Eat. Sip. Repeat.

Black Restaurant Week Returns to Feed Your Soul

Celebrate the many flavors of Houston’s African American, African, and Caribbean cuisine.

By Shelby Stewart

Founders of Houston Black Restaurant Week (left to right), Derek Robinson, Falayn Ferrell, and Warren Luckett.

Image: Unique James

Black-owned restaurants have always suffered higher closure rates than white-owned ones. And the COVID pandemic only exacerbated that unfortunate fact. In an effort to remedy this, Warren Luckett, Falayn Ferrell, and Derek Robinson founded Black Restaurant Week in 2016 to create a community that promotes the culinary expertise of Black chefs in Houston.

Originally designed to be a Houston-only event, this year the founders expanded nationwide, furthering their mission of highlighting African American, African, and Caribbean restaurants on a larger scale. “When we started in 2016, we only had 20 restaurants,” Ferrell says. “Since then, we’ve expanded our model to be more of a regional campaign; so we’re featuring businesses all the way out to Beaumont now.”

This year’s celebration kicks off April 2 and runs through April 16 and promises to be the biggest food festival yet, with several new restaurant and hospitality companies joining the BRW directory. Acclaimed restaurants such as Black Girl Tamales: Mango Deli and Cafe, Jollof Rice King, Fainmous BBQ, and Wing Quarter Daiquiris & Creole Kitchen are just a few of the new participants. “BRW is solely guided by business owners and operators. They are in the trenches every day and experience the ebbs and flows of running a business during one of the most difficult periods in U.S. history,” Ferrell says.

A big success of the brand’s vision is being able to expand palates for all Houstonians, Robinson says. “Throughout this journey of Black Restaurant Week, we’re seeing across the country so much diversity and so many different cuisines, and it’s beautiful. When you go to the West Coast, you’ll see so much veganism, and it’s amazing to be able to kind of bring that back into the other side of the country.”

Aside from amplifying Black-owned restaurants and highlighting their cuisine, BRW provides much-needed advertisement, support, and resources for Black-owned culinary businesses. “Firstly, we’re building awareness for small businesses. Whether it’s a pandemic or not, most restaurants have a very slim profit margin,” Ferrell tells Houstonia. “Secondly, [it’s] providing business opportunities in spaces that have been left out when you think of food.”

In 2022, the organization showcased 1,250 Black-owned culinary businesses across the country and generated an average of 15 percent sales increase for each. The expectation for this year is even bigger. Much of the BRW programming is to thank for that, such as the NOSH culinary showcase that provides resources and business opportunities for catering companies and chefs, and the Soundbites Food Truck Parks event, which features food trucks and vendors. Additionally, the brand’s nonprofit organization, Feed the Soul, provides small business grants and business development training to combat food injustice and insecurity.

This year marks the third annual More Than Just a Week Campaign, which celebrates the diverse cuisine of the African diaspora specifically. Ferrell says the campaign places an emphasis on supporting these particular restaurants, many of which are still reeling post-COVID.

“Although we have specific dates for BRW, these restaurants in the city are open year-round and depend on the support of their patrons,” Ferrell says. “We still have many businesses struggling to get back on their feet from the pandemic.”

As BRW continues to grow outside of Houston, the group has begun to include marketing opportunities for other corners of the culinary world, including bartenders, bakers, and manufacturers of sauces, spices, and kitchen utensils. The initiative has also started its international journey by expanding to Toronto and Vancouver.

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