Supporting a $6.1 billion industry

As we approach the end of the first Black Restaurant Month in March at blackrestaurant.net, we’d like to dispell the notion that this is just chicken change.
According to the 2007 Census of Black-Owned Businesses, there are 37,732 African-American owned food services and drinking places with $6,135,366,000 ($6.1 billion) in annual receipts.
The 7,167 establishments with employees hire 133,048 workers, close to 20 apiece with an annual payroll of $1.5 billion.
And that means 30,000 other businesses are supporting their families by working as individuals.
So it really means a lot when you spend your dollars at Mama Nems in Orlando, which Steve Harvey recently gave the Hoodie Award as the top soul food restaurant in the country, or Simply Wholesome, the organic restaurant on Slauson and Overhill in Los Angeles.
These are the anchors for African-American culture.
Some of the more prominent chefs are following the lead of Sylvia Woods in Harlem and moving into food manufacturing.
Last week’s Shark Tank featured Chef Big Shake who is promoting a line of shrimp and lobster burgers.
The black food manufacturing sector had 2,820 companies grossing $939,846,000. The 302 firms with paid employees hired 4,225.
When viewed in the context of the 38.5 million African-American population and close to $1 trillion in consumer spending, these figures indicate the potential for growth to address the high unemployment rate.
The food industry is a great entry point for new or unemployed workers.
There are still 17,565 African-American food and beverage stores as well, although it often seems that every neighborhood store has been taken over. They gross $4.8 billion.
Although those three sectors combine for $12 billion, it is still only 1 percent of total black income nationally.
Beginning April 20 in Atlanta, we begin a State of Black Business Forum series to raise the awareness of the potential of black businesses to create jobs and stabilize communities.
Headlines from the Census indicate that many cities are losing black population. Among the amenities that keep residents in place are good restaurants.
At the blackrestaurant.net site, we have begun to list those restaurants by city. During this month, we’ve been scouring the list and updating information for a mobile application we’re releasing in mid-April. By joining the site as a gourmand, one can have immediate access to web sites, menus and directions to the closest black restaurant no matter where one travels.
Between now and the eighth annual National Black Business Month in August, take the time to learn which businesses are convenient to you.
Our strategy is called 31 Ways 31 Days, a practice of visiting at least one black business per day during each of the 31 days of August.
It’s a habit we hope you will find hard to break, and you can start as soon as possible.

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