ABOVE: Black Restaurant Week Founders: Derek Robinson, Falayn Ferrell, and Warren Luckett
Black Restaurant Week was founded in 2016 by three friends—Warren Luckett, Falayn Ferrell and Derek Robinson. It began as a one-city food experience in Houston.
Their mission has been to celebrate African American, African, and Caribbean influences in the culinary industry and to educate consumers on the abundance of cultural cuisines. The organization supports restauranteurs, bartenders, chefs, caterers, and food trucks, and this year celebrates seven years of service, supporting more than 2,000 restaurants since 2016.
According to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, 500,000 restaurants and bars are faced with an uncertain future due to lost revenue and increased debt over the past 22 months. In addition to that, approximately 1.1 million minority-owned businesses often face heightened challenges and disparities when securing business funding.
Those shocking statistics championed the founders of Black Restaurant Week to launch their More Than Just a Week campaign.
“More Than Just a Week speaks to our commitment to support the Black culinary community throughout the entire year,” states Falayn Ferrell, Black Restaurant Week, LLC’s Operations Managing Partner. “More than 90,000 restaurants and bars closed nationwide since 2020. It is essential that we create a platform that drives awareness to Black-owned culinary businesses outside of our culinary tour.”
As part of the More Than Just a Week campaign, 2022 campaign initiatives and events include, but are not limited to:
- Free entry-level business registration and inclusion in national culinary directory organization’s website
- Online culinary marketplace retailing Black-owned food and houseware brands
- NOSH Culinary Showcase to create and highlight business opportunities for catering companies and private chefs
- Soundbites Food Truck Parks to showcase and drive business to food trucks
- Small Business Grants and Business Development training from Black Restaurant Week’s non-profit Feed the Soul Foundation
According to a recent survey by the Independent Restaurant Coalition, 60% of Independent Restaurants are in danger of closing permanently without the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), including:
- Ascension Coffee, Dallas, TX
- The Mockingbird, Nashville, TN
- Chubby Fish, Charleston, SC
- Ignite, Lenexa, KS
- City Greens, New Orleans, LA
- Kaleis Kitchenette, Chula Vista, CA
- Ellas Oyster Bar, Miami, FL
- The Walrus Room, Geneva, IL
- Freehold Country Pub, Freehold, NY
- Basil Asian Bistro, Canton, OH
Independent restaurants and bars have accumulated 22 months of losses and need relief to pay down their debts. If they do not receive relief soon, these businesses will not survive the winter.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has cost restaurants and bars over $280 billion in sales. [US Census]
- 40% of all states have implemented dining restrictions. [Open Table]
- Costs necessary for running a restaurant are rising. These businesses continue to deal with pandemic-induced headwinds — over the past year, the prices of beef and veal (28.9%), grains (43.6%), shortening and cooking oil (34.4%), and fish and shellfish (30%) have surged. [PPI Report]
- The Omicron variant decimated restaurants on the verge of closure. 98% of restaurants reported their sales decreased in December 2021. [Independent Restaurant Coalition]
- 42% of businesses that did not receive RRF grants are in danger of filing for or have filed for bankruptcy.
- After accumulating 22 months of debt, restaurants and bars cannot simply fix their balance sheets with a few weeks of near-capacity business operations. Approximately 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed during the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.
- Investing in restaurants and bars protects the nation’s $760 billion independent restaurant industry. [Compass Lexecon Report]
- Restaurant and bar employment is down over 653,000 from its pre-pandemic levels, stopping a decade of rapid job growth. Employment for restaurants and bars increased over 33% in the last decade—the third fastest growth of any industry. Restaurants and bars account for one in five jobs lost during the pandemic. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, B – Tables + National Restaurant Association.]
- Until the pandemic, restaurants added middle class jobs at a rate over three times faster than the rest of the economy. [National Restaurant Association]
The survival of Black-owned culinary businesses is in jeopardy. Less than 20% of U.S. employer businesses are minority-owned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Most businesses do not have marketing/PR/advertising dollars to promote their business, which is another reason Black Restaurant Week was developed to shine a light on minority businesses and help them with building community awareness to increase their bottom line.
Last year, Black Restaurant Week supported 1,200 Black-owned culinary businesses across the United States—including Toronto and Vancouver—and generated an average of 15% sales increase.
Black Restaurant Week—Houston joins the nationwide tour and the palate-pleasing showcase beginning Friday, April 1 until Sunday, April 10.