The App EatOkra Can Connect You To Black-Owned Restaurants. Here's How

For the Brooklyn-based husband-and-wife team of Anthony and Janique Edwards, finding Black-owned eateries in the area without having to go through the exhausting process of scouring the internet is crucial. According to Today, the couple's story began in 2016 when Janique relocated to Brooklyn and began going out with Anthony. Getting settled was understandably stressful. "My furniture and appliances were on backorder when I moved. So, from a practical standpoint, we kind of needed to venture out all the time to eat, and I wanted to support Black-owned businesses," Janique explained. 

For her, Black-owned restaurants can really help someone "get a sense of the community," which is why she and Anthony would search for them when they wanted to go out for a meal. But the couple was stumped because it wasn't a straightforward process, even with Google's help. Janique told Anthony, a software engineer, that he "should build an app that will make it easy for people to find Black-owned businesses." 

According to Thrillist, Anthony Edwards has an impressive background that prepared him to take on the challenge. He was a part of the army and the Air Force Reserve for a few years and is passionate about technology. He studied computer science at Fordham University and even joined a "coding boot camp" to master web design basics. So when his wife proposed the app idea, he read some books on app building and got to work. That work paid off when EatOkra was founded in 2016.

The app is making waves

EatOkra, per Anthony, is a meaningful name (via Thrillist). He explained, "The name comes from the okra seed, which is cut in half. Okra was a seed that was brought over during the slave trade. Originally, we wanted the app just to be called 'Okra' but that was taken." He added that they decided on EatOkra because it is a food app. But how does it connect people to Black-owned restaurants? According to a piece by Protocol, the app highlights eateries that are usually missed by other food services and lists search categories that are not usually included, such as "Soul Food," "Caribbean Cuisine," and "African Cuisine."  Moreover, when one of those restaurants works with a delivery service like Seamless or DoorDash, the app "explicitly points users toward" them.

Per Today, the app has grown by leaps and bounds, and in 2020, downloads increased to more than 300,000 from 40,000. That has helped the EatOkra brand get noticed. Also, the brand's website states that its database included more than 9,500 listings last year. Users can download the app or explore the listings on the company's website to find a Black-owned eatery in their city.

According to Today, Anthony and Janique now want to do more to support Black-owned restaurants: They have started working on an "e-learning platform to provide business development resources, financial support, and webinars" to help restaurants grow further.