Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland (left) presents Cynthia Daniels, creator of Memphis Black Restaurant Week and chief event strategist at Cynthia Daniels & Co., with a proclamation acknowledging the 2022 event. Joining them at Evelyn & Olive in Midtown was Office of Business Diversity and Compliance Director Marvel Mitchell. (Courtesy photo)

Seven years in and Memphis Black Restaurant Week (MBRW) creator Cynthia Daniels is savoring the sweet taste of success with more than $600,000 generated in this year’s event.

“That first year, I was able to wrangle eight whole restaurants into participating,” said Daniels. “The vision of folks really getting the concept was so real to me, I could literally see it coming to fruition. I am so grateful. This year’s receipts exceeded all we anticipated.”

MBRW 2022 ran from March 6 through March 12. 

Tanocha Thedford, owner of Big Momma’s & Granny’s in Bartlett, was among the business owners whose sales jumped during the celebration.

“Our daily sales are sometimes so dismal, we barely clear $100 in sales,” said Thedford. “Just imagine how we felt seeing our daily receipts jump to more than $2,000 during Memphis Black Restaurant Week. 

“It just blew us away. And we served so many newcomers, who I know will return. That kind of money in a week has changed the trajectory of our business. We are so very grateful.”

Twenty-eight restaurants this year were part of the MBRW experience. The restaurants saw a tremendous increase in families, packing participating eateries after their Sunday worship on March 6. 

Sherry Stovall, like others who patronized the restaurants, wanted to support restaurant owners from her “own community.”

“I have two teenage boys and a 22-year-old daughter,” said Stovall. “We went to Chef Tam’s Underground Restaurant after church because I want them to understand the importance of supporting your own people. 

“You can eat (at) other places, but don’t neglect Black restaurants. When buying Black becomes second nature, we are helping our own businesspeople.”

Daniels said she knew the numbers were going to be fantastic for those restaurants who bought into this year’s affair.

“Last year, most of the restaurants were closed to in-house dining because of the pandemic,” said Daniels. “But we encouraged people to support Black restaurant owners by ordering take out and delivery. 

“The 2021 numbers tell the story. With 21 restaurants and more than 31,000 patrons, restaurants saw $525,000 total sales. Many of those owners said last year’s receipts kept their doors open. I was so encouraged by that.”

Daniels pointed out that she is from Atlanta and that there is a reason the city is called “Hot Lanta.” 

“Black entrepreneurs have been moving and shaking for decades,” she said, adding “I knew Memphis had that special something that would make Black Restaurant Week what it has become. Even with the small beginning of eight restaurants, I never lost sight of what the event could become.”

Other cities have also enjoyed Black Restaurant Week success. Among them are Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Charlotte and Philadelphia.

Daniels said the event demonstrates the power of “our Black dollar.”

“…There is power in spending our dollars in our community. We were able to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in just one week. Imagine what could happen if we patronized our own all year round – not just restaurants. We have within our power the answer to seeing our own communities prosper.” 

Mayor Jim Strickland enjoyed lunch on March 8 at Evelyn & Olive in Midtown. Daniels and Memphis Black Restaurant Week were honored with a proclamation from the City of Memphis.

Strickland called Memphis Black Restaurant Week “a wonderful new tradition.”