Falayn Ferrell works in digital marketing, catering to small, Black-owned businesses. In 2016, she and marketing partner Derek Robinson and wine salesman Warren Luckett founded Black Restaurant Week in their home of Houston. It’s spread across the county, and they’re holding a Black Restaurant Week in New Orleans Oct. 2-11. A directory of more than 25 participating participating restaurants, restaurant week specials and online events is on blackrestaurantweeks.com.
Gambit: Why did you start Black Restaurant Week?
Falayn Ferrell: We created the first one in Houston in 2016 as a way to showcase the Black culinary industry. Houston has a really big restaurant week, but a lot of Black-owned restaurants don’t have the model to fit restaurant week. They’re more casual, counter-service restaurants. Houston Restaurant Weeks is more fine-dining and three-course dinners. So (many Black-owned restaurants) were getting left out of that story. We wanted to create a platform to show who they were.
The premise of the project is that a lot of these businesses don’t have the extra capital to do a citywide marketing campaign on their own. This is a cooperative economic thing where we pull everybody together with corporate partners and community partners to showcase it throughout the city.
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Gambit: How does Black Restaurant Week work?
Ferrell: It’s free for restaurants to sign up, but there’s also a premium level. We don’t put the bulk of the cost on the participants. We look for corporate partners and sponsors.
(During the week,) many restaurants offer specials. Some offer combos, or two- or three-course dining, happy hours, brunch specials. We’ve seen a variety of things during the campaign.
We do outreach through press and social media. We advertise and work with groups like Urban League Young Professionals and the Black Chamber. This year we had Pepsi come in as a sponsor to help with messaging and support marketing and advertising.
In New Orleans, we worked with chef (Gary) Netter, the culinary ambassador, and the (New Orleans Jazz Market) has hosted events. Chef Netter did a Health Talk in spring. We’re looking to do some professional development and panels and conversations at the end of October.
One of the goals is that money being pumped into these restaurants stays in the community. Some of the money can help hire new staff or open a second location. It recycles within the community.
Gambit: How has it grown?
Ferrell: As we did it, we realized there wasn’t a platform for caterers, food trucks and bartenders. So we added events to showcase the full spectrum of the Black culinary industry and provide opportunities for economic growth for them. We started to expand to other cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta. We’ll be in 11 cities this year. We work with food community partners, food bloggers and network and invite restaurants to participate.
What we’ve heard from corporate and community partners is that they want to hire (Black purveyors) but don’t they don’t know where they are. We’re trying to be that resource, so if you’re looking to hire a Black caterer or you are looking for a food truck, here’s a list.
It becomes a question of how to get these lists more organized and into directories and platforms and make it more available. We have a business directory on the website. We collected a lot more info this year when people signed up: Do you have private dining rooms? Do you do catering? What delivery platforms are you on? So even after the week is over, you can come to our website and there will be a lot of information.