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Black Restaurant Week comes to South Carolina

A national Black Restaurant Week campaign has come to South Carolina for the first time this year.

The weeklong marketing push aims to bring Black-owned restaurants into the spotlight — and bring business to these eateries. This year’s Carolinas edition runs from April 23 to May 2. The event, in this year’s COVID-19-altered version, consists mostly of a national directory of Black-owned restaurants, searchable by state and city. There are also forthcoming components like a digital marketplace to sell goods and a bartending competition.

“(We’re) really just giving the community the opportunity to learn about local businesses and champion that Main Street America vibe,” said co-founder Falayn Ferrell.

In Columbia, there are only four restaurants involved so far, but more may filter in as they’re processed, she said. Registration for the campaign is free this year, and restaurants are eligible to join throughout the week and beyond.

It’s typical for the inaugural year in a new city to be small, she said. As the restaurant weeks continue in future years, Ferrell hoped to see it grow like in other markets. She said the positive effects are typically tangible for restaurants that participate during the week and beyond.

Five Points cocktail bar and eatery Goat’s is participating in week. In the directory, a short “About” description details the restaurant’s offerings, with a photo gallery of dishes and a list of “restaurant features.”

The restaurant’s staff brought the initiative to owner Olando “Opie” Patterson’s attention, he said. He believed it would be a good way of growing, saying he hoped for a 25 percent uptick in new business, with half of that becoming regular customers.

“I’m sure we’ll see a little pick up in traffic,” Patterson said. “It all depends on how it’s marketed.”

The campaign originated in Houston and has since grown to other cities and states since 2016. Ferrell explained that Houston has a strong, long-running restaurant week that focuses on coursed meals and fine dining.

She and the other founders felt it didn’t fit the mold of many of the Black-owned restaurants in the city, and they turned to make their own restaurant week.

“We wanted to really create a platform that was all-inclusive for them as well as food trucks, bartenders and everything,” Ferrell said.

This year’s campaign is also highlighting the disproportionate toll Black-owned restaurants have taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a press email, the organization noted that “41% of Black-owned businesses have shuttered since February compared to 17% of White-owned businesses,” citing University of California Santa Cruz research from 2020.

The week does more than just highlight the restaurants, Ferrell asserted. It can help dispel ethnic untruths around what Black food looks like.

“The initial thought process everyone goes to is soul food, barbecue, which is true, but what we’ve learned…is we have so much more diversity,” she said. “I think with the Carolinas there’s an Afro-Latin restaurant participating...We have an Italian restaurant participating. I think it kind of expands the conversation we’re having around food.”

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