Black owned restaurants use unique website

New culinary locator eatblackowned.com

Lisa Fitch OW Contributor | 8/15/2019, midnight

With the popularity and general necessity of food, one might wonder—why there aren’t many more black-owned restaurants?

“Access to capital,” explained Veronica Hendrix, who participated in a panel discussion on food at a recent LA chapter meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists. “It takes a lot to start a restaurant, in terms of finding a location; working with the leasing company agreement; and overhead costs.”

“I think that’s why so many of them are choosing alternative ways of creating a presence in the community,” Hendrix added. “Food trucks, pop ups, becoming personal chefs, cooking for small groups—just looking for alternative ways of raising capital.”

Setting realistic goals

“A lot of banks initially look at them as a risk until they’re proven,” Hendrix said.

Nearly 60 percent of restaurants fail within their first three years, according to recent studies of business start-ups. Restaurateurs have to set realistic goals; conduct market research and analysis; and have an original concept with good food.

‘“I love talking about food,“ said Hendrix, who currently writes a blog called “Collard Greens and Caviar”--a take on her wide range of food tastes, from down-south soul food to European delicacies.

“Social media has been huge for me,” Hendrix said. “Through social media, I’ve created a sense of food family.“

The panel -- which also included Noelle Carter, who formerly worked in the LA Times test kitchen; and Mona Holmes, writer for Eater Los Angeles -- agreed that food journalists are not taken very seriously, even though food is something we deal with every day, preparing it, or eating it, or both.

“Food is very personal,” Hendrix said. “It can create a lot of memories and evoke feelings.“

Attracting regular customers

The panel agreed that almost nothing beats homemade, although many restaurants seek to replicate the looks, smells and tastes of family kitchens, creating an experience that creates a regular customer.

Hendrix admitted that whenever she smells nutmeg, she thinks about her mother’s homemade teacakes.

“That smell triggers comfort, love and safety,” she said. “For us, those teacakes were everything.”

The late Leah Chase, whose restaurant, Dooky Chase, served as an important New Orleans meeting spot during the Civil Rights movement, agreed: “Food builds big bridges,” she said. “If you can eat with someone, you can learn from them and when you learn from someone, you can make big changes.”

Dooky Chase was named one of the 40 most important restaurants of the past 40 years by Food & Wine.

It takes a great deal of work to evoke such a place and create such feelings. To that end, restaurant owners work especially hard. Eatblackowned.com hopes to assist them on the advertising front.

Dillard has plans to include more Black-owned food businesses on the website.

“There are Black owned franchises,” Dillard said. “I will list them, but I’m having a hard time finding those franchises. Rapper Rick Ross owns a lot of Wingstops in Florida—we’ve added them.

“Some Black-owned franchises don’t promote that they’re Black owned,“ he added. “They ‘keep it corporate.’ We do have some franchises listed: Tiger Woods, Shaquille and Michael Jordan have a few franchises.”