Main Squeeze has been a staple in Columbia, Missouri, for more than two decades, but the beloved restaurant just made a big change to its business model.
Instead of making made-to-order meals, the business is shifting to premade meals, limited seating and a sustainable market. The new name, Main Squeeze Market, reflects these changes.
“My business model has shifted from made-to-order to grab-and-go, which means we have a variety of foods that you can grab and take and eat right away,” owner Leigh Lockhart says. “Then we have a whole bunch of other foods you can take and eat later, like frozen meals that we’ve been making that are all plant-based.”
Although the meals are no longer made to order, there are still plenty of food offerings. Some of the frozen meals include shepherd’s pie, Mackin Cheeze (the market’s plant-based mac ‘n’ cheese) and cheesy chicken enchiladas. There is also a cooler with items like hummus, yogurt parfaits and salads. In the hot case, you’ll find five to six meals every day for customers to purchase and eat right away, such as breakfast burritos and a vegan egg sandwich made with housemade spicy soy sausage. There will also be a rotating daily special, and Main Squeeze still offers its signature juices and smoothies.
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“We’ve got things you can eat for lunch or something you might want to pick up and grab for dinner later,” Lockhart says.
Before the change, the restaurant could seat 52 people; now, there’s room for about 12 since the market has been added. The reason for the change boils down to the labor shortage many businesses have been facing.
“Scaling back allows me to really do what I love, make it smaller, make it more profitable, pay people better and then hopefully retain those people,” Lockhart says. “I don’t like being stretched so thin with high food costs and high labor costs that I can’t give people a proper raise.”
The sustainable market offers items other than food, such as vegan leather journals, handmade minimalist soaps, package-free deodorant, laundry strips, wool dryer balls and shampoo and body butter bars.
"I’m trying to source everything from women and minority-owned businesses rather than corporations,” Lockhart says.
She is also sourcing items directly from local businesses, such as Battlefield Lavender in Centralia, Missouri.
“The whole thing about this concept is trying to shrink my business down to a really manageable entity compared to how it was before,” Lockhart says.
When choosing items for the market, Lockhart picks items with no packaging or compostable packaging in order to remain eco-friendly. And in regards to how she is packaging the food, she has kept her impact on the environment in mind.
“I’m trying to provide food in the most conscious-sensible packaging that I can find so it’s either going to be in recyclable packaging – glass or plastic – or it’s in compostable packaging,” she says.
Lockhart says that in order to stay sustainable, she must stay in business.
“If I’m not in business, I can’t practice any sustainability practices,” Lockhart says. “So bottom line, I had to figure out how I can keep this place going with what works for us and what keeps it profitable, which is how I pay people.”
Main Squeeze Market is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9am to 6pm.
Main Squeeze Market, 28 S. Ninth St., Columbia, Missouri, main-squeeze.com