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Black Restaurant Week founders Falayn Ferrell, Warren Luckett, and Derek Robinson posing in front of a bar.
The Houston founders of Black Restaurant Week are working to ensure the support of our country’s Black culinary scene continues year-round.
Fade Media

How the Founders of Houston’s Black Restaurant Week Started a Movement

Houston’s Black Restaurant Week, which kicks off on April 1, aims to take promotion of Black culinary businesses a step farther in 2022

Houston is known to celebrate its culinary scene with greatly anticipated celebrations like Houston Restaurant Week, a monthlong event where food enthusiasts venture off to the city’s restaurants to indulge in meals at special prices. But when Warren Luckett, Falayn Ferrell, and Derek Robinson took a closer look at the offerings, something was missing.

Many Black culinary professionals, including food truck owners, private chefs, and caterers weren’t listed. Some of their favorite Black-owned businesses fell outside of the conventional sit-down restaurant model, while others didn’t have money to pay for marketing, public relations, or advertising to get them noticed. And while many people were able to name their favorite Asian or Italian establishment, others weren’t knowledgeable enough to have a favorite Black-owned food business in the city, Luckett says.

The business-savvy trio decided to make a change.

In 2016, Luckett, Ferrell, and Robinson formed Black Restaurant Week, LLC, and launched a weeklong showcase offering a platform for Houston’s Black-owned businesses to spotlight their food.

The online marketplace showcased all facets of the Black culinary community, including a listing of Black chefs, bakeries, bartenders, food trucks, caterers, and private chefs, with the ability for users to filter through them by cuisine or restaurant name. The goal was to provide the businesses exposure, while bringing more awareness to the city about the local African American, African, and Caribbean influences on Houston’s cultural scene.

Since then, Black Restaurant Week has grown into a national movement, and Houston’s Black Restaurant Week, which runs from Friday, April 1 through April 10, has grown to feature more than 150 food businesses in the Houston area. The lineup includes favorites like Fainmous BBQ, Taste Bar + Kitchen, Mico’s Hot Chicken, Frenchy’s, Davis Street at Hermann Park.

Multiple cities such as Atlanta, Oakland, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Toronto and Montreal, Canada, have signed on to host their own restaurant weeks.

“It’s just been beautiful to watch. The community is such a great driving force to what we do,” Ferrell says. But, Luckett adds, “We want it to be more than just a week.”

Now, the founders are working on making Black Restaurant Week a year-round endeavor. This year, the organization launched its “More Than A Week” theme, encouraging diners and Black-owned businesses to use the platform to continue to engage with the Black culinary world beyond the scope of an annual restaurant week.

Through November, the organization plans to host multiple efforts, including its online marketplace, a food truck park, and in-person culinary events. There will be a national bartending competition in Chicago where bartenders compete for city bragging rights, a Houston-based Nosh Culinary Showcase that celebrates Black-owned catering companies and private chefs, and dinners that discuss social justice issues, like solitary confinement.

“The dinner table is the opportunity to have conversations about what was going on in the world, and this is something that will allow the greater community to come out and participate,” Luckett says.

The website, in particular, will continue to be a driving force, allowing chefs to showcase and advertise their services free of charge, the founders say.

Ferrell, who calls the restaurant week “a call to action to the community to support” Black-owned restaurants year-round, says another goal is to provide networking and revenue-generating opportunities for businesses.

Black Restaurant Week founders will also work to promote other minority-owned businesses via collaborations with its sister organization, Houston Latin Restaurant Week. Both will team up to award six local Black and/or Latinx-owned businesses a $10,000 grant with development consultation and connection to resources. Around 19 percent of employing businesses in the U.S. are minority-owned, the U.S. Census Bureau states in a 2021 report.

The initiative comes at a time when many businesses are in jeopardy. According to a May 2021 report by the National Restaurant Association, around 90,000 restaurants have closed since 2020, and restaurant sales were down $65 billion in 2021 from 2019’s pre-pandemic sales. The Independent Restaurant Coalition also reported that 500,000 restaurants and bars are faced with an uncertain future due to lost revenue and increased debt over the past 22 months.

“I think people don’t realize how much food intersects with so many parts of your life and society. Creatively, what we’re able to do is provide business opportunities that haven’t always been prevalent or readily available,” Ferrell says.

To date, Black Restaurant Week has supported more than 2,000 culinary businesses in the U.S. and Canada — 1,600 in the last year alone — and has helped generate an average sales increase of 15 percent, according to a release.

“It’s really about empowering restauranteurs this year and giving them the power to be the star for the show,” Warren Luckett says. “There is a real Black culinary community in this city,” but often it's overlooked.

“The diversity of our food,” Ferrell says, “appeals to everyone.”

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