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American Express Expands Backing International Small Restaurants Grant Program

American Express has announced the expansion of its Backing International Small Restaurants grant program, with venues in Melbourne now eligible to apply in addition to Sydney.

Run in partnership with the International Downtown Association (IDA) Foundation and supported by Mainstreet Australia, small restaurant owners are being invited to apply for one of 10 grants each valued at $21,500 to put towards expenses or improving their business.

In its first two years in Australia, Backing International Small Restaurants has provided $240,000 in financial support. The program, founded by American Express, recognises the challenges small dining venues face in the current economic climate and aims to give them a helping hand. Restaurants operated by underrepresented and/or economically vulnerable members of the community will be given special consideration.

Robert Tedesco, Vice President of Global Merchant Network Services for American Express Australia and New Zealand, said: “Small independently run restaurants are at the heart of our communities and local economies. Many are struggling with the fallout of cost-of-living pressures and need support. It’s why this year we have expanded the program to Melbourne for the first time, in addition to Sydney. We’re lucky to have one of the best dining scenes in the world and we want to see it remain vibrant. The majorityi of small restaurants are family operated, so these grants will help venues keep growing and serving their communities, while protecting their legacy for future generations.”

2023 Grantees Share Small Business Updates & Innovations

Kabul Social

Sydney social enterprise restaurant Kabul Social, which serves Afghan street food cooked by displaced refugees, was one of the six grant recipients from the 2023 program. The restaurant donates two meals to those in need for every one meal sold.

Kabul Social Owner, Shaun Christie-David, said: “The American Express grant has supported us to develop a phone application that gives our customers the ability to track the impact they’re having with each meal. Being able to build stronger connections and loyalty with our customers through technology is vital, especially when we’re experiencing major challenges in the restaurant and dining scene. Like so many businesses, ours has seen a reduction in revenue because of people working from home during the week and reduced overall spend because of the cost-of-living crisis. I want to be able to sustain my team’s employment even in the challenging times, so this grant, which is helping us to innovate and connect with people, has been a great boost financially and for our spirits.”

Small’s Deli

Emily Van Loon and Ben Shemesh, owners of much-loved Potts Point local, Small’s Deli, successfully applied for a Backing International Small Restaurants grant in 2023 to support their eight-seater restaurant to grow to meet increasing demand.

Van Loon said: “We knew we needed to make changes because the business had outgrown its current setting. The grant from American Express was extremely helpful and without it we wouldn’t have been able to afford the changes. With it, we were able to replace the front window, update the counter, replace the fridge and some other critical equipment that had failed on us.

We found out about the grant from a friend who works in the industry and after looking into it, we found that the amount would cover those long-term renovation plans that we otherwise couldn’t afford. The application process was very straightforward and I highly recommend other small restaurant owners get involved.”

David Downey, President and CEO of the IDA Foundation said: “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. 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.”

Backing International Small Restaurants builds on American Express’ efforts to support small businesses year-round, including through its American Express Delicious. Month Out, annual Shop Small campaign, a global movement that shines a spotlight on small businesses, and other global “Backing Small” programs.

All small independent restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne are encouraged to apply. Applications are now open. To learn more about Backing International Small Restaurants, including eligibility and to apply, visit

Applications close on Friday 31 May 2024 at 14:00 AEST.

Previous Backing International Small Restaurant Recipients in Australia


  • Kabul Social, Sydney

  • Smalls Deli, Potts Point

  • Kaska Eatery, Darlinghurst

  • Viand Club, Woolloomooloo

  • IKKO Mazesoba, Haymarket

  • Food Addict, Darlinghurst


  • Tea Cosy, The Rocks

  • ASLAN Coffee Roasters, The Rocks

  • Pony Dining, The Rocks

  • Black and White Espresso, The Rocks

  • La Renaissance, The Rocks

  • Sergeant Lok, The Rocks


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