South Florida Minority Owned Small Businesses Fighting to Survive Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic

The pandemic is taking a toll on businesses in South Florida. Photo by Chris Panas on Unsplash

By Brianna Nargiso, Howard University News Service

MIRAMIR, Fla.— As the confirmed cases of the Coronavirus continue to soar past the 500,000 marker, Florida governor Ron DeSantis and President Donald J. Trump have encouraged citizens to practice self isolation and social distancing. Most Central and South Florida mayors have worked to limit human interaction by implementing city-wide curfews. 

Because of the pandemic, some minority owned businesses that contribute to the preservation of culture and regional diversity are taking a big financial hit.

“Foot traffic is definitely less, and people seem to be trying to spend less. Due to the situation, this is totally understandable,” said co-owner and operator, Erica Torres of Fresh Jerk Grill in Miramar, Florida.

Fresh Jerk Grill is a popular jerk center in Miramar that caters to the large Caribbean community. With a city of about 30 percent residents identifying as Caribbean, the restaurant offers a mix of Carribean foods. With a Caribbean fusion concept, Fresh Jerk Grill combines traditional Jamaican and Puerto Rican flavors into all of their signature dishes.

The National Federation of Independent Business, the largest small business coalition in the U.S. released a study detailing how small businesses will be affected by the pandemic. 

As of March 13, it was reported that 74 percent of the small businesses surveyed have not been impacted at all, 23 percent have been negatively affected. Three percent have been positively impacted.

“Of those small business owners not currently impacted, 43 percent anticipate their business being impacted if the coronavirus outbreak spreads to, or spreads more broadly in, their immediate area over the next three months. Twenty percent do not expect to be impacted if the outbreak spreads, and another 37 percent are not sure,” the study reported. 

The study also shows that while all businesses have not had similar experiences there is about 81 percent of small business owners who are concerned for the future of their business during the pandemic.

By providing affordable prices for authentic food, Fresh Jerk Grill maintains a consistent consumer base and experienced immense growth from their food truck start up in late 2013. In the past seven years, Fresh Jerk Grill has opened a brick and mortar location and has increased their clientele over time.

However, as the Coronavirus has called for social distancing, the early close of nonessential businesses and state lockdowns, Fresh Jerk Grill remains committed to being flexible and complying with new regulations.

“Things are not the norm.We have been doing promotions on social media as well as passing out menus door to door. We have also implemented an in-house delivery service,” said Torres.

Similarly, things have been extremely different for World Famous, a stuffed egg roll restaurant started in 2014 has also been impacted by state wide measures to decrease social interaction. 

Owner Chis Brown expanded his food business after finding a passion for experimenting with culturally diverse dishes across the world. Now the World Famous customer base that stretches across Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach with locations in Miami Gardens, Fort Lauderdale and Boynton Beach.

“With other restaurants being forced to close we believe that people are seeking restaurants that are open that they may not dine with normally. We also deliver with UberEATS, Doordash and Postmates. We have seen about a 20% increase in delivery sales,” said Brown.

Like Fresh Jerk Grill, World Famous has relied heavily on marketing to compensate for the lack of in person and dine in options for food.

Although the challenges facing Fresh Jerk and Grill and World Famous they will remain open. 

Focused on continuing to produce excellent food and excellent customer service, both restaurants want their consumer base to know they are as dedicated to safety and food quality as they have ever been.

“We want people to know that we are here to serve the community through thick and thin,” said Torres.