How did you all find your way to connect and create DMV Black Restaurant Week?
As entrepreneurs in the food/beverage space, we all envisioned a dynamic wealth/resource building opportunity for other black restaurant owners. The concept of DMVbrw derived from the passion to promote these establishments and provide them with a level of programming so they can sustain themselves. Our ultimate goal is to empower us through solidarity. Our team is comprised of Dr. Erinn Tucker, a professor at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies who has been in the academic space for 15 years teaching hospitality and was the person to bring the idea into fruition; Andra Johnson, an experienced bar consultant and the author of the forthcoming book White Plates, Black Faces. The book addresses the African-American experience in local restaurants and the lack of pipelines to help service industry workers graduate from employee to employer; and Furard Tate, who has had several careers including preparing meals for D.C. charter schools and running Inspire Barbecue on H Street, NE.
With so many black-owned establishments throughout the DMV, why is this the first Black Restaurant Week in this region?
While many before us may have had the idea of a DMVbrw, executing such an event requires a high level of community support, organization, and funding. According to the National Restaurant Association, African Americans/Blacks make up only 8 percent of restaurant owners and the same share of restaurant managers. Since the 1990s, restaurant weeks have been successful, however in the last three years’ black restaurant weeks have taken off in towns such as Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Memphis, Los Angeles, Richmond even Buffalo, New York. DMWbrw will bring African American restaurant owners, managers, chefs, caterers, thought leaders and financiers into one room to discuss options for entrepreneurial ventures and continuing education. The week not only promotes restaurants, but will go further to recognize existing restaurants and close the gap that exists in knowledge by coordinating pop-ups in all eight DC wards, hosting a conference and panel discussion featuring black-owned food trucks and an awards brunch on Sunday spotlighting owners, managers, politicians, tastemakers and non-profit organizations that are blazing the trail and supporting the community 365 days a year.
This is why the DMVbrw is so important to the cultural sensitivities that exist and are unique to the DC African American community. There is no recent document or study existing that track the number of African American leisure and hospitality businesses in the city. While the Ethiopian community has developed its own “yellow book” and the Mayor’s Office of African Affairs’ African Business Directory list related business and offers ways for them to meet and work together, a search revealed outdated or no such resources regarding African American business. The Washington Informer has been consistent in their support for minority business development by aiding and advertising jobs and training opportunities and looks to continue and speed up these efforts with quarterly profiles of hospitality executives and owners. A full database and directory of African American hospitality businesses will be developed which will outline opportunities and procedures for small business city services, entrepreneurship, legal, insurance, etc. for the leisure and hospitality sector.
What has the response been to this week-long event?
The response has been overwhelming -- in a good way! Since going live a little over a month ago, we’ve received an outpour of support from the community. As the date nears, more restaurants continue to sign on. In less than a week of going public, we managed to amass over one-hundred Brand Ambassadors who will donate their time towards making sure our week of events goes off without a hitch. We are beyond grateful for the level of positivity we have received so far!
How will DMV Black Restaurant Week help black-owned establishments grow?
The DMVbrw Committee is organizing a vigorous week of activities that will set in motion years of continued economic growth amongst black-owned establishments. Following citywide tradition, DMVbrw will introduce local consumers to select venues offering pre-fixed, set-price brunch/lunch and dinner menu options. Similarly, restaurant owners will pay a nominal fee of $300.00 to participate and to showcase their companies, which is roughly half the DC Restaurant Week rate. The investment owners make to participate in DMVbrw also includes a yearlong membership exposing them to programming around revenue-generating and capacity-building opportunities.
Other than honoring and bringing much-needed exposure to Black-owned businesses, how does DVMbrw stand apart from other Restaurant Weeks throughout the area?
DMVbrw will offer programming each night of the week along the lines of a Kick-Off Event, Cocktails and Conversations, a bar/mixologist competition, a conference and an awards brunch. Needless to say, our planning team has thought carefully about the components that will make up a unique, inspiring and fulfilling first-ever BRW.
What do you want people of the DMV to make of this experience overall?
We want to raise awareness for black-owned businesses in the DMV and create an environment where we are supporting each other.
Will this be annual?