Black Restaurant Week kicks off amid coronavirus pandemic

Reggie Wade
·Writer

Forty-one percent of Black-owned businesses have closed up shop in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and a great deal of those have been restaurants. Black Restaurant Week, which started in 2016 to help but celebrate Black-owned businesses, is continuing through the pandemic and has expanded to New York City this year. Derek Robinson, co-founder of the campaign, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the event, its mission, and why it’s particularly important amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Fried Chicken — Goldroom Restaurant and Lounge Brooklyn
Fried chicken from the Goldroom Restaurant and Lounge, one of the week's participants, in Brooklyn, NY.

Black Restaurant Week began as a one-city food experience in Houston, Texas. To date, the culinary experience has expanded to 11 regions with involvement from 430 minority-owned restaurants and businesses.

Its mission, the organization says, is to “feed and fuel the cultural famine – especially with an emphasis on reviving and saving the black restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic – and educate consumers on the abundance of cultural cuisines and dispel ethnic untruths.”

“These restaurants are essential businesses,” Robinson said. “They’re the cornerstones of our communities, and I can definitely break bread at the local coffee shop down the street, but due to COVID, we can’t do this sometimes. We’re so thankful that along with us, these other restaurants have been able to pivot themselves, reducing some of their menus from maybe 40 items down to those five signature items.”

Mac and cheese — Blvd Bistro
BLVD Bistro in Harlem is serving up mac and cheese for NYC's first Black Restaurant Week.

Black-owned restaurants face many systemic barriers, including disproportionate access to stimulus such as PPP loans. Robinson tells Yahoo Financed that many Black-owned businesses need stimulus to keep going.

“They need it to be very honest. And, I mentioned before with our campaign, we definitely bring in the folks to be able to support them for that moment, but there will definitely be moments of highlighting them and supporting them for years to come. But there’s also still a need.”

Black Restaurant Week is presented by Pepsi (PEP) and will runs from November 13 to November 22.

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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