American Express-supported grant programme aims to highlight the important role independent restaurants play in their communities and provide valuable support.

Small independent restaurants in London and Manchester can now apply for a share of £220,000 to help grow their business as an American Express-supported grant programme returns for a third year to the UK. 

Run by the International Downtown Association (IDA) Foundation in partnership with the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM) in the UK, the global Backing International Small Restaurants programme has expanded to nine major cities across five countries in 2024 – London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, Montreal, Tokyo, Osaka, and Mexico City.

This year, the UK programme expands to Manchester, a city well known for its vibrant restaurant scene. A total of 20 eligible restaurants of community significance across both Manchester and London will each receive a grant of £11,000 to enhance their business operations and the experience for diners in the months ahead. These improvements will have a long-term impact on business growth and sustainability, allowing owners to grow their customer base and increase community vibrancy.

The grant programme comes at a time when hospitality operators continue to face a challenging market and rising costs across all areas of their business. The programme will help boost a hospitality sector with its sights set firmly on growth over the next 12 months. According to new American Express research*, in the UK, one third (33%) of hospitality businesses plan to invest in their premises over the next 12 months. The top factors driving this investment are the desire to win new customers (43%) and improve the customer experience (36%).  

Restaurant owners in London and Manchester can learn more about the programme, eligibility and apply for the grant at downtown.org/foundation. The deadline for applications is 30 May 2024.

Dan Edelman, Vice President and General Manager of UK Merchant Services at American Express, said: “We’re delighted to once again back small independent restaurants and this year, extend the grant programme to cover venues in Manchester. Our hope is that the grant funding offers a welcome boost to its recipients.”

David Downey, Executive Director, IDA Foundation, said: “We’re excited to be partnering with American Express again for the third year of the Backing International Small Restaurants programme. This year’s expansion to nine global cities demonstrates our shared commitment to boosting long-term sustainability for culturally significant and independent restaurants. By increasing the grant amount, we can provide even greater support to these businesses, empowering them to thrive and continue to be cultural cornerstones within their communities.”

Ojay McDonald, ATCM Chief Executive, added: “The Backing International Small Restaurants programme has provided such an important lifeline for some great food businesses who needed a little bit of help to invest during such difficult economic times. We are excited about the expansion of the programme to Manchester as we understand the value it will bring to the local restaurants and the communities. We look forward to working with American Express, the IDA Foundation, and key members of our network locally to ensure as many businesses as possible get the opportunity to apply this year.”

Quotes from 2023 grantees

Gordon McGowan, owner of Buster Mantis in Deptford, London: “I’m delighted to see this programme return for its third year. Last year’s grant allowed us to carry out essential upgrades to our restaurant – something which ultimately allowed everyone at Buster Mantis to remain focused on our mission of providing people in our community with great food and drink, in a welcoming atmosphere.”

Andrew Poynter, founder and owner, The Goods Office, Stroud Green, London: “The grant has given me a new passion to see through this difficult economic time and we wouldn’t have been able to survive without the programme. Things are looking much better, and the new bar layout and ice cream machine have given us the boost we needed.”