Winning the Black Kitchen Initiative grant was incredibly special for Patrice Bates Thompson. Winning it during the pandemic made all the difference in whether or not her business would survive.

“Receiving it during the pandemic made it even more beneficial as it was a tremendous help in staying afloat and maintaining my business during that time,” Thompson explained.

Thompson owns The Four Way restaurant in Memphis, TN. It is what she considers a “community establishment.”

Credit: Courtesy of Patrice Bates Thompson

“Diversity and inclusion and bringing awareness to Black food culture and its heritage have been at the heart of our restaurant’s purpose since opening in 1946. Providing the best soul food in Memphis has always been a goal of ours, and we strive to be an establishment where anyone can sit down and have a meal,” Thompson explained. “We’ve served our incredible soul food to civil rights workers and activists and seen world-famous musicians walk through our doors.”

But like most establishments, The Four Way restaurant was hit hard during the pandemic. That’s why when she learned about the HEINZ and the LEE Initiative’s Black Kitchen Initiative, she decided to try her luck. The establishment was named the 2021 winner.

“It helped in allowing us to pay employees, buy supplies needed in order to run the business and fix our broken equipment. Because the restaurant has a lot of rich history, customers were looking for us to stay open and continue business, so this grant helped us sustain just that,” Thompson said.

The Black Kitchen Initiative

HEINZ and the LEE Initiative have once again teamed up for the third edition of The Black Kitchen Initiative to support another restaurant owner like Thompson. The collaboration, armed with a grant program exceeding $1 million, is committed to empowering Black-owned restaurants, culinary spaces, and chefs struggling with financial constraints and limited access to vital resources.

Lack of Resources for Black Small Business Restaurants

According to a recent report, thirty-seven percent of Black small business owners face significant hurdles in acquiring new capital and financing, which is a disparity 14% higher than their non-Black counterparts. HEINZ and the LEE Initiative have made strides since 2020 by donating $3 million in grants to Black-owned food establishments nationwide, hence preserving and uplifting Black influence within the US culinary scene.

The Black Kitchen Initiative awards financial aid up to $25,000 per grant, depending on the level of need.

Restaurant owners can apply through August 11 at The LEE Initiative.