Londoner Santeni Brown, who gave up a career in fashion to open her first restaurant, has been named one of twenty five winners of the Uber Eats Black Business Fund.

Almost 600 restaurants applied for the fund, with over half of the winners based outside London, from towns and cities including Leeds, Bristol, Blackburn, Huddersfield and Gloucester. 

Santeni Brown cooked her first ever dish of corned beef aged nine and worked in fashion before opening Dinner at Sans in Brixton. She refined her skills at dinner parties and supper clubs before opening the restaurant last year.  

The Black Business Fund, set up by Uber Eats in collaboration with Be Inclusive Hospitality and Enterprise Nation, sees £250,000 distributed to 25 small Black-owned businesses across the country.

Santeni Brown, owner of Dinner at San’s said: “My philosophy is that Caribbean food should look as good as it tastes! I started by refining dishes at home for family and friends and the restaurant has just kept on growing. I was born in Jamaica where food is a huge part of the culture. Bringing the energy of London and Jamaican food culture together has been such an amazing experience.” 

“Going forward I want to keep championing women of colour and people from underserved communities – helping to recruit and train staff looking to make their way in hospitality. With this grant I want to expand to a bigger unit, invest in staff, and take my marketing to the next level. For anyone looking to start their own restaurant I would say: start small, master your niche, and then the rest will grow from there.” 

Matthew Price, Uber Eats UK General Manager, said: “We are delighted to significantly increase the support available through the Uber Eats Black Business Fund this year. Small businesses and restaurants are the heartbeat of local communities and each recipient has an inspiring story to tell. We want to help the next generation of chefs and entrepreneurs succeed and we hope these grants will allow them to thrive.” 

The owner of Windsor’s first ever Afro Caribbean restaurant, who helped support homeless people during the pandemic was also a winner. 

Rachel Boma Olatoke opened Harvest Afro Caribbean with her husband after they both lost their jobs during the pandemic. They had dreamt of starting their own restaurant for 25 years and finally took the plunge in 2020. 

Rachel Olatoke, owner of Harvest Afro Caribbean, said: “It all started in our home kitchen testing out recipes with the kids. Moving from the kitchen to Windsor high street felt like a very bold move, but it’s been a wonderful journey. Customers are at the centre of what we do – we want to ensure we’re giving them a great experience and showcasing Black excellence through food, sight and sounds.” 

“After investing our life savings into the business, this grant will really help us take it to the next level. We plan to use the grant to improve our marketing and invest in expansion – potentially through a buffet, pop-up or a food van. Since the beginning we have been providing food for the homeless in our community so I of course want to keep up that support.” 

Black business owners face particular barriers in accessing investment and finance, with Black workers most likely to say ethnicity hinders their career progression.

In the UK, just 5 per cent of small or medium sized businesses are run by people from minority backgrounds, with Black and Mixed ethnicity groups the least likely to be self-employed. According to research: 

  • 43% of Black business owners believe that ethnicity has hindered career progression – the highest of any ethnic minority group, according to Be Inclusive Hospitality 
  • among Black business owners, the biggest concern for accessing finance are worries about taking on debt (34%), with only three in ten approaching banks for finance – according to Lloyds Bank

Lorraine Copes, founder of Be Inclusive hospitality, said:  “It has been an honour to partner on this initiative for a second year. Judging the entrants was a wonderful reminder of the innovation and passion that runs through the veins of hospitality , and I now have a long list of phenomenal Black-owned restaurants throughout the UK, that I am personally keen to visit. I look forward to following the journeys of the deserving recipients of the grants and mentorship, as I am confident that this initiative will as intend in supporting the recovery from the pandemic.”

Emma Jones CBE, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “Tackling the barriers that are faced by Black-owned businesses is vital if we’re going to unleash the skills of more of these talented entrepreneurs into our economy.  The Uber Eats Black Business Fund has been instrumental in highlighting these issues and delivering funding and practical business advice to help ambitious chefs and street food business founders to develop and take their business to the next level.”

Jackson Mclarty, from Black Eats LDN, said: “Sharing the Black Business Fund for a second year with the Black Eats community has been a pleasure and will have a huge impact on the 25 winning businesses. Reviewing the applicant’s inspiring videos and hearing their stories I was especially impressed by the resilience displayed given the current climate of the hospitality industry which has sadly resulted in many Black-owned restaurants closing doors. I can’t wait to see the next steps these businesses take, this will really help.”

The full list of winners is: