In April 2020, COVID-19 shut down the economy in Massachusetts. Two months later, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association predicted that at least 25% of the state’s restaurants would close permanently. In response to this grim forecast, there was an outpouring of public support from governmental agencies, non-profits, and community organizations, accompanied by historic bailouts—but these resources were not equally available to all.
Restaurants owned by people of color that were largely under-resourced pre-COVID struggled to access this support and had few options but to keep doing what they could to keep their staff working and community fed. These were also the businesses that were disproportionately left out of programs like the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program and Federal Restaurant Revitalization Funds.
As the public rushed to support restaurants, CommonWealth Kitchen observed a clear gap: those with resources and strong industry networks were able to nimbly navigate the alphabet soup of programs and tax benefits, while those who lacked these connections were left in need due to the lack of small business technical assistance providers with deep experience with the unique complexity of restaurant industry. In early 2021, we launched the Restaurant Resiliency Initiative pilot to fill this gap and support independent restaurant owners as they weathered the unprecedented impacts of COVID 19 on their industry.
The pilot served eight restaurants in Boston, all in businesses for at least one year prior to the pandemic. We kept the cohort small to ensure we could invest the necessary time to assess each restaurant and develop tools and resources for each individual business in partnership with the business owners. The cohort of eight restaurants consisted of:
The program ran for sixteen weeks and was led by chef Irene Li of Mei Mei with support from the team at Rethink Restaurants. The program consisted of:
Big, bold flavors and freshness is the name of the game at Achilito’s. The restaurant features grilled lime chicken, grilled ancho steak, al pastor pork, and wild shrimp and Cod. They also offer delicious house-made sauces like cilantro crema, salsa verde, smokey taquera, mole rojo, mango salsa, pineapple salsa, pickled jalapeños, and spicy habanero. They also have a great selection of fresh vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free bowls and burritos.
160 Chestnut Hill Ave, Brighton
38 Hyde Park Ave, Jamaica Plain
265 Patriots Place, Foxborough
Auntie Vie’s features tasty Caribbean items, delicious baked treats, and homemade beverages. Experience a taste of Montserrat cuisine with takeout and online ordering available. Whether you’re craving a quick tasty bite or looking to treat yourself to a delicious meal, you can now order your favorites for dine-in or takeout.
554 Dudley Street, Dorchester
Cafe JuiceUP is known for its fresh, vibrant, fruit-forward smoothies, specialty juices, wellness shots, and smoothie bowls. They also offer healthy boosts like adaptogens, bee pollen, sea moss, blue spirulina, and more!
In addition to super-fresh juices, they serve nut milks, banana bread, trail mix, and a Haitian patty filled with beef, chicken, fish, or vegetables.
1290 Blue Hill Avenue, Mattapan
El Barrio Mexican Restaurant specializes in delicious tacos with homemade fresh tortillas, nachos, burritos, quesadillas, bowls, frozen margaritas for take out, and much more.
El Barrio offers online ordering, takeout and dine-in along with an full selection of catering offerings.
1782 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester
Las Palmas is a family-owned restaurant providing flavorful cuisine inspired by the Dominican Republic. Their crispy empanadas are the perfect flavorful snack or meal.
Las Palmas caters to health-conscious visitors with a variety of fresh bowls filled with vegetables and your choice of protein. Las Palmas also offers a great catering menu with vibrant, fresh flavors.
Las Palmas is one of the three restaurants featured at The Launchpad at MIT.
4337 Washington St, Roslindale
84 Mass Ave, Cambridge (MIT)
1350 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge (Harvard)
Crafted with love, fueled by culinary passion, and committed to great food and service, Soleil is your go-to spot for simple, yet elegant, home cooking. A casual neighborhood restaurant offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Soleil is the perfect place for your social, business, or after-work meal.
Named after owner Cheryl Straughter’s granddaughter, Soleil is a labor of love and family.
2306 Washington Street, Roxbury
Owned by Cecelia Lizotte, Suya Joint serves the best African cuisine in town! Bursting with flavor—and available for takeout! Suya Joint also offers catering with 24-48 hour notice. Some stand-out, signature dishes include the Jollof Rice and Beef Suya.
185 Dudley Street, Roxbury
Tawakal Halal Cafe, owned by chef Yahya Noor, offers authentic Somali Cuisine in the heart of East Boston. This small and homey cafe has been recognized for its outstanding cooking by tastemakers Bon Appetit Magazine!
The word Tawakal means ‘reliance-on’ or ‘trust-in’ and ‘we trust in our community.’ Community is a focus at Tawakal. Besides outstanding food, the cafe offers its own Somali hot sauces by the bottle, made with fresh fruits and vegetables and a signature East African blend of spices.
389 Maverick Street, East Boston
While we worked intensively with eight restaurants during the pilot, we also hosted a series of public webinars in collaboration with the City of Boston to ensure that we could reach additional restaurant owners beyond the cohort.