From today, independent restaurant owners across London can apply for a share of almost £70,000 to help grow their business through an American Express-supported grant programme, run by the International Downtown Association (IDA) Foundation in partnership with the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM).
Now in its second year, the global Backing International Small Restaurants programme runs in five major cities – London, Mexico City, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto. The programme aims to highlight the important role independent restaurants play in their communities and provide them with valuable support to succeed.
In London, the IDA is working with the ATCM to promote the initiative and select grant recipients from across the capital’s diverse and vibrant dining scene. Six eligible restaurants of community significance will receive £11,500 each to help them make critical improvements that boost their business, such as enhancing digital capabilities, revitalising their dining spaces and kitchens, or making other physical improvements.
The grant programme comes at a time when hospitality operators are facing a challenging market and rising costs across all areas of their business. However, new research from American Express shows that diners continue to be supportive of small restaurants.
The study of 2,000 consumers found that almost three-quarters (73%) believe it’s important to spend with small restaurants as a way of supporting local high streets; with the same proportion (73%) saying these venues are vital to maintaining a vibrant and diverse local community. Following a positive dining experience, 8 in 10 (79%) say they would recommend a small restaurant to friends and family and two-thirds (67%) would visit more often.
London restaurant owners can learn more about the programme, eligibility and apply for a grant at downtown.org/event/bisr The deadline for applications is 7 July 2023.
David Downey, Executive Director, IDA Foundation, said: “As we launch the Backing International Small Restaurants programme for the second year, we recognise the vital role that small, independent restaurants play in our communities. This programme is a demonstration of our commitment to supporting these businesses and helping them thrive and succeed in the wake of ongoing economic challenges worldwide. It is an honour to implement this innovative work with the generous support of American Express and partnership of the ATCM.”
Ojay McDonald, ATCM Chief Executive, said: “London is home to one of the world’s best hospitality scenes. This scheme from American Express provides a golden opportunity for innovation from those business owners with great ideas on how to evolve but who lack the capital to be able to invest. This programme can help turn potential that exists with our small food businesses and convert that into reality as part of a global movement for innovation. We are delighted to support this.”
Dan Edelman, General Manager, UK Merchant Services at American Express, added: “We are proud of our record of championing small businesses and the important contribution they make to their local communities. Hospitality businesses continue to face challenging times so we hope this grant funding will offer a welcome boost.”
Backing International Small Restaurants is part of American Express’ ‘Backing Small’ grant initiative, which supports small business owners and entrepreneurs across the world, and includes grant programmes, mentoring support, and technical assistance. The programme compliments American Express’ Shop Small campaign, a global movement to spotlight and support small, independent businesses, along with its support of Small Business Saturday, of which American Express remains founder and the Principal Supporter in the UK.
Owners of restaurants and other hospitality venues in London with a foodservice2 offer can apply online until 7 July 2023. Applicants will need to explain how they will use the grant to drive their business forward. Recipients will be announced and awarded the funding later this summer.
2022 grant recipient Valcie McIntosh, owner of Papas Café in Brixton Park, south London, explains the impact of the funding.
McIntosh said, “The grant gave us the opportunity to update and purchase much-needed items for the cafe. Our customers have paid us lovely compliments on the new and improved interior and the equipment has brightened up the outside space, making a huge difference to the local community.”