From neighborhood coffee shops to hole-in-the-wall eateries, small restaurants have been among the businesses hardest hit by Covid-19. It’s been estimated that, as of December 2020, 17% of all U.S. restaurants have permanently shut down. Although restrictions on the food industry have eased in some states, many independently-owned restaurants remain on the brink of closure in 2021 as the pandemic drags on.
To help keep some culturally important restaurants stay in business, American Express has announced that they will partner with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to award 25 small, historic restaurants with $1 million in grants to help keep them afloat during these difficult times. Each restaurant will get a $40,000 grant,
The idea behind the program is to support restaurants that have directly contributed to their communities, or to their community’s identity and have been around for at least 25 years. Think culturally significant restaurants like Russ & Daughters in New York or Musso and Frank in Hollywood.
“For generations, our nation’s oldest and most historic small restaurants have been safe spaces for customers to share meals, ideas, and their culture,” said Colleen Taylor, president of merchant services — U.S., American Express, in a press release. “They are at the heart of our neighborhoods, serve our communities, and help advance cultural and social change for those who live there.”
In addition to being independently-operated and financially impacted by COVID-19, restaurants that are owned by people of color, women and other underrepresented groups, as well as restaurants that have not received other pandemic-related financial support (like PPP loans), will be given priority for the grants.
Once awarded, restaurants can use the grants to “improve, upgrade, and preserve their exterior physical spaces and online businesses, as well as mitigate existing operating costs,” per American Express‘ statement.
American Express partners will also provide help as part of the program. AT&T Business and Dell Technologies will offer up to $5,000 for each of the awardees to get digital upgrades. Resy will offer complimentary use of its ResyOS restaurant management software for one year. Main Street America will offer technical assistance on marketing strategy. The National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will offer access to virtual training.
If you want to nominate a restaurant in your community for an American Express grant, visit Savingplaces.org/historicrestaurants and submit the name of your favorite local spot by March 9.