The increase, according to a spokesperson at Yelp, became evident when the company reported its most common search terms. In 2020, it saw a 2,400% rise in searches for "Black-owned" restaurants and other businesses in comparison to 2019. During the same time period, reviewers also mentioned Black-owned businesses 232% more in their comments.
To celebrate Black History Month in February, Yelp created a list featuring the highest rated Black-owned businesses from last year. Like other top trending food lists created using data from search engines like Google, the "Black-Owned Businesses to Watch in 2021" shows the best restaurants, plus beauty and home brands, to enjoy as much as Yelp's reviewers did.
To ensure it was highlighting places owned by Black Americans, Yelp only selected businesses who "self-identified with the Black-owned attribute on Yelp, and who have been included in business collections with 'Black-owned' or 'Black owner' in the title." According to a press release, these businesses have also shown increases in average ratings and review counts in 2020 compared to 2019, or opened in and after January 2019.
Means Cameron, who owns Black Coffee Lounge in Cincinnati, Ohio, saw support for his cafe boom in the warmer months following the George Floyd protests.
"Here in the city of Cincinnati people were coming together and the energy was that we were gonna support Black, minority-owned businesses to give them a spark, and we felt that," he told TODAY Food.
During some of the protests that occurred locally, Cameron said some of his windows were busted at the cafe, which is adjacent to a clothing shop he's owned for six years. When people heard about the setback coupled with small business pandemic struggles, they lined up around the block for the lounge, making it the busiest time since Cameron opened the location in 2019.
"Our greatest months of the year were in June and July. It fell off about August," Cameron said. "I'm interested to see the stats now and in a year — from June (2020) to June (2021)."
The largest challenge for Cameron has been trying to figure out how to maintain the surge in customers he experienced at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, which has now trickled to about 40 to 50% of his pre-COVID-19 numbers.
"It's about survival and moving beans," he said.
Taren Kinebrew also saw the national support for Black restaurants reflected in her local client base in Cincinnati. Kinebrew served in the National Guard and was a programmer/analyst at IBM before devoting her life to a love of baking and opening Sweet Petit Desserts in 2009. While Sweet Petit had established customers and corporations that continued buying to-go goods and taking bake classes virtually, her newly opened Cream and Sugar Coffeehouse had many new customers when it opened in the middle of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.
"The coffee shop was slated to open in March, which was postponed, and we ended up opening the first weekend of June. It was insane. We had some riots here. People really did come out and support," Kinebrew told TODAY. "We were selling every day for three months."
According to Kinebrew, her coffee shop, which also has space for outdoor seating, has continued to do well.
"Fortunately, we were able to be open because people have been very intentional to shop at Black-owned businesses," she told TODAY.
For those hungry to find the best Black-owned spots in their state, here's Yelp's full list of top-rated restaurants and cafes.
- Mixed Fillings Pie Shop
- Red Rooster Overton
- Chicken Fire
- StreetWise Urban Food
- Hot Chicks House of Chicken