LightField Studios/shutterstock
LightField Studios/shutterstock

The narratives on racial inequity may be subjective, but the numbers aren’t. Grim data on the ability of Black-owned businesses to survive COVID-19 was a call to action for PepsiCo, which answered with partnerships targeting the restaurant sector.

Even without COVID, Black-owned businesses struggle to find financing. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Equality of Opportunity Initiative reports that Black-owned businesses are less than half as likely to secure capital, spurring three times the deficits in growth and profitability. As COVID rages on, the U.S. legislature remains unable to find common ground on supporting small businesses, threatening the viability of a full 50% of Black-owned companies by spring.

Today, only 8% of restaurants are Black-owned. In response, the PepsiCo Foundation developed grants programs for current and aspiring Black restaurateurs, hoping to boost the number of businesses by 500 over the next five years. That includes a $10 million partnership with the National Urban League’s (NUL) Black Restaurant Accelerator to support entrepreneurship, and a $2.5 million commitment to the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership program, which helps deliver equity through franchising.

Here are five things to know about the new program’s access, acceleration and awareness pieces:

  1. It’s national in scope. The NUL’s Black Restaurant Accelerator will employ an individually tailored mix of access to capital, training, mentorships and support services like technical assistance. Programs will roll out through the NUL’s Entrepreneur Centers in 12 areas: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Louisiana and Las Vegas.
  2. It involves key partners. Over the next five years, the collaboration between the PepsiCo Foundation, the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance Pathways Program and 4thMVMT aims to raise the number of Black-owned businesses by 100, delivering true equity through franchising. An affiliate of the National Restaurant Association, MFHA has made the business case for industry diversity and inclusion for more than 25 years.
  3. Management assistance is a big part of the plan. Besides mentoring and management training through NUL’s Entrepreneur Centers, the initiative will also tap the expertise of partners like 4thMVMT, a social equity organization that equips tenacious Blacks and Latinos with practical tools and training for owning and operating their own businesses, then stands behind them with technology, supply-chain and back-office solutions. Participants will also access PepsiCo subject matter experts from marketing to technology, and will be paired with entrepreneurship advisors and PepsiCo volunteers to build actionable plans for growth.
  4. It aims to shine a spotlight. PepsiCo also plans to raise awareness of the Black culinary community by sponsoring Black Restaurant Week, and has formed an advisory council of industry “visionaries” to lend perspective, act as a sounding board and weigh in on solutions for the Black food service community.
  5. The goal is to get going soon. The Restaurant Accelerator application process gets underway in the first quarter of 2021, and the NUL is working to complete evaluations and deploy support as quickly as possible. Register here to get a head start.

With these partnerships, PepsiCo and its foundation join other major companies trying to come to terms with the ways issues of racial injustice impact employees, customers and the community at large.

Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, calls the program a “game changer” that “will provide Black restaurateurs with access to business-building resources tailored to meet their specific needs.” Morial thinks the combination of NUL’s understanding of the local business environment and PepsiCo’s expertise “will give business owners a leg up as they look to grow.”