of Red's Place and doing all those lunches, so it definitely gives them a lot of room and a lot more space."