Chicago Black Restaurant Week has back for a sixth year with a new partnership from a third-party delivery giant. The annual event is designed to attract diners during low-profit winter months, and neatly wrap a celebration of Black-owned restaurants into Black History Month. Uber Eats — the same company that used Wayne’s World and Cardi B in a Super Bowl Sunday spot — will co-sponsor the first week of the event, which began Sunday and runs through Sunday, February 21.
More than 80 Chicago area establishments will participate this year, from swanky spot Bureau Bar in South Loop, to Ethiopian restaurant Demera in Uptown, to soul food icon 5 Loaves Eatery in Greater Grand Crossing.
As with all things, the pandemic has forced changes upon Chicago Black Restaurant Week. That’s where Uber Eats comes in, bridging the delivery gap between restaurants and patrons with special online menus linked beside each participant on the event’s website.
The past 12 months have been difficult for all restaurant operators, and Black owners have seen a particularly tumultuous year. Many feel that Black-owned venues don’t receive sufficient exposure or support. Corporate America boosted interest in Juneteenth amidst national protests connected to police brutality and George Floyd’s death in the summer, but some Black operators have suspected that the energy for anti-racism seen in June would diminish. Meanwhile, Uber Eats and other third parties like DoorDash and Grubhub, are trying to rework their public images after restaurants have complained about how commission fees hurt business. There’s also worry about delivery areas for third parties, with complaints that companies often underserve Black communities.
Much like the city’s restaurant week event, Black Restaurant Week gives ownership a chance to introduce themselves to new customers and get reacquainted with old ones, and even make some much-needed profits to keep their doors open and staff employed. More details on the event are available online.
And in other news...
— The founder of Chicago sweet spot Brown Sugar Bakery was surprised Friday on Good Morning America when she received a $10,000 grant from Verizon and non-profit organization Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Her grant comes out of $10 million Verizon Fund for small businesses. Bakery owner Stephanie Hart last year purchased the Cupid Candies factory in Auburn Gresham, and tells the Tribune that she will use the money to set up shipping operations and bring back employees she furloughed due to COVID-19.
— ABC 7 Chicago has a story about how Super Bowl Sunday brought some much-needed business to some Chicago bars and restaurants, as fans sought out staples like beer, burgers, and chicken wings, A wing shortage affected Beck’s In Lincoln Park, which is also a Kansas City Chiefs bar. Owner Danny Beck tells Eater Chicago he’s fortunate that he reserved a wing supply well in advance. Beck’s was open for indoor dining Sunday at 25 percent capacity, but Chiefs fans went home rather unhappy.
— Longtime Chicago restaurateur Glenn Keefer (Keefer’s, Keefer’s Kaffe) and Ryan O’Donnell of Ballyhoo Hospitality (Gemini) this summer plan to open Pomeroy, a new French bistro, in suburban Winnetka, according to a rep. Operators promise seafood platters, filet au poivre, steak frites, and more. The pair opened their first joint venture, suburban steakhouse Sophia, in May 2020.
— A webinar that examines how the hospitality industry can navigate a “post-COVID world” will feature leadership from from prominent local groups including Gibsons, the Fifty/50 Group (Utopian Tailgate), Kimpton Hotels, and Tangled Roots Brewing Company in Lockport (30 miles southwest of Chicago). Scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday, the event should address issues including national vaccine rollouts and technological advancements. Registration is available online.
— Philip Foss (EL Ideas, Boxcar BBQ) continues to make waves. Foss wrote a column in January critiquing delivery apps. Last week, Foss was at City Hall to contest a ticket issued by city inspectors. City officials cited him for having a malfunctioning dishwasher — something that was rendered useless when the state suspended indoor dining due to the pandemic — there was no food prep happening when inspectors visited: “I understand that the city is in a bad place and that I need to have a fully functional dishwasher,” Foss writes to Eater Chicago. “Still, we’ve been down on our luck for quite a while and it didn’t feel right to pay a fine for a piece of equipment that the city basically mandated useless.” The good news for Foss is that the ticket was dismissed, but it took a trip to City Hall.