“I have been doing this my whole life,” says Edward Dillard. Raised in Delaware, he started his truck driving career over a decade ago. “I know the roads.” An understatement for a profession that requires driving between 2,000 and 3,000 miles per week. For drivers such as Dillard, a chunk of their lives is spent traveling the roads. However, the job does comes with some unexpected benefits; truck drivers have firsthand knowledge about where to find the cleanest rest stops as well as know the best routes to take. The biggest benefit is knowing the best places to find top-notch food to eat while on the road.
The Average Truck Drivers Spends Four to Five Days on the Road
There lies the problem. Dillard realized that he was craving specific types of food from his community but was not sure how to find them. “I think there’s at least one website for every state that has a small list of Black-owned restaurants,” Dillard says. “You can easily find a Black-owned restaurant if you’re in one of those big cities.”
Adequate sustenance is essential when taking long road trips and fast food can quickly get old. In the information age, finding new places to eat is simple if you have the internet with a variety of apps to help locate anything and everything. Almost. There is a lack of sites that help diners locate Black-owned restaurants, something Dillard found out the hard way one day.
Dillard moved to Fort Lauderdale two years ago and it was while working along the southwest region of the United States that he found an issue. “Last year when I was working in Georgia,” says Dillard, “I had deliveries between Savannah and Brunswick. I was determined to find some great takeout food.” Dillard was “fed up with eating” at commercial and franchise restaurants and wanted to eat at a place that was closer to his heart.
“My problem I had that day is, I couldn’t find any Black-owned restaurants on the internet.” Dillard could not exactly drive around to search either; that day he was driving a tractor-trailer. “I had to plan exactly where I was going before I left. But the internet was absolutely no help. I tried searches in several towns that day and had no luck.” After a dismally unsatisfying dinner of Wendy’s and Dominos, Dillard decided to create the change he wanted to see with EatBlackOwned.com.
Connecting Black Businesses and the Community
Created solely by Dillard, he says, “I learned from Google and YouTube how to make a website. I have had no help except from myself.” When designing the website, Dillard incorporated three principles heavily influenced by his profession: It must be user-friendly, it must have listings in every state and it must have more listings than any other directory for Black-owned businesses.
“The problem is these [other] websites only focus on the major cities in their state,” says Dillard. “And these websites usually only list the more popular Black-owned businesses. I really want this to be the go-to website for everyone looking for great food. There’s something listed for everyone. We have small mom and pop shops to upscale restaurants owned by celebrities like Shaq, Michael Jordan, Nene Leakes and Steph and Ayesha Curry.”
Whether a business is known on a local or national scale, Dillard wants Black-owned restaurant businesses to thrive. “We have 2,000 restaurants and are adding new listings every day, so site visitors should check back regularly to see what’s changed in their town”, says Dillard. In addition to lists by state, the site also lets you search by cuisine types such as Caribbean, vegan/vegetarian and seafood. Enjoy your experience? Be sure to leave a review.
The site also offers low-cost marketing opportunities for restaurant owners looking to promote their eateries. For as low as $20 a month, restaurants can share photos, promotions and social media links and randomly be featured on EatBlackOwned’s homepage. A simple listing in the directory is free.
A 2018 Nielen report stated that Black consumers spend $1.2 trillion dollars annually. Dillard’s website is one way to help Black dollars get funneled back into the Black community.