Stories / Impact

These 6 Businesses Are Helping Build a Better Industry

Maggie Borden

April 02, 2021


Oat milk ice cream cone in a red sleeve with chocolate sprinkles photo by Don Eim
The Coffee Waffle Crunch cone from Whipped Urban Dessert Lab (photo: Don Eim)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the restaurant industry, permanently shuttering 17 percent of restaurants nationwide, and revealing inequities and vulnerabilities baked into the foundation of these businesses. But there is hope on the horizon, as vaccines roll out and more food professionals are immunized. At the James Beard Foundation, we’re looking forward with optimism, while also striving to provide resources and tools to help the industry recover and rebuild with equity and sustainability at its heart.

A key part of our efforts to support and rebuild the industry is the Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans. Over the past few months we’ve disbursed grants of $15,000 each to 37 independent businesses across the country, who are not only using the funds to keep the lights on or rehire staff laid off during the pandemic, but to grow as leaders in their communities and beyond. For the next few weeks, we’ll be showcasing our grantees, from their menus to their local impact. Read on for inspiring stories and delicious dishes, and learn more about supporting the Investment Fund here.

Food By Sani

D.C. Metro Area

Food By Sani is a Black women–owned food truck and catering business located in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Founder Sani Felicia Hough draws inspiration from her travels across the globe, offering up an eclectic menu that ranges from jerk pork tacos to crab cake eggrolls and beyond. Hough was slated to be a vendor in five food festivals in 2020 before COVID-19 canceled those appearances, forcing her to pivot to cooking out of a commercial kitchen and offering curbside pickup. Hough’s truck is now back in action, and she hopes to use part of the grant to offer an appreciation day to all the customers who stayed loyal to her throughout the pandemic.

Harlem Hops founders seated at the bar with drinks photo by KUU Photography
Harlem Hops founders Kevin Bradford, Kim Harris, and Stacey Lee (photo: KUU Photography)

Harlem Hops

2268 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY
Harlem Hops is Manhattan’s first 100-percent African American–owned craft beer bar. Featuring a broad selection sourced from local breweries, Harlem Hops was voted the #2 best beer bar in the country by USA Today in 2019. Owners Kim Harris, Kevin Bradford, and Stacey Lee managed to keep the bar open by offering takeout and delivery during the pandemic but struggled as revenues dropped from restrictions on indoor dining. The owners say their grant will go towards payroll and rent, and hope it will reinforce their commitment to their staff, especially since many have been working since opening day.

Miss Prissy’s

484 Salina St., Syracuse, NY

At the beginning of 2020, Dreamer Glen was planning on starting a new phase for her catering company, Miss Prissy’s. The business had made it through a competitive application process to nab a food stall at the new Salt City Market in downtown Syracuse. Then COVID-19 hit, and Miss Prissy’s lost all their income, forcing Glen to lay off staff, delay the opening of the stall three times, and shift to takeout/delivery and community feeding. Over the course of the pandemic, Miss Prissy’s prepared over 16,000 meals for populations in need. Now officially open in Salt City Market, Miss Prissy’s is offering its “creative, colorful twists on traditional Southern dishes” for curbside pickup.

Provisions Café and Market
19520 Waters Rd., Germantown, MD

Provisions Café and Market is a family-owned neighborhood café in Germantown, Maryland, offering up a menu of fresh-baked breads, cakes, quiches, and more. Owner Saran Toby opened Provisions to provide a space for the community outside of the chain restaurants in town, and the café has grown a loyal base of customers enamored with its signature, Trinidadian-inflected dishes like their rum caramel cake and jerk chicken salad. The restaurant is currently open for curbside pickup and holiday and event catering.


2211 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY
Vinateria is an acclaimed wine-driven neighborhood restaurant in Harlem, with a seasonal menu inspired by the food of Italy and Spain. Owner Yvette Leeper-Bueno opened Vinateria in 2013 to offer something new to her community, and over the years the restaurant has become known for their extensive, yet accessible wine list, artisanal cocktail program, and housemade pastas (such as their signature squid ink spaghetti with octopus, bay scallops, P.E.I. mussels, Grana Padano, and breadcrumbs). COVID-19 forced them to shift to takeout and delivery, and experiment with new setups, from building outdoor dining pods to creating retail items like fresh pastas and cocktails, to feeding the community by partnering with World Central Kitchen. Leeper-Bueno hopes to put the grant towards staff costs and expanding their outdoor dining spaces.
Interior of Whipped Urban Dessert lab with counter and signage photo by Don Eim
Whipped Urban Dessert Lab's store in New York (photo: Don Eim)

Whipped Urban Dessert Lab

95 Orchard St, New York, NY
Whipped Urban Dessert Lab is a Black women–owned lifestyle brand and the world’s first oat-milk soft serve shop. Founders Courtney Blagrove and Zan B.R. developed their oat milk ice crème to serve a growing audience looking for delicious plant-based products that were dairy- and nut-free, and to serve as an example of diversity in leadership in the food industry. After a stint at a Brooklyn food hall, Whipped Urban Dessert Lab’s first brick-and-mortar location opened on February 29, 2020. Just a few weeks later, New York City’s first shutdown went into effect. Blagrove and B.R. had not yet explored takeout or delivery, but quickly pivoted, creating a hard ice crème and confections and selling them nationally via Goldbelly. The retail shop is now open again, and the duo hope the grant will go towards operational expenses and continuing to recruit and expand their staff.

Maggie Borden is content manager at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.