Follow your fork! A flavorfully fulfilling organization is continuing to support the culinary community and exclusively sharing delectable details on its latest happenings.
Black Restaurant Week, the foodie celebration that travels city to city spotlighting flavors of African-American, African, and Caribbean cuisine, is revisiting its “More Than Just a Week” campaign, focused on aiding Black-owned culinary businesses and professionals via year-round resources.
Founded in Houston in 2016 by Warren Luckett, alongside managing partners Falayn Ferrell and Derek Robinson, Black Restaurant Week is continuing its mission to highlight Black-owned restaurants and flood them with support. Clearly quite successful at doing so, more than 3000 restauranteurs, bartenders, chefs, caterers, and food trucks have benefitted from their efforts.
On August 6-August 20 the brand will return to Atlanta and mark its seventh year of service in the peach state complete with a signature event and a flurry of tasty dealings varying from pop-ups to a pub crawl.
Ahead of that, Warren Luckett chatted with BOSSIP about Black Restaurant Week’s palette-pleasing philanthropic efforts and the inclusive events coming to the southern city.
Tell us about your “More Than Just A Week” campaign.
The charge that we receive from a lot of the restaurants was that coming in and doing the two-week campaigns are always awesome and it’s a great boost for the businesses, but the charge was really how can we continue to support them all year round? So the idea behind “More Than Just a Week” is us being able to support the restaurant community with resources all year, not just during Black Restaurant Week. So whether that’s having different auxiliary events like our catering showcase that we’ll be having at the State Farm Arena or a lot of the other consulting work that we’ve been doing with our corporate partners, where for either different holidays or special events we’re working a lot with TV and media, being able to do a little bit more food and beverage consulting, where we’re able to provide these restaurateurs business opportunities throughout the year.
Black Restaurant Week has clearly grown but how did it come to fruition?
Black Restaurant Week started just with us understanding that there was a huge void in the market to really celebrate the contributions of Black culinary arts. When you look at food in this country from a historical perspective, Blacks were truly the first celebrity chefs in this country. Whether it was Hercules, George Washington’s chef, or even Thomas Jefferson, chef, James Hemings, they were the early contributors to food culture in this country. But like a lot of other things, whether it’s been our fashion or our music, it starts to get misappropriated. So my background has always been in distribution, and going to some of these new American restaurants, you would see things on the menu like shrimp and grits, and there’s nothing New American about shrimp and grits. So, for me, it was like, “I don’t want them to misappropriate our food the way they have done other things.”
So that’s where Black Restaurant Week was born. You look at some of these other restaurant weeks or you look at some of these other awards, they’re starting to do, I think, a better job now of inclusion. But if you look back at 2016, it was all about non-people of color establishments, especially not Black establishments, in some of these food excellence opportunities, and so we just wanted to create our own industry. It’s like if we can’t eat at your table, we’ll just make our own. So Black Restaurant Week was born as a way to celebrate from across the African diaspora. We didn’t want it to just be about soul food. We wanted it to really be about food from across the diaspora, as I mentioned, so we have Caribbean food, African food, vegan food. We wanted to show just how creative and diverse food is from our people.
Tell us about your forthcoming Black Restaurant Week In Atlanta and some of the restaurants participating.
We’re super excited! We got this amazing partnership with Stella Artois this year where we’re going to be doing an incredible lineup of events just to highlight the diversity of our food establishments in Atlanta. Just to kick it off, on August 6th, we’re going to be hosting our first pub crawl, this will be on the South Side, and we’ll have a party bus and a portion of the proceeds will be benefiting Feed the Soul, our non-profit foundation that is the philanthropic arm of Black Restaurant Week. We’ll be doing things like a lunch and learn at Twisted Soul where high school students will have an opportunity to learn about opportunities within the food and beverage industry. So I’m really excited to highlight food with the next generation in our community.
Our big showcase, our big signature event is going to be on August the 10th. It’s going to be Nosh at the State Farm Arena. We’ll have over 20 different caterers showcasing some of the best food bites in the city. As we all know, nosh means to take a bite enthusiastically, so we’re hoping there’s a whole bunch of noshing going on August the 10th. Another big thing for us was being inclusive. So we’re going outside the city, we’ll be doing things in Marietta at Blaqhaus, we’ll be in Kennesaw at Forks & Flavors. We’re also working with Luvo for their R&B night, and looking forward to see who they’re going to be showcasing.
Then we’re going to be partnering with the Her Grails Conference. A young dynamic lady, Tausha Sanders out of Houston, Texas, she’s very integrated into the sneaker universe, is hosting her Her Grails brunch at Breakfast at Barney’s, and then we’ll be doing our conclusion at APT 4B on the 20th. We’ll be having over a dozen signature events that’ll all be on the website. These will be opportunities for folks to come out. We’ll be giving out swag. We’ll be having some beer giveaways from Stella. But the whole week is going to be awesome!
Tell us more about the philanthropic arm of Black Restaurant Week that you were mentioning, the Feed The Soul Foundation.
The Feed the Soul Foundation was started in 2020, and just like with our “More Than Just a Week” campaign, we realized early on that there was a need for business development outside of marketing development. Where we look at Black Restaurant Week being more so a marketing agency, Feed the Soul Foundation is truly our business development arm where we’re able to do things like grants. We give out between 20 to 30 grants every year. This year, we gave about 30 grants, $10,000 to Black and brown businesses throughout the country. In addition to them receiving $10,000, we partner with local CPAs that go in and they give a financial audit. We work with banks that give them access to financial services. Then we partner with different marketing firms to give them a marketing boot camp. Once all that is done, then they get to pick a consultant of their choice, anything from menu consultation, beverage consultation, HR consulting, or website design. We come in and really build out something so that at the end of our program they have something tangible to show for it.
That’s one [philanthropic] arm. We also have Project Next, which is our internship and scholarships. Last year, we gave out over $50,000 to Black and brown students at HBCUs and HSIs around the country as well as provided internships for over 20 students in the realm of marketing and food and hospitality. So we’re really excited about the philanthropic work that the foundation’s doing. We also have an emergency grant program. So if you know any restaurants that have a break-in, natural disaster, a fire, or anything like that, let us know and we can give them a $500,000 stipend towards their insurance deductible. So we really want to continue to build resources for these businesses throughout the year. Also worth noting is that the Feed the Soul Foundation sits between Black Restaurant Week and Latin Restaurant Week, so it provides those services for both the Black and Brown communities.
For more information on Black Restaurant Week click HERE.