Soul Food Restaurant Announces $5M Venture Capital Investment, Cornbread Embraces Expansion

The pandemic has been financially tough on many restaurants since the interruption of foot traffic and business from loyal customers who usually would dine in proved challenging. As the pandemic restrictions loosen, and options such as food delivery, picking up food orders, and limited in-person dining options increase, the farm-to-table model may have a chance to financially recover.

The Food Network explains that farm-to-table dining entails restaurants prioritizing where their food is grown, often sourcing directly from farms, rather than through distribution companies. It was stated that most true farm-to-table restaurants form relationships with farmers. They also feature their seasonal produce, which may include poultry, beef, pork, or dairy.

“On their menus, chefs will often cite the farms where the products came from and sometimes tell bigger stories about the farmers,” The Food Network said online.

One fast-casual farm-to-table soul food restaurant called Cornbread offers three locations in Maplewood and Newark, New Jersey, and also West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. It is led by founder Adenah Bayoh and her co-founder Zadie B. Smith. The innovative restaurant concept features traditional soul food. Cornbread’s food which ranges from barbecue ribs and fried catfish to macaroni and cheese and collard greens is not mailed in boxes. Ingredient freshness and using steroid and hormone-free ingredients is becoming an asset to consumers who may be wary of limited restaurant choices many have faced because of the pandemic. Perhaps the idea of freshly sourced food is on an upward trend. Cornbread’s latest chapter in the business’s story reminds us that freshly sourced food can be worth the investment.

@cornbreadnewarknj- Instagram credit

New Jersey Business said that Bayoh and Smith announced a $5 million investment from New Voices Fund and Trident, which are two Black-owned venture capital firms. Both will reportedly fund the nationwide expansion of Cornbread.

According to Cornbread’s website, the fast-casual farm-to-table restaurant focused on making authentic savory soul food and utilizing innovative technology to provide a unique and family-friendly dining experience.

“We’re proud to source all of our ingredients from local farmers and shops. Our food is always fresh because we prepare our meals around the clock with great love and care,” Cornbread’s website said.

Additionally, the website mentioned that Cornbread represents Bayoh’s vision of creating an innovative soul food restaurant concept. She wants families and friends can gather and feel good about the food that they eat and where employees are truly valued and empowered. Cornbread was inspired by her grandmother who was a farmer and restaurant owner. Thus, Cornbread exemplifies her philosophy that savory and authentic food can be healthy and responsibly sourced.

On the other hand, the website also explained that Smith has roots in Tifton, Georgia. She is also described on the website as a “pioneering entrepreneur who discovered her love of cooking at an early age from her parents.”

According to New Jersey Business, Bayoh is a former refugee who escaped the civil war in her native country of Liberia. She is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in her home state of N.J. Her portfolio includes owning six restaurants, including the three Cornbread locations.

“I am extraordinarily grateful to Richelieu Dennis and Eric Taylor for seeing the tremendous value in Black women-owned businesses like Cornbread and advocating for them, especially now when we need it the most. When I opened my first restaurant at 29, I was turned down by 7 banks before I finally got my first yes. Many Black women entrepreneurs, no matter how qualified, never get that yes, which is why investors like Richelieu and Eric are so important,” Bayoh said in the New Jersey Business interview.

In the New Jersey Business article, Bayoh also mentioned that funding comes at a particularly crucial moment while expanding Cornbread during the pandemic.