What More People Should Know About Running A Restaurant, According To The EatOkra Founders - Exclusive

The founders of EatOkra started out with a small, simple goal — to find the best Black-owned restaurants in their home of Brooklyn. Six years later, that quest has snowballed into a nationwide network connecting foodies all over the country with the best Black-owned food businesses in their area. And for the founders themselves, Anthony and Janique Edwards, it's been a journey of surprisingly rapid success, not to mention a life-changing learning experience along the way. Specifically, Anthony and Janique have gotten a firsthand look at how the restaurant industry works and what it takes for a business to succeed, especially for Black business owners who have always faced more barriers — even before the COVID-19 pandemic turned life and the economy upside down as we know it.

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, EatOkra's founders shared what they think more people should know about running a restaurant. Whether you're just a foodie who wants to support your local restaurants in the best way possible, or considering opening your own restaurant one day, there are important things to keep in mind.

The restaurant industry is tough, so have some grace

Here's the bottom line: It's really hard to open a restaurant in the first place, and even harder to keep it thriving, especially in today's climate. Just look at the numbers. The restaurant business was already a precarious one, with an average failure rate of anywhere from 30% to 60% (via CNBC). And right now, restaurant sales are down more than $60 billion from the start of the pandemic, with a million less workers employed in the industry (via National Restaurant Association), adding a strain on both businesses stretched too thin and customers who want pre-pandemic-level service. And it's even harder for Black business owners, who were estimated to be twice as likely to fail during the pandemic (via CBS News).

All of this is something EatOkra founders Anthony and Janique Edwards have been forced to keep in mind as their platform has skyrocketed in popularity over the past two years. "We built the app from the perspective of people who love these businesses, who love food ... and not necessarily knowing what it takes to actually own and operate a restaurant," they told Mashed, adding, "There's a lot going on behind-the-scenes." 

And while EatOkra is working to educate more business owners about running successful restaurants, they also want diners to be more understanding of the odds stacked against restaurant owners, and "be cognizant of that in your reviews and in your critiques." As Anthony put it, "Give some grace a little bit. It's tough to be a restaurant owner," especially when oftentimes they "don't have the staff or the time" they need, he added. The best thing you can do is be patient and understanding of the circumstances — as Anthony noted, because "every restaurant wants to give you the best experience, but things happen."

​​The EatOkra app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play.