Black Restaurant Week Empowers Smaller Businesses

By Darlene Leal
Staff Reporter

Two participants in Chicago Black Restaurant Week (CBRW).
Photos by Darlene Leal.

Most Chicagoans know that when the end of January hits it’s only a matter of time before its “Restaurant Week,” but how many know about Black Restaurant Week?

With a shorter running time, Black Restaurant Week came back for its fourth year with 38 establishments participating.

Black Restaurant Week is during the second week of February, which was deemed Black History Week by Dr. Carter G in 1926. To pay respects to the founder of Black History Week, Chicago Black Restaurant Week (CBRW) is to be the second week of every February.

The purpose of CBRW was to shed light on lesser known black-owned restaurants and businesses, and to, of course, bring revenue to their businesses. Businesses within Chicago and surrounding suburbs can participate in CBRW. Last year, CBRW served 762 meals, made $11,402 and had 26 participants.
FruVe’ XPress Juicery is located in the South Loop. It’s a bright, colorful and a health-conscious juice shop that has participated in CBRW for two years straight. Employee, Mia L., worked the register and prepared the smoothies.

Mia L. said she thoroughly enjoyed working through CBRW, and attested to the fact that CBRW does bring in new customers for the business.

“I like it. I think it sheds light on businesses that many people don’t know about. I’ve had quite a few people coming in saying that they didn’t know we were here until they saw us in the instagram or the website so they came in to check us out,” Mia L. said.

“It brings new business, so I think it’s a really good thing,” said Mia L. “I think it’s a way to put, you know, resources and revenue into the Black community. There’s not enough going into the black community. There’s not enough businesses out here for multiple reasons.”

“I think this exposure not only brings the business and the customers, but um, it could inspire someone to say ‘hey, they’re doing it so I can do it too,’” Mia L. said.

Mia L. said she thinks FruVe will continue to participate in the upcoming years. As far as what FruVe offered during the week of CBRW, they offered specials for the week of Feb. 10 to the 17.

In Hyde Park, Mikkey’s Retro Grill was another veteran participant of CBRW. According to the Manager, Emmett Gardner III, Mikkey’s participated every year since they started.

Mikkey’s was consistently busy. Gardner said Mikkey’s gave out discounts during the week as long as the customer came with the flyers they posted. Mikkey’s also actively gives out “snack packs” to those in need.

“We just want to be involved in the community. We want to show that we care about the community. When we give out, we know that we’re helping someone,” Gardner said.

“It’s a good time for us to get out to the public eye. Let them know we are black-owned. That we’re clean. That we care about the community. You know let them know we’re capable of keeping up with the big boys,” Gardner said.

Gardner said that CBRW helps a business like Mikkey’s get recognition amongst all the competition.

“There’s so much people doing fast food and all that. Now they got the five dollar meal, and everybody– competition gets all the customers,” Gardner said. “So in order to make it you gotta stand out. We have to be extra clean. We have to be extra humble. We gotta give tasty food and be extra humble to the customers and those in the community.”

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