American Express has introduced “Backing International Small Restaurants,” a new award program designed to recognize culturally significant independent restaurants owned and run by members of underrepresented groups in five major cities: London, Mexico City, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto. American Express has committed US$500,000 to this program, which will be managed in partnership with the IDA Foundation. The IDA Foundation has never previously received a grant. This new initiative takes the company’s efforts to promote small and independent restaurants to an international scale, building on the success of the previous $1 million prize program “Backing Historic Small Restaurants.”

Each of the selected restaurants will receive up to US $15,000 to assist them in recovering from the pandemic’s effects and implementing critical upgrades necessary to sustain operations, such as improving digital capabilities, establishing outdoor dining spaces, and making other physical improvements. “Supporting International Small Restaurants” aims to highlight the critical role that these businesses play in their communities and to provide them with the resources necessary to continue operating for many years to come.

“Local eateries not only enliven our neighborhoods; they also reflect the rich, diverse histories and cultures of our communities, fostering a sense of belonging,” said Jennifer Skyler, American Express’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer and Chair of the American Express Foundation. “We are pleased to expand our efforts to help small restaurants in historic cities throughout the world through this award, as we continue to promote the small business sector and vibrant communities worldwide.”

The IDA Foundation will select award recipients in partnership with local place management organizations in each city, such as business improvement districts or downtown partnerships and alliances. Each city requires restaurants to be open for business and owned or operated by individuals. Additionally, the “Supporting International Small Restaurants” program will provide direct financial support to place management groups in each city, assisting in the selection of local grantees.

“American Express’s amazing sponsorship enables us to carry out this unique work,” said David Downey, Executive Director of the IDA Foundation. “We must do everything necessary to rehabilitate these businesses in the aftermath of the COVID-19 epidemic, including providing as much direct assistance as possible to our local mainstays. Not only would Supporting International Small Restaurants aid in the survival of small businesses, but it will also contribute to the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is a central mission of the IDA Foundation.”

The International Downtown Association Foundation is the organization’s new nonprofit arm. The International Downtown Association is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that provides knowledge, research, and public policies to enable management leaders to create prosperous city centers, commercial neighborhoods, and livable urban places for all.

“Supporting International Small Eateries” demonstrates American Express’ commitment to small, independent restaurants worldwide. In February of this year, the company announced a similar program in the United States called “Backing Historic Small Restaurants,” which will provide $1 million in funding to assist historic small restaurants in the United States with rehabilitation and long-term profitability. Both campaigns are aspects of American Express’ global Shop Small initiative, which highlights and promotes small, independent businesses. Additional information about these historic eateries and this effort may be found on Resy.com, which has joined with the campaign to help market it.