Black Restaurant Week kicks off in Philly

From left: Derek Robinson, Falayn Ferrell and Warren Luckett
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Black Restaurant Week is here in the City of Brotherly Love, and now until Sunday, Oct. 25, Philadelphians can celebrate and help support small Black-owned businesses in a delicious way.

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According to a release, Black Restaurant Week LLC is the organization responsible for celebrating the flavors of African American, African and Caribbean cuisine with a series of regional cultural events. Their mission 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. During Black Restaurant Week, foodies, culinary influencers, locals and guests will be treated to prix fixe brunch, lunch and dinner menus at participating restaurants within the area. 

“BRW started in 2016 as a way to create a platform for Black-owned restaurants in the Houston community,” says Black Restaurant Week co-founder Falayn Ferrell. “What we saw was a major restaurant week that’s hosted here, [but] it has more like wait staff, fine-dining and most of the restaurants in our community aren’t really set up like that. So we just wanted to create a platform that is a little more flexible to showcase all the types of culinary businesses in our community. Since then, it’s grown.”

Along with other co-founders Warren Luckett and Derek Robinson, Ferrell has seen the event grow from just Houston to eleven other markets, including Philadelphia in 2018. Overall, 250 businesses across the country have been highlighted during this culinary showcase.

“Sometimes its people reaching out saying, hey I love what you guys are doing and come to my city, but now with COVID, we wanted to be a little more aggressive to really highlight regions,” adds Ferrell. “We wanted to see how many more businesses we could get in the model and our calendar was a lot more condensed. So, instead of trying to do city by city, we’ve been really expanding our reach to do regions and that’s allowed us to help a lot more businesses this year.” 

This year in Philly, there are about 20 restaurants participating including Booker’s Restaurant & Bar, Star Fusion, Loft Q74, The Bar(n), Urban Country, Alena’s Cafe, The Imperial Restaurant and many more. The cuisines range from vegetarian to BBQ, to seafood and everything in between. The organizers also allowed caterers who do meal prep and food trucks to hop in during this year. Also new in 2020 was the ability to register your restaurant for free. This was done to help ensure that all businesses who were hit hard from the pandemic could have the opportunity to put their venue up for the event. 

“A lot more restaurants are closed this year across the board. What we’ve noticed towards the end of the year [is that] we’re starting to run into that more than when we started the calendar in July with the project. We just finished up in New Orleans and even in Philly, businesses that we’re used to working with every year are either temporarily closed or are just no longer open,” explains Ferrell. “So, COVID has definitely really hurt a lot of businesses across the board and we’re seeing that within the Black restaurant community. Because of that though, we added the free registration level this year, really just opening up to a lot more businesses that have been financially strapped.” 

“Supporting the entire culinary industry from farm to table is necessary for providing more opportunities for the whole community to thrive,” Luckett added in a statement. “From the increased exposure for Black-owned restaurants on our new national website to the professional business guidance gained from the educational events, Black Restaurant Week helps businesses expand its customer base and receive resources for ongoing success.”  

On top of showcasing the different eateries throughout this trying year by putting an emphasis on take-out and delivery for the event, BRW also has a few other incentives to help keep these small businesses afloat.

“We wanted to celebrate the excellence we’ve seen, so we’ve been hosting the Black Plate Awards—it’s an activation where we work with local food bloggers to put a shortlist together like the best chef, best brunch, and essentially allow the community to vote in different categories to really kind of honor the Black culinary excellence in their local community,” says Ferrell. “Also, with everything that’s going on and trying to figure out how to further help businesses, we are launching our first non-profit foundation called Feed the Soul and it really supports restaurants, business development and we provide stipends as well. It’s another way to continue to the conversation of how do we help businesses in our community stay sustainable and have lasting effects? We’re really excited.”

A full list of participants and more information can be found at  blackrestaurantweeks.com . Philadelphians are also urged to continue to support these restaurants even after the event is over to help ensure that the cultural tenacity of the Philadelphia culinary industry survives past this tumultuous time. 

“It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, but in a weird way, COVID is kind of one of those years where everyone has pivoted,” says Ferrell. “I think it’s just really showcasing who these businesses are to the community so that then they are able to get more opportunities and get those financial resources pumped into their business—it just allows them to grow. I think this helps expand the conversation of who are the local businesses in the community? You might only know three or four tried and true Black-owned restaurants, but now by doing this every year, you’re really able to see what’s in your community— that’s beautiful.” 

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