ORLANDO, Fla. – A Houston-based organization aimed at highlighting Black-owned businesses is bringing its campaign to the Sunshine State.
Florida’s Black Restaurant Week kicks off on Friday, Nov. 11 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 20.
The event highlights African American, African and Caribbean cuisine in an effort to bring attention to Black-owned restaurants and culinary businesses in various communities around the state.
Black Restaurant Week started in 2016 in Houston, according to its website. The organization was founded by Warren Luckett with Falayn Ferrell and Derek Robinson.
“Warren really came up with this idea as a way to support the culinary businesses within the (Black) community,” Ferrell said. “We just realized there really wasn’t a voice for them. We have a very robust Houston restaurant week that features over 200 restaurants for like a month but (we) really looked at the list — a lot of Black-owned restaurants weren’t really a part of that and not because they didn’t want to be, they just didn’t have the business model.”
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Ferrell noted that many of the Black-owned restaurants in the Houston area were more of the fast-casual sort, rather than the fine dining or full-service options commonly found with restaurant weeks, such as Orlando’s Magical Dining Month.
“We wanted to create a platform that was all-inclusive for them — for the food trucks, for the bakeries — and so that’s really how Black Restaurant Week was born, just as a way to showcase and highlight culinary businesses within our community,” Ferrell said.
This marks the third year for the event in Florida. Ferrell, who is a graduate of Florida A&M University, said the group had originally planned to only highlight Orlando, but the pandemic pushed them to include the entire state to provide as much support to struggling restaurants as possible.
“Some businesses were safe, others are still kind of struggling which is why we’re still hosting this campaign year over year,” she said. “It takes a lot to keep a restaurant profitable and the premise of the campaign model is a cooperative economics model. We don’t charge the restaurants to participate. We don’t take a portion of sales that they earn during the campaign. So everything that the community feeds into the business, the business is able to invest back into their business.”
Ferrell added that some spots featured during Black Restaurant Week have seen some big bumps in business, sometimes as much as 15-20%.
Black Restaurant Week also has a non-profit arm called Feed The Soul, which offers $10,000 grants to Black-owned restaurants and gives them access to business development resources.
“For us, it’s just ‘How do we be a resource to this community ourselves throughout the year?’” Ferrell said. “You know, we’re not here today and gone tomorrow. We’ve supported restaurants that had break-ins and things like that, giving them grants for emergency purposes. So, I think it’s just really cool watching us kind of unite the culinary community.”
This year, nearly a dozen restaurants in Central Florida are participating in Black Restaurant Week, including Dajen Eats, Golden Krust, Nessas BBQ Restaurant and B Cupcakes. There are many more businesses participating throughout the state — including restaurants in Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.
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Ferrell said she hopes people will use the event as an excuse to explore the culinary scene within their own communities.
“The easiest part of our job is telling people to go eat,” Ferrell said. “Definitely, of course, go to your favorites, but definitely challenge yourself to try something new for lunch, try something new for dinner and really get to know the businesses and your community. My last pitch is always that these businesses hire first within our local communities. They’re the first to give back to our local communities and so this week is really just a way for us to be a blessing back to them, just so they can continue to keep their doors open and serve great food.”
To find all of the restaurants participating in Florida’s Black Restaurant Week, click here.
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