The Menu Manager reopens, offering event space, catering, and take & bake meals

Kelly Osborn considers herself an opportunist. 

She’s also the founder and owner of The Menu Manager, just one of her many companies. After college graduation, the stay-at-home mom was asked by a friend if she could help with menu planning. The idea of The Menu Manager began, with a goal to help busy families with home-cooked meals.

That was almost 20 years ago, and now The Menu Manager is celebrating its move and grand reopening at 309 Dartmouth Dr. in Midland. The locally-owned dinner design studio space is roughly 1,600 square feet. 

The dinner design studio offers catering, event rental space, take & bake meals, and more.Osborn says the concept has evolved over the years, from a newsletter to their first kitchen in the Midland Community Center.

“Our business plan shifted over the years,” she says. ”We started doing some catering, which then led into its own division of the company and quickly became the biggest division of our company. During COVID, there’s no gathering so that really puts a damper on catering.”

After participating in the Regrow Midland program, what Osborn calls the best decision the business has ever made, The Menu Manager gained traction. ReGrow Midland is a partnership with Midland Area Community Foundation, the Midland Business Alliance, Michigan Baseball Foundation, and private and community investors. The goal is to battle food insecurity, by providing the community with steady income opportunities and mentorship to restaurants.

“People really connect over meals, so we want to offer a space that matches the meal."Participating in the program allowed the business to move operations back to Midland after a short hiatus spent in Shields. 

Part of the business evolution includes the take & bake meals, which have adapted over the years as well. First, the company invited families to make their own meals in the kitchen, then switched to a pick-up model, and even offered their services as a concierge to local employees.

Today, The Menu Manager offers take & bake meals once a month via phone or email orders, including November’s Thanksgiving options. 

Osborn says the reopening on Nov. 11 was more than she could have imagined. 

“It felt like a victory,” she says. “We felt like we emerged stronger than ever before, and the community came out in droves to celebrate. It was really special and we are so grateful for the warm welcome in our new location.”

As for the space itself, which was the original City Dairy, followed by pizza places, and most recently, The Loch Coffee House, the building required some flipping. 

“It’s a cozy vintage,” she says of the space, adorned with vintage furniture, old wooden church banquet tables, and a leather couch. “We’ve created a space that in this upcoming year, we can host private dining experiences with Chef Ann. We’ll also offer chic space rentals for small gatherings of 30-40 people, for birthday parties, showers, or book clubs. We have a huge prep counter that goes all the way around the inside section of the building, it’s probably 30 feet of counter space that we can host a variety of cooking classes in that section. We have a beautiful reception area where people can have a cater consultation to chat about their upcoming event.”

The Menu Manager offers take & bake meals once a month via phone or email orders, including November’s Thanksgiving options. Within the next year, Osborn’s team plans to host private dining experiences with specifically-crafted client menus. Future goals include a once-weekly lunch counter and corporate team building programs. 

“People really connect over meals, so we want to offer a space that matches the meal,” she says. “Our company specializes in the art of thoughtful care, so that is something that we will specifically be focused on. We think it’s all about the space, the food, and the hospitality. Showing that to our community is definitely our number one goal.”

The Menu Manager does not have traditional retail hours, but Osborn says their doors are open when they’re onsite preparing catering orders Tuesday through Friday. Appointments can also be made via phone or email.

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at spohn9@gmail.com.