FAQs - Backing Historic Small Restaurants

Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions for the Backing Historic Small Restaurants program. If you find your question is not addressed below, contact historicrestaurants@savingplaces.org.

The National Trust has partnered with American Express to launch Backing Historic Small Restaurant Grant Program (the “Program”) which is administered by the National Trust. By submitting an application you agree to the Terms of the Program. By submitting this application you: (1) agree to the Terms and Conditions of the Program; and (2) acknowledge and agree that if you are selected as a Grant Recipient, the National Trust and American Express may use the Grant Recipient Information as described in the Terms and Conditions under Publicity Grant/Use of Entries. Please review the Terms and Conditions carefully, and also review the National Trust Privacy Policy to understand how the National Trust protects your privacy.

Watch this brief information session to learn more about the program, application criteria, and timeline.

Program Overview

What is the deadline to submit an application?

The program was launched on February 23, 2023. The deadline for nominations is March 12, 2023 at 11:59 PM ET.

What is the nomination process?

  • Restaurant owners may complete full applications on behalf of their restaurants HERE. Only restaurants that complete a full application will be eligible to receive a grant.
  • Members of the public can suggest restaurants HERE. Please see below for selection criteria and eligibility to suggest a restaurant that would be a great fit; however, a member of the public cannot enter on behalf of a restaurant.

Will it help if I ask my customers to also nominate my restaurant so they can show their support?

The number of nominations will not impact final selection. Members of the general public may suggest a restaurant, but a restaurant owner’s application will allow for more information toward final consideration and only restaurants that complete a full application will be eligible to receive a grant.

What are the selection criteria for evaluating restaurants?

The grant selection criteria for eligible U.S. small historic restaurants are as follows:

  • Is a small/independently owned restaurant located in a historic or older building or neighborhood.
  • Contributes to the history and/or identity of its surrounding community or neighborhood.
  • Tells an inclusive story about cuisine and community in America (such as historic or ethnic food ways or culinary heritage).
  • Has a compelling and inspiring historical narrative or cultural significance.
  • Has been disproportionately impacted by economic challenges, disasters, or other hardships.

What is the program timeline?

  • February 23: Program Announcement
  • March 12: Application Period Closes at 11:59 PM ET
  • Early May: Notification to Selected Restaurants
  • Late May: Restaurants Publicly Announced
  • June - December: Improvement Projects Underway
  • December: Project Completion

What is the role for preservation partners?

This year, state and local preservation partners are encouraged to work with historic restaurants in their communities to complete their grant nominations, and as a result, can receive up to $10,000 in funding for their efforts if those restaurants are selected for the program.  The final grant award will be made to the selected restaurants, and the agreed upon scope of support should be budgeted in the application.

Examples of partner support may include: supporting grant reporting, helping to identify preservation-sensitive contractors, helping to scope and manage exterior project, arranging community engagement opportunities such as improvement tours upon completion etc.

Who is considered a preservation partner?

For the purposes of this program, state and local preservation partners include (but are not limited to): State and local preservation organizations, local main streets, state historic preservation offices (SHPO), preservation consultants, architectural organizations with preservation expertise (such as a local AIA with a Historic Resource Committee).


Who can apply?

During the February 23-March 12 application period, restaurant owners may apply on behalf of their own restaurant, or preservation partners may apply in collaboration with a restaurant in their community. Please note the restaurant will be the grantee and fund recipient. Members of the general public may also suggest a restaurant for consideration; however, unless the restaurant submits an application, it will not be considered for a grant.

Who can receive funds?

Funding will be awarded directly to the 25 awarded historic small restaurants.

​Are there specific eligible uses of funds?

The eligible funding breakdown is as follows:

  • At least $20,000 must be used towards exterior improvement(s).
  • Up to $10,000 can be allotted for unrestricted uses such as general operating expenses or any other business-related expenses for the restaurant.
  • Up to $10,000 can be used for the support of a preservation partner to help scope, manage, develop, or collaborate on the improvement project.

Exterior, public-facing improvements to historic buildings include (but not limited to) murals, awnings, lighting, signage upgrades, painting or cleaning of exterior facades, and/or the creation of outdoor seating areas. Updates to websites for better operations may be permitted. Projects that prioritize scope towards exterior improvements will be most competitive. Grant funds may not be used for work completed prior to receipt of the grant.

All proposed rehabilitation and/or preservation work and improvements must be submitted to and approved in advance by the National Trust and must be conducted in accordance with local design guidelines.

If I am leasing space for my restaurant, is my restaurant still eligible?

Yes, restaurant groups who are building tenants are eligible to apply. If selected, building owner consent forms will be required prior to disbursement of grant funds.

What are the qualifications of a “small” restaurant?

For the purposes of this program, a small restaurant is one with fewer than 100 employees, recognized as a business (not a contractor or self-employed), and not part of a national franchise.

How do I know if I am located in a low-income census tract?

A low-income census tract is defined as having 50 percent of households with incomes below 60 percent of the Area Median Gross Income or have a poverty rate of 25 percent or more. To determine if the restaurant is located in a low-income census tract, click this link, enter address, and select: Color QCT Qualified Tracts. If your location shows up purple you are in a low-income census tract.

Grant Program Details

What is the awarded grant amount?

Each of the 25 selected restaurants will receive a $40,000 grant with additional support from program partners. The selected restaurants will enter into a grant agreement with the National Trust outlining the terms and conditions of the grant.

How will the funds be disbursed?

Selected restaurants will receive funding in two payments: (1) one $30,000 initial payment within 45 days of execution of the grant agreement, and (2) one $10,000 payment upon 100% completion of public-facing improvements. Grantees will be required to submit documentation on the work completed to date to receive grant distributions as specified below.

How will selected restaurants demonstrate completion towards the project?

Restaurants must demonstrate 50 percent project completion by submitting photos and other predetermined metrics that provide evidence of their original completion schedule’s milestones. Restaurants must demonstrate 100 percent completion through photographs showing completed projects and other predetermined metrics that provide evidence for their original completion schedule’s milestones.

Is there any technical assistance available to help me complete the upgrades at my restaurant if selected?

Yes, selected restaurants will receive technical assistance to provide guidance and feedback on proposed exterior improvements and restorations. Restaurant owners who apply in collaboration with a local preservation or architectural partner will have additional local support through that partnership.

What is the expected completion date of projects?

Selected restaurants must complete exterior improvements by December 15, 2023. Any changes to the project completion date must be approved in advance by the National Trust. Final grant disbursements will only be made once the restaurant has completed their approved project(s).

Will there be any media coverage about the 25 restaurants that are selected?

Yes, the National Trust and American Express will spotlight selected restaurants. The partners also anticipate additional media outlets to incorporate coverage of the program and business owners based on their readership.

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