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Black Lives Matter-Inspired Restaurant Database Aims to Keep Owners Accountable

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CHAAD is an effort led by industry workers that tracks if restaurant owners are truly anti-racist

A tray of food samples in plastic cups with a sign “stop killing black people.”
The scene from an anti-racist rally earlier this summer in Little Village.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

For the past three months, a group of Chicago industry workers have been developing a campaign to hold restaurant owners accountable, to ensure public statements supporting Black Lives Matter are more than a public relations ploy. The effort’s called CHAAD (Chicago Hospitality Accountable Actions Database) and is run by a “decentralized, racially diverse group of queer folk, women, and men.”

They’ve launched a GoFundMe fundraiser with a $20,000 goal. Additionally, there’s another campaign that ens at noon on Monday, August 31 that includes perks from chefs including Jennifer Kim (Passerotto), Joe Flamm (Spiaggia), Zoë Schor (Split-Rail), and Palita Sriratana (Pink Salt). Logan Square cocktail bar Lost Lake is serving as the pickup point for these items. The effort began in June, founded by Raeghn Draper and Leah Ball. As bad actors in the industry routinely won honors from the James Beard Foundation and Michelin, the organizers sought accountability. Donations would fund an app powered by CHAAD’s database, where users could search restaurants to see if they are serious about anti-racism. The database tracks if a worker has levied a complaint against a restaurant on social media, how ownership has responded publicly, and if ownership has followed through on promises. Subject matter includes diverse hiring practices, donations to civic groups, or removing problematic workers.

“This will give hospitality workers needed opportunities for accountability and healing from their employers,” the site’s GoFundMe page reads. “In addition, businesses will thrive having access to fully laid out plans of action for building equitable establishments. Consumers will be able to incorporate the quality of establishments equitable practices when choosing which establishments to frequent or support.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing and the protests that followed, restaurants began making public statements using Instagram and Facebook to show support for Black Lives Matters. Some of the statements struck members of Chicago’s restaurant workers, — particularly those who were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Color) — as insincere.

There are restaurant owners that genuinely reflected on past actions and made commitments to anti-racist actions including donating to civic organizations and taking a look at hiring practices. But there are also others without any history of promoting BIPOC workers into management. Some owners routinely kept silent on racism, but were all too happy to throw up a black square in Instagram to ride the wave of credibility. This is called performative allyship. For restaurant workers who have experienced racism in its many forms, the issue runs deeper. Many workers have been ignored when they’ve brought issues to management. When they speak out, they are gaslit and blamed for the problem.

As many restaurant workers took to Instagram over the summer to share stories of poor treatment, workers began a database to keep track of who made public statements about Black Lives Matter and if there was any tangible anti-racist actions. The database has about 100 restaurants or groups.

Folks have until noon Monday to buy one of the chef packages. Donations to the GoFundMe campaign will remain open.

  • Chicago restaurant workers take to social media to call out industry racism, sexism — and more [Tribune]
  • CHAAD Project
  • Who are the black squares and cutesy illustrations really for? [Vox]
  • How a Black chef from Englewood battled racism in Chicago’s top restaurants: ‘I was never seen as an option to rise’ [Tribune]

Lost Lake

3154 West Diversey Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 293-6048 Visit Website