By Betty Yu

OAKLAND (KPIX) — The pandemic has hit the restaurant industry particularly hard.

On Monday, Black Restaurant Week kicked off in the Bay Area and it’s meant to shine a spotlight on small businesses that would normally not have the marketing dollars to promote their eateries.

In 2017, there were just 12 restaurants participating in Black Restaurant Week in the Bay Area. This year, that number has more than doubled.

Italian eatery Marzano in Oakland is participating for the first time.

“Supporting us and supporting our business, yes it is personal to us because this business is our baby but it is also a place of employment for many families. It’s a way for many families to provide for their children,” said Marzano owner Manna Tekie.

The exposure is welcome for restaurants struggling during the pandemic. Opening a business can be particularly challenging for black owners.

“A lot of black-owned businesses unfortunately don’t have the type of capital that others have when starting,” said Managing Partner of Black Restaurant Week Falayn Ferrell. “They’re usually starting restaurants with their own credit line. They’re taking out loans and they have really high interest rates.”

That’s why co-Founder Falayn Ferrell is showcasing small businesses in the community. This year, the organization has offered free registration to restaurants.

Daisy’s Desserts couldn’t wait to take advantage of the opportunity. Already, owner Monique Harris has seen a 35 percent bump in sales. Her homemade dessert recipes are passed down from her grandmother.

“What’s even better about the increase in sales is that I got to see different companies that I didn’t even know existed,” said Harris. “I started to partner with other bakeries and other people, we started shouting each other out.”

This week, many restaurants are offering specials and prix fixe meals.

“We have Caribbean, we have a Nigerian restaurant, it’s really unique cuisines that’s being offered to the community,” said Ferrell. “As you eat out several times a month, maybe just make one of those choices a small local business that you may not have had a chance to visit during Black Restaurant Week.”

Black Restaurant Week runs through Sunday August 30. After that, the national campaign heads to Atlanta.

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