Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard a common refrain regarding the impact of this dreadful disease and the response. The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on African Americans resulting in devastation to families and entire communities because of its impact on the health of Black families and the economic depression in our communities. One of the hardest-hit sectors of our economy has been Black-Owned restaurants. The statistics show that the pandemic caused 41% of Black-owned businesses to close since February 2020 compared to just 17% of white-owned companies. Most of those businesses were restaurants.
Black entrepreneurs have long faced systemic barriers to growth, including access to investment capital and business loans, biased community perceptions, and challenges caused by gentrification. While there have been government initiatives set in place to address these issues, the aid to date has fallen dramatically. In 1968, President Nixon advocated for minority businesses during his campaign. Nixon said, “We have to get private enterprise into the ghetto, but at the same time we have to get the people of the ghetto into private enterprise…as workers, as managers, as owners.” By 1971, the Small Business Administration (SBA) increased business loans to minorities by “24% in quantity and 31% in dollar volume to 8,387 loans for $231 million”. In today’s dollars, this would be approximately $1.535 billion. This infusion of funds had a significant and positive impact on Black communities across the country. Now, black-owned restaurants and the communities that they serve are left to bear the brunt of this devastating pandemic.
With reopening underway across the country, this is a pivotal moment for our struggling Black restaurateurs. This week, the National Urban League heeded the call alongside the PepsiCo Foundation to provide a much-needed helping hand to our black-owned restaurant community. Through its 12 Entrepreneurship Centers operated by affiliates in cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles, the National Urban League has launched the Black Restaurant Accelerator Program (BRAP). The BRAP takes a long-term view by pairing participants with entrepreneurship advisors and PepsiCo employee volunteers to build an actionable growth plan. Our objective is to help these businesses to become profitable and agile and to thrive. The Program will include direct grant assistance to 500 enterprises with technical assistance and entrepreneurial coaching and training on various topics, including back-office support and accounting systems, inventory management, operational efficiency, marketing for growth and ROI, and staff development. The Los Angeles Urban League applauds the PepsiCo Foundation and the National Urban League for their efforts in this regard.
Black-owned restaurants are not just a symbol of entrepreneurism; they are the heart and soul of our community and a part of the bedrock of our economy.
Patronizing our black-owned restaurants is critical to the overall recovery of this nation. In these difficult times, we must patronize our Black businesses and fully participate in our economic recovery. The food service industry is crucial to our nation’s financial strength, and Black restauranteurs deserve equal recognition and support for the vital role they play in our communities.