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Grubhub awarded $958,000 to 102 restaurants across the city through their GrubHub Community Fund, with $80,000 going to nine restaurants in the Bronx. Two of them are right here in the South Bronx – Flava’s Restaurant & Lounge and Chocobar Cortés.
The GrubHub Community Fund does not distribute funds directly – instead, it partners with several organizations they trust to disburse the grants fairly – such as BronxWorks Inc, Women in Hospitality United, Food Bank for NYC and others.
Despite the funds being awarded last year, the two South Bronx restaurants are just now utilizing the money. The grants were intended to help eateries winterize their outdoor dining. “But because of the pandemic and the strain that was put on restaurants, we’ve had a fairly broad approach to allowing restaurants what they think is best to serve their customers and make sure they can run their business,” said Dave Tovar, senior vice president of communications and government relations at Grubhub.
Chocobar Cortés, located at 141 Alexander Ave., is using its $10,000 grant for day-to-day operations and to launch an online presence for their new catering business.
“We are currently building out our catering – weekends are good, but it’s during the week where we struggle,” said the restaurant’s owner, Carlos Cortés. “You can currently order by calling our office, but we’re also working on implementing an integrated ordering platform.” Right now, customers have to speak to the catering manager to place an order, but once the new system is in place, orders can be processed directly online without having to utilize a go-between.
Owned by the great-grandson of Puerto Rican chocolate entrepreneur Don Pedro Cortés Forteza, the chocolate-focused restaurant has its roots in generations of Caribbean chocolate making. It celebrated its one-year anniversary in the Mott Haven neighborhood in December 2022.
But before they even completed 365 days of being open, the restaurant had been hit with four robberies in a matter of weeks, and Cortés was considering closing up shop. “These grants help restaurants stay open, hands down, you couldn’t ask for anything more useful. They allow restaurants to have some wiggle room,” said Cortés, as he spoke about recent price increases on rent, gas, electricity and food.
Over in Melrose at 3114 Third Ave., Flava’s Restaurant & Lounge specializes in Jamaican dishes like oxtail, jerk chicken and curry goat. When Flava’s owner, Harry Headlam, came to the U.S. from Jamaica, he landed his first job in the automotive industry, but quickly realized he wanted to be in the restaurant business.
“People have to eat, you don’t have to buy a car every day,” he said.
And while he has owned some restaurants in the past, Flava’s has been his most successful, surviving the pandemic and becoming a local staple since 2018. Headlam says that, given the small space of his establishment and the post-COVID environment, to-go orders have increased exponentially and he wants to accommodate that growth.
“We’re trying to create an outside space that’s enclosed where when the drivers come, they’re not out in the rain or out in the snow or where it’s cold, and the customers as well,” he said. Headlam is thankful for the grant, as his renovation was overdue but he was unable to fund it on his own.
The grants are given to restaurants that demonstrate the most need, with a focus on mom-and-pop joints. “For GrubHub, New York is one of our biggest and most important markets,” said Tovar.