Restaurant Resiliency Initiative

Supporting an equitable economic recovery for Massachusetts’ diverse restaurant community.

"This program is life-altering if you take it seriously. It can take you from being a mom and pop that struggles day to day to a mom and pop that actually supports your family and your dreams.”

-Restaurant owner

The 2021 Piot

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 bailoutsbut 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. 

Participants

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:

  • 5 Black-owned restaurants 
  • 4 Latinx-owned restaurants
  • 6 woman-owned restaurants
  • 7 immigrant-owned restaurants
  • 5 of 11 owners were first-time business owners

Structure

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:

  • 16 hours of group classroom learning
  • 30+ hours of 1:1 mentoring and coaching
  • 5 public webinars with The City of Boston and industry experts. (See below for recordings.)

Restaurants Selected for the Pilot

Achilitos Taqueria

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 Restaurant and Bakery

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 Juice Up

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 Grill

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

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)

Soleil

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

Suya Joint

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

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

Webinars

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.

In this webinar, Dylan Gully of Rethink Restaurants will guide owners through the best ways to manage and evaluate relationships with accountants. He will review some common pitfalls in restaurant-specific accounting that, when addressed, can make your financial statements more accurate and more useful to you as a business owner. The webinar will go over subjects like the difference between an accountant and a bookkeeper, how often food biz owners should be talking to an accountant, what financial admin work you can do yourself, how often to look at profit and loss statements and a balance sheet, and where to start if you haven’t had a chance to organize your financials.
 
Staffing is a constant concern for foodservice businesses of all sizes, especially in the pandemic. Small restaurants are a labor of love, and in many cases, that means calling on everyone you love to lend a hand: family, friends, friends of family, family of friends, and so on. Unfortunately, being an employer is much more than just getting people to show up for their shifts! In this webinar, Kim Pederzani of Toast will present ways to formalize employment in your business.

In this seminar, attendees will learn how to prioritize digital platforms beyond Facebook and Instagram and why online ordering and a strong website should be the base of any successful digital strategy. Featuring Alyssa Lee, Managing Partner of Mei Mei Boston, an MBA graduate from Babson College who has been instrumental in increasing Mei Mei’s online presence.
In this seminar, attendees will learn actionable steps your business can take to build a more progressive industry and to get connected with the incredible RAISE network. RAISE supports restaurant owners to advocate for fair wages and increased racial and gender equity through hiring, training, and promotional practices. Hear Mikey Knab from Ponce’s Mexican Restaurants speak on the topic as national strategy director of RAISE High Road Restaurants. He’ll touch on the history of the restaurant industry’s systemic inequalities and how RAISE has helped and will continue to help shift away from them.

Read more about the initiative

March 21, 2021

CommonWealth Kitchen launches mentorship program to help struggling independent restaurants

March 21, 2021

CommonWealth Kitchen’s new initiative helps support struggling independent restaurants

March 15, 2021

A Year Of Devastation And Resilience For The Restaurant Industry