Seasoned with Soul’s slogan is, “Soulfood like your grandma used to make.” (Photo by Ren Pusher/Carolina News and Reporter)

Not all small local businesses participate in Columbia’s Restaurant Week.

S.C. restaurants showcase specially prepared dishes and launch new products at affordable prices during Restaurant Week. Ads praise cuisine variety and quality. 

Participating is automatic for members of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association. Participation gets you citywide advertising, something small businesses find difficult to pay for, much like membership dues. Non-members can participate in Restaurant Week if they pay $500.

“That’s a lot for smaller businesses because with food prices being what they are,” said Crystal Taylor, owner of Seasoned with Soul on Broad River Road. “And we trying to stay in business, we can’t afford to spend $500 dollars, with the expenses we spend on a daily basis to keep our business running.”

The association’s membership dues are based on restaurant revenue. 

“They start at $300 for $250,000 to $500,000 (in revenue),” said Lenza Jolley, the association’s vice president of membership and development. “And then it would jump to $375 for $500,000 to $1 million and then per million it goes up incrementally.”

Advertising as an individual business can be expensive.

“On average, small businesses spend $2,500 to $12,000 monthly advertising online,” according to Socially buzz. “While most small businesses pay $10,000 on online advertising yearly, more than 37% spend less than this amount annually.”

Smaller businesses already incur significant costs for daily advertising. Taking part in events like Restaurant Week without a membership could put further financial strain on them. 

Columbia has an array of family-owned, local restaurants with a variety of menus and items.

Jackie Bradley created Butterkreme Queen, a bakery on St. Andrews Road, in May 2020. Bradley sells brownies, cake slices and sweet treats weekly alongside savory menu items on Saturdays. 

The cakes here are fabulous, the cookies are to die for,” said customer Sandy Thiele. “In the summer when they have tomato pie, get in line early because they are sold out, everybody loves them.”

Bradley knew about Restaurant Week, but did not know that it was currently taking place. 

“I would love to be a part of it, but if the opportunity comes,” Bradley said. “… I want customers to come here because I have amazing products … because they know they’re gonna get a good quality product.”

Talawa Carib Cuisine on Forest Drive shares its Jamaican customs and culture with Columbia through food. 

Owners Gelani Watson and Meisha Murray are both from Portland, Jamaica. 

“Our mission is to provide good authentic Jamaican food while also providing our very own Jamaican products from our home country,” Watson said in an email.

Talawa serves authentic Jamaican food, including jerk chicken, curry chicken and goat, among other menu and grocery items. 

“And we might be a little small space, but stuff that we (Jamaica) do, it’s known worldwide,” Watson said. “(Talawa) That’s one of our things that we use to motivate us to keep going.”

Owner of Seasoned With Soul, Crystal Taylor, began her culinary career at a young age, and over the years, her clientele has grown. The family-owned soul food restaurant opened in February 2019. 

“I just watched the ladies cooking at church and preparing meals for the church and the family and I learned a lot from that,” she said. 

The restaurant’s popular menu items include hamburger steaks, loaded baked potatoes, oxtails and turkey wings. 

“I prefer freshness and quality,” Taylor said. “I just wouldn’t serve anything to my customers that I wouldn’t give to my own mother or father or my kids.”

South Carolina Restaurant Week this year included more than 30 restaurants in Columbia from Jan. 11 to Jan. 21.

Butterkreme Queen serves savory items on Saturdays. (Photo by Shamariah Vanderhorst/Carolina News and Reporter)

Talawa Carib Cuisine also sells grocery items. (Photo by Ren Pusher/Carolina News and Reporter)

Seasoned with Soul is a family-owned restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Taylor/Carolina News and Reporter)


Ren Pusher

Ren Pusher

Pusher is a junior journalism major, minoring in hotel, restaurant, and tourism management at the University of South Carolina. She’s a South Carolina native who plans to become a travel journalist. She closely follows travel journalism and is always looking for her next adventure.

Shamariah Vanderhorst

Shamariah Vanderhorst

Vanderhorst is a junior at the University of South Carolina, double-majoring in journalism and English literature. She’s an opinion writer for the Daily Gamecock. In her spare time, she teaches English and studies Korean.