Memphis Black Restaurant Week set to start Sunday

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Black Restaurant Week kicks off Sunday, hoping to give Black-owned restaurants a much-needed boost.

The general manager of Evelyn and Olive in the Edge District says he’s just glad to still be open.

“Oh! It has been a long, tough year,” said Darrin Donte.

This time last year, they were banking on a boost in business from Spring breakers and other travelers. But things changed with the announcement of Shelby County’s first COVID-19 case.

“Instead of increasing, it decreased sharply, abruptly and we were scratching our heads, scrambling,” Donte said.

So, they shifted to more promotions and deliveries.

“We were trying to keep up with the rules, new information, directives and we were trying to stay safe and not contact COVID ourselves. So, it was a lot to manage all at one time,” Donte said.

The news also came right in the middle of last year’s Black Restaurant Week.

“The beginning of the week, it was the usual fanfare, crowded restaurants, and by the end of the week it was almost a ghost town in restaurants,” said Cynthia Daniels, founder of Memphis Black Restaurant Week.

Daniels didn’t know how or if she would host the event this year. But she did what we’ve all done: adapt.

“We are pivoting in the ecommerce technology space. So, I wanted to make sure every neighborhood could use a delivery app, curbside pickup so they can experience great food,” Daniels said.

“We have already had people in this restaurant,” Donte said. “We have calls, people calling about Black Restaurant Week wanting to make reservations. People didn’t even know that we were here.”

As first year participants, they hope that continues.

“We decided to stick it out and keep the doors open. We never closed our doors one day. We stayed here through the slow days. So, I think perseverance and oxtails kept us open,” Donte said.

With 21 restaurants participating, this year’s event is the largest since it started six years ago.

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