The systemic barriers faced by Black-owned restaurants, such as disproportionate access to business loans and other disparities only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research from the University of California, Santa Cruz last year, 41% of Black-owned businesses have shuttered since February compared to 17% of white-owned businesses.
To lend support, Black Restaurant Week from Friday, August 6 through Sunday, August 15 is launching the “No Crumb Left Behind” campaign to help businesses stay afloat by adding even more activations and programming. Sky’s Gourmet Tacos, The Original Taco Pete, BlaqHaus NoHo, Chipper & Cheeky, Ranch Side Café, The Memphis Grille, Black Bottom Southern Kitchen and Bayou Grille are some of this year’s participants offering prix fixe brunch, lunch and dinner menus.
“We remained open during the pandemic,” Angel Amor-Smart, owner of participating Bossy Bundts tells LA. Weekly. “We’ve always offered curbside pickup as an option but we leaned on that as one of our only options, at one point, outside of delivery for the safety of everyone. When restrictions began to ease, we began doing pop-ups within the community with other small businesses, donating sweets to essential businesses and essential workers, and creating activity boxes for families with children quarantined at home. In the black business community, we already have to work 10 times harder to be met with the same respect and patronage as other businesses, but during this pandemic, I felt my community really came together and supported one another in a major way. I just hope we continue to build on that momentum so that we can do more to support other growing businesses as we grow too.”
The 2021 campaign initiatives and virtual events include free entry-level business registration and inclusion in a national culinary directory on Black Restaurant Week’s website, a Black-owned culinary marketplace retailing Black-owned curated food and houseware goods, and the Power of the Palate virtual national cocktail competition with Maker’s Mark. This year, the financial participation fee for all restaurants has been waived.
Founded in 2016 by Warren Luckett, Falayn Ferrell and Derek Robinson, Black Restaurant Week began as a one-city food experience in Houston, Texas for those who lacked marketing dollars to promote their businesses. To date, the culinary experience has expanded to 15 markets with involvement from more than 670 minority businesses and professionals nationwide.
“With regard to Covid-19, we have to acknowledge that smaller, less corporate type businesses were hit hardest,” says Sky’s Gourmet Tacos owner Barbara Burrell. “When you consider that only 7% of Businesses in America are Black-owned, and many of those are in the food service industry, it was inevitable that the crisis would hit minority businesses the hardest. For us, without ‘normal’ access to finance and crisis assistance, we faced a hard up-hill struggle to keep our doors open and our people employed. Systemic racism still is rampant at financial institutions and the lack of access to capital is the primary reason many had no recourse but to either shut their doors or lay-off treasured employees. When funding did become available – like the Restaurant Revitalization Fund – there was no real understanding of the speed for which this funding was required. We’ve been waiting over five months at this point – and most of us Mom & Pops just can’t hold on that long, despite a soon-to-end moratorium on eviction. So yes, our community was hit more widely and harder than most, and unless there is some movement in government, we will always be at a serious disadvantage when it comes to emergency situations.”