FIELDTRIP, Slim and Husky’s, FoodChasers’ Kitchen, Trap Kitchen…these food establishments are the shining examples of The Restaurant Royalty Residency that is part of Pepsi Dig In’s initiative to amplify Black-owned restaurants. Pepsi Dig In initiative helps them scale their businesses by providing access to a variety of resources, mentorship and training made possible by PepsiCo.
Launched in 2020, PepsiCo dedicated $50 million to support Black-owned businesses over five years, and is a part of its larger commitment of over $400 million towards advancing racial equality.
“The intense consumer passion in response to our Restaurant Royalty nomination program is the type of groundswell action that Pepsi Dig In was created to ignite for Black-owned businesses,” said Scott Finlow, CMO of PepsiCo Global Foodservice. “Bringing in partners, like the world-renowned MGM Resorts, is how we leverage our platform to amplify these fan-favorite establishments. Las Vegas is a city for revelers and foodies alike and serves as the perfect stage to spotlight talented Black restaurateurs and chefs, highlight their food, and grow their audiences.”
With this focus on black owned and operated food ventures now hitting the Hip-Hop world, VIBE spoke with rapper/activist/entrepreneur Bun B about Trill Burgers’ partnership with Pepsi Dig In. We also touch on B’s spot being crowned the best burger in America, what the public can expect from his Restaurant Royalty Residency, and the eatery’s outlook for the future.
You recently partnered with Pepsi Dig In, for its Restaurant Royalty Residency. How did that opportunity come about?
Well I had previously worked with Pepsi on a nationwide campaign involving scholarships to schools and communities of color. So I’ve been able to actually extend this relationship with Pepsi into the culinary space. Pepsi’s Dig In program specifically allows black ownership of restaurants to be seen and tasted and tried by people that they may never have had access to. By being able to have a month-long residency in Las Vegas, which is a worldwide destination and for any food brand. This is pretty much Mecca, you know. This is an amazing opportunity and I’m not sure if something like that would’ve been afforded to me had Pepsi not created this kind of a program. And not just for me, but for other restaurateurs of color, specifically black owners and communities of color. To have a brand as large and impactful as Pepsi reach back and allow us to be presented in this way is huge.
Trill Burgers, along with three other Black owned restaurants, will be bringing your dishes to Pepsi Dig In’s Restaurant Royalty Residency, which will be held at Luxor’s Public House and Mandalay Bay’s Libertine Social. What are some of the dishes that will be available and what special surprises can the public look forward to?
Well, I know that we’ve created a very specific burger just for this residency. It’s called the Trill House Burger, so it’s not the Smash-style Burger that Trill Burgers started with. But as we expand the menu and expand our base and the ability to get our food in front of people, we were able to, because of this partnership, create a brand new burger to present to people here at Libertine Social at Mandalay Bay, as well as Public House and Luxor. I know Slim and Husky’s is bringing an amazing product. It’s definitely other people bringing amazing products, but the product I think is just part of the story right? You see the fact that all of these companies are owned by black people and started in communities of color. So for us to be able to come to Las Vegas for Slim and Husky’s, Trill Burgers, for all of us to be able to come to Las Vegas and have this kind of opportunity, it’s not just about the food that we create. It’s about the communities that we try to impact, the people that we’re trying to encourage and the message that we’re trying to send. And I think that’s the biggest benefit of having a company like Pepsi behind you and having this kind of residency happen in a city like Las Vegas.
Trill Burgers recently received Good Morning America’s ‘Ultimate Burger Spot’ Crown, beating out some of the most popular Burger spots in the world. Where were you when you received the news and what was your reaction?
