Geri Hernandez’s restaurant, Savory Crust Gourmet Empanadas, switched to take-out and delivery only in October 2020, with the pandemic weighing heavily on costs at its Morton Grove and Carol Stream branches.
As a small business, “you’re hanging on a thread anyway,” said Hernandez, CEO and co-founder. “When the pandemic hit, I thought we were done, that we were going to close. It was a scary, scary time all year round. Even now you don’t know what’s going to happen, there is a lot of uncertainty.
Savory Crust is one of 26 Chicago-area restaurants selected to participate in DoorDash’s inaugural Main Street Strong Accelerator program.
A total of 100 restaurants nationwide will receive a $ 20,000 grant, access to training support through an eight-week hands-on course for restaurateurs that involves small business counseling and mentoring, as well as advice from individual financial, legal and technological experts. as free marketing and merchandising from DoorDash.
More than three-quarters of the Chicago restaurants selected for the program are owned by women, 92% by people of color, and almost 40% by immigrants.
Ms B’s Kitchen & Catering owner and manager Tawanda Stange said she has asked the program for additional financial assistance and support services that come with training, as well as access to communities and networks of others. participating restaurateurs.
“I was super excited. I am still very excited. I really need this, ”Stange said. “Just being involved in something like this will give me the extra boost I need to take my business to the next level, with confidence. “
As occupancy regulations increase, Stange plans to use part of the grant money to expand the restaurant’s dining area, allowing patrons to sit and dine, a nice addition to take out, she said. She also plans to allocate more time and money to marketing and technology.
The Accelerator Program, launched in February, is a partnership between DoorDash and Accion Opportunity Fund, a non-profit organization that supports small businesses with financing and business development resources. Targeting restaurants in Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia, the app was open to small restaurants owned by women, immigrants and people of color.
The Chicago area restaurants selected for the program are La Cocinita Restaurant, Mae’s Que House, Bombay Wraps, Crazy Bird Chicken, Evelyn’s Food Love, Chocolat Uzma, Badou Senegalese Cuisine, Ms. B’s Kitchen & Catering, Back of the Yards Coffeehouse , Savory Croûte, Sugar Bliss, Windy City Ribs & Whiskey, Saigon Sisters, Gayle V’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese, Cleo’s Southern Cuisine, Belli’s, JIAO, CheSa’s Gluten Free Gourmet, Joséphine’s Restaurant, La Luna, Red Pepper’s Lounge, Split-Rail, Russian tea Time, EggHolic, J’s Breakfast Club and Dak.
“[The pandemic] was devastating. Many restaurants have had no chance of returning. … It’s so important that we have help here and there, ”said Larry Tucker, Managing Director and Partner of Crazy Bird Chicken.
The West Town restaurant plans to use its grant to train employees and invest in outdoor space to make patrons more comfortable with on-site dining.
“I just thought it was something wonderful they were doing. That’s when a crisis hits and good companies reinvest in small businesses, ”Tucker said.