BlackEatsLDN Is Cultivating Community Through Food
By Ada Kalu
June 16, 2023
Following the first lockdown in 2020, the UK government launched Eat Out to Help Out, a scheme geared to support the hospitality sector post lockdown. Eating out became one of the most exciting things to do. While food has always played a role in celebration, sustenance, emotions and feelings, the food experience is constantly being developed and refined. It’s an unfinished moment that’s constantly interrogated to heighten the affair of food and food businesses. This is the work of BlackEatsLDN – a marrying of food, technology and culture in one directory – celebrating and supporting Black – owned food businesses in London.
Founded by Jackson Mclarty, BlackEats celebrates the communal experience of food. More specifically, the platform exists to support Black food businesses in tandem with outlets working similarly while also understanding the need to ‘come to the same spaces … in a non competitive way’. This is how we cultivate and foster good food experiences. This is exemplified in their 2023 events calendar. From April through to October, BlackEatsLDN have scheduled monthly weekenders which combine the food experience with cultural and music markers in London. This includes their most recent City Splash Warm-Up and later events supporting Carnival and Black History Month.
Creating the Black Eats Directory
The Black Eats Directory currently features over 300 Black businesses across meal specifications and physical restaurant accessibilities in London. Jackson speaks to the process and intention of building this up in the midst of the pandemic which took away the option to visit and support these businesses. Launching with an initial 100, ‘I took their postcodes, pasted them into the .GOV website to find out if they were participating in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, I then created a filter on the directory so that people could go on to the directory, see these 100 restaurants, refine it down to the 45 that were participating in the scheme. And then, you know, maybe if you got a little bit extra cash, you go and pay full price, if you want to go to the eat out to help out restaurants, you can do so.’ This created a desired output with autonomy and choice being given to users, an opportunity to find and discover meals that cater to their interests and driving support for businesses. The creation of the directory also leans on a relationship with these restaurants. ‘I had to go on their websites, go into Google Images, go into TripAdvisor, try and find a picture of their menu, assess that myself to then break down. And then we usually send a confirmation, just say, hey, your restaurant is now in our directory, click the link and find it, if you’ve got any changes, please let us know.’ When lockdown was lifted, this involved physical visits and online promotion ‘connecting people with different media partners such as mob and various other kinds of channels like BuzzFeed, so on and so forth, to give them reach, which they a lot of them didn’t have previously. And I guess those kind of relationships have grown into business relationships as well.’
Cultivating and centering meal practices
The U.K. landscape, particularly in its Black communities, forms connections in and around culture. One of the biggest cultural practices our communities have is food. Meals are the ties that bind and so is music. ‘I think food and music is probably one of the greatest connectors that are out there. And given that our event is so focused on inclusion, not just diversity, we’re able to kind of tap into almost all audiences.’ This means that ‘different kinds of people are catered to. And I think by being this inclusive and diverse event, we attract an inclusive and diverse crowd. Simply because if you want to call it, you attract from outside what you represent inside, if you want to call it that.’
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