Challenges and hope during COVID – two Tampa Bay restaurants weigh in

What would you do with $10K? For those in the restaurant industry in the time of COVID-19, it might be what it takes to start – or continue – bouncing back. With more than 2.5 million jobs and $240 billion lost in the restaurant industry during 2020, every ounce of support helps. Whether you’re supporting your local restaurants by donating funds, tipping extra for your meals or just ordering off the menu, you’re supporting local workers and their families.

For a look inside local restaurants in Tampa, we checked in with two of our February Pepsi Restaurant Battle grant recipients to see how they’re doing. We also wanted to celebrate what they’ve been able to accomplish thanks to $10K Pepsi grants.


What they’re known for: Winning the Pepsi Restaurant Battle during Shaq Bowl – and their Redneck Nachos. According to Ryan Bell, co-founder of the BBQ joint, this is their must-try (and usually shareable) dish. Picture a double-order of fries loaded with melted cheddar cheese, pulled pork and their signature Tractor Grease® sauce.

Their challenges and pivots during COVID: “All the changes and restrictions and the unknown were super challenging, I think, for everyone,” said Bell, whose team stayed positive and made a point to update packaging to improve safety. “The benefit that we have being locally owned and operated was we were able to change rapidly. We just learned to move on the fly in order to be able to stay ahead of the curve.”

How BubbaQue’s is using their $10K Pepsi grant: “Our goal was to distribute all of those funds to some internal staff as well as continue to keep up with the community support that we already participate in, and just make it that much better,” Bell said.

What they continue to stand for: “We are what we call ‘country chic,’” Bell said. “Redneck-hits-lottery kind of thing. Everything’s got kind of a lodge, homey feel. We want everybody to feel comfortable. We greet you with a ‘howdy,’ we tell you ‘appreciate it’ when you leave.”

7th + Grove

What they’re known for: Elevated Southern cuisine and their dish names, which are based on songs, according to owner Dr. Jamaris Glenn. He said to try the Rock the Boat, which features fried catfish with collard greens and grits.

Their challenges and pivots during COVID: “The restaurant industry obviously has been devastated by this pandemic,” said Glenn, whose team is 100% Black-owned. “But also there’s been many other things that have happened in the world, such as civil unrest with Black Lives Matter, and those types of things that highly affect our community and who we are and people that look like us. So we were hit in so many different ways. And the community, in particular, is really what fortified us during these times.”

How 7th + Grove is using their $10K Pepsi grant: “Our business, we’re picking up momentum,” Glenn said. “So we plan on using that $10K only on our employees. We won’t be taking a penny from it because they work so hard, and they’re struggling in this pandemic. We want to use that money towards them.”

What they continue to stand for: “Blooming, being whoever you want to be,” said Glenn, who clarified that his restaurant’s motto is ‘eat, vibe, flourish.’ “Whether you’re a late bloomer or you already know who you are, you can come and be exactly who you want to be at 7th + Grove.”

Learn more about BubbaQue’s here, and 7th + Grove here. Plus, don’t forget to support your own local restaurants. They depend on it.