Thursday, May 19 2022

Tiffany Derry is known for her duck fat fried chicken, but her real mission is to make restaurant ownership possible in underserved communities.

Derry’s own background is in fine dining: She earned a culinary degree at the Art Institute of Houston, then cooked overseas in Europe, Latin America and Asia before working in several top restaurants in Texas. She’s also served her fried chicken at the Obama White House not once but twice, and appeared on TV shows including Excellent chef and Rescue bar.

She and her business partner Tom Foley own T2D Concepts, which operates Roots Southern Table, a casual restaurant in the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch, Texas that reflects Derry’s heritage as a native Texan with Louisiana roots. They also operate two Roots Chicken Shak restaurants — one in Austin and one in Plano, Texas — which have a fast-casual business model intended to be replicated in communities where franchise restaurants often refuse to go.

“We were looking at this from the very beginning,” Derry said, noting that the restaurant was designed to keep the menu simple and the prices low. He uses thigh meat instead of more expensive brisket, and his vegetables are a simple mix of lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. It has small footprints to allow for lower rent and ordering kiosks to save on labor.

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But Derry and Foley, who is a lawyer by training, are also working on building blocks to help people in underserved communities — typically people of color and often women — own their own businesses.

They are looking for loan guarantee funds that will support community members who are not creditworthy enough to get loans on their own, and banks interested in improving their ratings under the Community Reinvestment Act, which encourages lenders help low- and middle-income neighborhoods. These ratings can be considered when regulators consider approving future bank mergers, charters, new branch openings, and more.

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Derry and Foley also want to work with municipalities that have a vested interest not only in improving the lot of their residents, but also in broadening their tax base by supporting businesses in communities that don’t have enough.

Corporate sponsors could also be crucial, Derry said, and communities themselves need to be involved.

“At the end of the day, all of these things have to work,” she said.

And it is possible. Derry said that at the start of the pandemic, they started serving free food to underserved communities, and it turned out that those communities had their own resources, such as ties to vegetable and cheese suppliers. meat.

“So we’ve seen the power of community, and it’s strong,” Derry said. “We learned that we literally have to root ourselves in the community. This is what changes things. »

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Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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