Restaurant weeks are regular events across the country. Chefs offer special, discounted menus to attract new customers, raise their visibility and provide a price break to their regulars.
On Monday, Detroit launched its first Black Restaurant Week, joining an American urban trend. Black Restaurant Weeks have been held in Houston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Richmond, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.
Detroit’s population is 83 percent African-American, largest of any major U.S. city, and its restaurant scene is flourishing. There are 13 places taking part, both fine dining and casual spots, with one in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, Mich.
(By comparison, 26 restaurants participated in Detroit Restaurant Week, which marked its 14th year in 2017.)
Lauren Bates, co-founder of Black Metro Eats, talked about the philosophy behind Detroit’s Black Restaurant Week, which runs through Sunday.
What is a “black restaurant”? ” Our definition of a black restaurant is simply being black owned. All of our participating restaurants are black owned establishments and we wanted to highlight the black business owner in and around our city.”
Why hold Black Restaurant Week? “We thought that this was needed simply because it is not something that is highlighted enough. Some of these restaurants are new and some of them I had never even heard of before until we started planning this week. We wanted to highlight these businesses to show what we have within our own community.”
What are the benefits for the participants? “One to help grow their business; two, exposure to new clientele; three, for the people to know that we, as black people, can do more than just ‘soul food,’ and four, to enjoy really good food at a reasonable price.”
Did you get enough restaurants? “We are happy with the number of participating restaurants, but we are ambitious and we of course wanted more. We have restaurants still sending over information to get signed up. Our initial goal was to get 30 restaurants signed up. We didn’t quite make it, but we are already getting inquiries for the next time that we do this, which will be some time next spring.”
It’s a sensitive time in the country. How will that affect the event? “We had no idea, as I guess most people didn’t, that all of these things would have happening at this time in the country. You can’t let others dictate what you do and don’t do.”
“There are a lot of things that we are going on in our nation and around the world right now that are tragedies, but hopefully this will help people to take their mind off of everything for a few hours and go out with a group of friends or family and have a good night out and enjoy their meal, one bite at a time.”