Oh, I was there. I was actually in Times Square preparing burgers with Chef Mike Pham who created the Trill Burger. We were actually in Times Square competing at Good Morning America, which was crazy in itself. To actually be on TV, live television in front of millions of people all over the country. Many of whom had never even heard of me as far as Bun B, UGK and music. You know, I’m a novice at this. In my respective field, obviously, I’m well accomplished, but this is my first venture into the food space. So, I take a lot of experience in terms of presenting a brand building a brand, but I’m very, very new to the culinary space. So to be invited to compete in something like this, much less actually win a competition like this, it sends a message out to the world. You know, that Trill Burgers is not some brand built around hype and built around celebrity ownership. No, it’s actually a legitimate food company that’s making a really, really great product that’s resonating with people. And in November, starting on November 6th for four weeks, we’ll be able to present a product like that, here in Las Vegas. My team and I are so proud of what we accomplished and so excited to extend this kind of partnership.
What would you say Pimp C’s reaction would’ve been to seeing you opening a restaurant, the success of Trill Burgers and you partnering with Pepsi Dig In for this residency?
Pimp would have been like, ‘Man, y’all got Bun B f*cked up. That boy out here doing it big. Man, that boy got a cold ass burger.’ He would have been really excited to see me because for many years, I really stayed in an artist space. I didn’t really venture into a lot of business things and now that I’m older and more mature, I’m ready for the level of dedication [and] responsibility that it takes. Not only to start a company like this, but to build a company like this and to build and maintain partnerships like this. If I was 21 or 22 [years-old], I don’t think I would have been mature enough to really understand everything that comes with having a partnership with a brand like Pepsi and being a part of this Dig In restaurant residency.
This is a huge opportunity and not just for me, because everybody that’s a part of this program is not a celebrity, you know what I’m saying? So for many of us who are new to this space, this is an incredible opportunity. Not only to just be seen as a brand, but to actually have people taste your brand in one of the largest tourists destinations on the planet. So you can have people coming here from Mississippi or Seattle, Washington or Paris, France or Macau, China. Anywhere around this planet, you know what I’m saying? And MGM has always been a destination for people in Las Vegas. So I think you couldn’t have a better group to partner with than MGM Resorts. You couldn’t have a better opportunity than what they’re presenting with this Dig In restaurant residency and couldn’t have a better backer for this than Pepsi, man. That’s just all pluses, it’s all aces for me.
How do you see Trill Burgers growing and evolving while moving towards the future?
You know, Trill Burgers, to be very honest, is more than just a culinary restaurant. I feel there’s cultural resonance behind that because of my attachment to it and what we represent in terms of community, as well as the people that we’re trying to serve and communities that we want to impact. So I see this thing going very big and very far as a brand. We will probably not accelerate in the way that many burger companies accelerate. This is a different brand, so we’re not really looking for quantity, we’re more about quality, you know what I’m saying? But we do want to try to put this burger in front of as many people as possible because we know that we have the best burger in the world, not just America. And it’s just a matter of taking the time and making sure that we could be consistent with the product, no matter where we present it. And I got time for that, I’m in no rush. If you make a good product and you presented properly, consistently at a high level, you’ll make money. So I’m in no hurry for that. We just want to make sure we can make a good product. You make a good product, you should make money.
With this residency, do you hope that this will open up the doors for other people in Hip-Hop with the restaurants and spotlight? You know, you’ve got Mia X, Trick Daddy and others with eateries.
Absolutely. I just think this is gonna be a great opportunity for anyone that’s chosen for this program. Whether there’s a celebrity and they’re new in this space. This would be very encouraging for them. This would be an opportunity for them to match their celebrity with their brand. You know, I’ve had Mia X’s food, it’s amazing. Everybody should eat her cooking. Same thing with E-40s food, same thing with Styles P.’s juice. And yeah, I hope that all black owned companies and celebrities of color that serve communities of color, which we all as entertainers have done for decades [partake]. I’m on my third decade right now. I’m getting ready to celebrate 30 years of commitment to excellence and serving my community. And I carried that 30-year legacy from music into the culinary space, just the same way that they do, you know. So I hope that this not only encourages my fellow Hip-Hop partners who are in the food industry, but people in the food industry in general because they’re out here. They’re looking, they’re seeing who’s active in their community. They’re seeing who is putting forth a good effort and they’re acknowledging them and giving them a great opportunity with this Pepsi Dig In Restaurant Royalty Residency. So I mean, this is a big thing. It’s a big thing for all of us.