A Final Nail in the Coffin: The Destruction of Houston’s Minority-Owned Restaurants Following the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Sharma, Bhanu

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the health of small, minority-owned businesses in the United States. However, in the incredibly diverse city of Houston, Texas, the combination of decades-long and ongoing gentrification processes and, more significantly, the recent effects of the pandemic have left Black, Asian, and Latinx restaurant owners in a state of economic disarray - Houston’s minority-owned small business sector has been bleeding for years and is now on the verge of collapse. The accelerated introduction of large corporate firms in Houston over the past several decades, such as Starbucks, KFC, and Chick-fil-A, has consistently threatened traditionally “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants by boasting unmatchable low prices and efficient service - leaving smaller, minority-owned firms in a massive competitive slump. Coupled with the latter, the COVID-19 pandemic has now proved to be the fatal blow in the heart of Houston’s minority entrepreneurs, with over 90% of Houston’s small businesses reporting record low revenues in 2021.
To understand the recent dwindling of Houston’s minority-owned restaurant population following the COVID-19 pandemic, minority restaurant owners in the Houston area were interviewed to gain insight into the various lockdown-related grievances, issues, and plans of action small entrepreneurs support in the hopes of revitalizing their firms. Utilizing this information, proposals that seek to expedite the recovery of and protect minority-owned small businesses can be devised. Subsequently, Houston’s historically and culturally significant stores and shops can be effectively safeguarded to ensure that Space City remains the bustling, lively metropolis it has been for years.


This project won honorable mention in the 2023 Signature Course Information Literacy Award. The award recognizes exemplary student work that achieves the learning outcomes of the Signature Course information literacy requirement, that students will be able to create and execute a research strategy, critically evaluate information, and navigate the scholarly conversation. Bhanu Sharma's paper, "A Final Nail in the Coffin: The Destruction of Houston's Minority Owned Restaurants," was nominated by Irene Rosetto, instructor for UGS 303: Afro Entrepreneurship. Dr. Rosetto said of this paper, "Bhanu Sharma...mixed in-person interviews with Houston's restaurant owners and extensive literature research, including journals and newspapers, to investigate the effects of gentrification and the COVID-19 pandemic on minority-owned businesses in Houston. The student did a stellar job integrating primary data collection with an original discussion of bibliographic resources. Bhanu demonstrated advanced knowledge of bibliographic research and citations, high skills in interpreting and synthesizing sources, providing an accurate and original analysis of gentrification - a problem that affects minority communities and businesses around the country."

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