Pepsi, NFL Team Up For Dig In Program To Help and Promote Black-Owned Restaurants

Fresh off its second annual Dig In Day, Pepsi and the NFL are bringing attention and exposure to Black-owned restaurants across the U.S. through its Dig In program.

The program, announced by Pepsi in 2020, provides Black-owned restaurants with the business resources they need and catering opportunities to help them financially. The NFL joined the program in 2021 and has used it to promote Black-owned eateries in cities where its offices are located by hiring them to provide food for its employees during the pandemic.

“In 2021 we received an invite to join the program by our partner Pepsi and it really was a natural fit for the NFL,” NFL Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Josephine Martinez tells BLACK ENTERPRISE. “We have been very active in trying to support Black-owned businesses and small businesses so when we received the call we jumped on it.

“The really great thing that happened during that first year was we actually provided free meals to all of our employees due to the COVID protocols we had at the time and we knew the impact that we can make on some of these businesses placing catering orders for thousands of meals at once.”

During the 2022 Dig In Day last November, people were able to dine in or order from a litany of Black-owned restaurants across the country and upload their receipts to–a site that makes it easy to explore Black-owned restaurants, track purchases to show support, and more. Pepsi and the NFL also covered the tabs between $2,000 and $5,000 for select Black-owned restaurants to serve food in their communities. 

The NFL and a host of other organizations, including the National Urban League (NUL), have also used the Dig In program to sponsor lunches for corporate executives and staffers around the country, providing Black-owned restaurants with an infusion of money to help their businesses.

The NFL joined the Dig In Program to add to its growing list of initiatives that increase diversity and business opportunities for Black entrepreneurs across the country.

One of those initiatives is the NFL’s Business Connect Program, which uses minority- and Black-owned businesses in the community where the NFL is holding an event including the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, and the NFL Draft.

“I would say that’s probably the most common piece where we’re actually at events like the Super Bowl,” Martinez says. “We are bringing in a number of small- and minority-owned businesses to the biggest stages in the world, whether that was last year at SoFi Stadium and others to get a taste of the local community, so not under the Dig In banner but definitely something that we’ve done for a number of years at our tentpole events.”

Kenneth Taitt, the owner of Kenny’s Q: Barbecue in Inglewood, California, near SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers, told BLACK ENTERPRISE the NFL made numerous catering orders for between 300 and 750 people in 2022—and didn’t stop there.

“The NFL revamped my whole restaurant,” says Taitt. “New signs and fresh paint inside and out that gave us a new landscape from a white building to black and red. Now people can see us and business has picked up 100 percent. The NFL has been very good to our restaurant and we are very thankful.”

Unique Eats, based in Queens, New York, is also part of the Dig In program. Owner Uniqua Grant praised the Dig In Program, saying it helped keep her restaurant open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During this pandemic, it’s been a struggle in some aspects to keep the business rolling every day,” Grant says. “Products were either unavailable or the price was sometimes triple. We understand our surrounding communities weren’t able to eat out as often as they were faced with their own adversaries to keep their own ducks in a row. We are grateful to still thrive through all of that.”