American Express

American Express expands small restaurant grant program in Toronto and Montreal

American Express announces the expansion of its Backing International Small Restaurants Program in Canada with independent restaurants in Montreal now eligible to apply, in addition to Toronto. In total across both cities, 20 grants of $19,500 CAD each will be offered to selected recipients.

In partnership with the International Downtown Association (IDA) Foundation, grant support is aimed at small and independently owned restaurants with community significance and economic need for physical or digital improvements to their business. These improvements will have a long-term impact on business growth and sustainability, allowing owners to grow their customer base and increase community vibrancy.

“We’re thrilled to scale up support for small restaurants in two cities with world-class, vibrant and unique food scenes,” says Kerri-Ann Santaguida, Vice President and General Manager of Merchant Services for American Express Canada. “Our hope is that these grants will help restaurants grow, thrive, and continue to play a vital role in enriching the cultural fabric of our local communities.”

In its first two years in Canada, Backing International Small Restaurants provided over $200,000 CAD in financial support to small restaurants in Toronto. In 2023, Gushi was one of six restaurants in the city to be awarded a $19,500 CAD grant through the program. This recognition celebrated Gushi’s contribution to central Toronto’s food scene and funded essential improvements needed to further enhance Gushi’s connection to its locale.

Grant funds were used to paint a mural, envisioned in collaboration with a local artist to brighten the Cabbagetown restaurant exterior. The grant also facilitated the expansion of indoor seating, creating a much-needed dining area and fostering a warm and welcoming space for experiencing the joy of Gushi’s Japanese food and culture.

Globally, the program will more than double the annual grant funding to $955,000 USD, up from $435,000 USD in previous years. Since the inception of Backing International Small Restaurants in 2022, American Express has provided $810,000 USD in funding to more than 70 global restaurants in London, Mexico City, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto.

“We’re excited to be partnering with American Express again for the third year of the Backing International Small Restaurants program. This year’s expansion to nine global cities demonstrates our shared commitment to boosting long-term sustainability for culturally significant and independent restaurants,” said David Downey, Executive Director, IDA Foundation. “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.”

American Express has a long history of supporting small businesses and this program was developed following the success of the “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” program in the U.S.

Restaurant owners can learn more about eligibility and apply for a grant at downtown.org/foundation  until May 30, 2024, 11:59PM EST.