Five West Queen West Small Restaurants to Receive Financial Support as Part of Amex-Backed Grant Program

by Rob Sysak, May 18, 2022

Funds will support owners disproprotionaley impacted by the pandemic to help recover and grow their businesses.


TORONTO, May 17, 2022 – American Express Canada is pleased to announce the five independent restaurants that will each receive an $18,500 CAD grant as part of a new program run by the International Downtown Association (IDA) Foundation and the West Queen West Business Improvement Area (BIA), supported by American Express.

The initiative is part of American Express’ global ‘Backing International Small Restaurants’ grant program to support culturally significant, independent restaurants owned by individuals from underrepresented groups in five major cities globally, that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

In Toronto, IDA Foundation worked in partnership with the West Queen West BIA to select the grant recipients from within the district’s boundaries. The selected restaurants will receive $18,500 CAD each to help them recover from the effects of the pandemic and to make critical improvements needed to sustain their operations, such as enhancing digital capabilities, making physical improvements, and building outdoor dining spaces. Such monetary assistance seems vital to bail them out from foreseeable bankruptcy and help the owners in the modernization of their kitchen with modern appliances like wood fired pizza oven, freezers, and mixers.

David Downey, Executive Director, IDA Foundation, says: “The IDA Foundation is pleased to support the recovery of these restaurants who contribute to the identity and vitality of their local community. We look forward to seeing these businesses thrive once again and are inspired by their resilience which enables them to bring people of the neighbourhood together.”

Rob Sysak, Executive Director of the West Queen West Business Improvement Area says: “West Queen West has always celebrated and prided itself on being known for the diversity of business owners, and the products and services they offer. We are very appreciative to the IDA and Amex for this valuable support for some of our most deserving members and helping provide some of the resources to help them recover from the pandemic, prepare for the future, and continue to contribute to the vitality of our exciting neighbourhood.”

Kerri-Ann Santaguida, General Manager and Vice President of Merchant Services, American Express Canada added: “We are thrilled to provide these independent restaurants with well needed financial support as they prepare for the upcoming summer season. Backing small businesses is an integral part of who we are, and we are excited to see Toronto’s restaurant industry continue to grow, thrive, and contribute even more to the vibrancy of our neighbourhoods.”

The ‘Backing International Small Restaurants’ program builds on American Express’ wider Backing Small initiative to provide economically vulnerable small businesses with financial support and other resources to address critical needs and challenges. In 2021, the company announced ‘Backing Historic Small Restaurants,’ a similar program in the United States to support the recovery and long-term success of historic small restaurants in the U.S. Additional programs include American Express’ Shop Small campaign, a global movement to spotlight and support small, independent businesses, as well as Amex Canada’s local Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses mentorship and grant program to support the advancement of BIPOC-owned businesses across Canada.

The grant recipients include:

Banu – A 17-year-old family-run Iranian restaurant owned by three immigrant siblings, two of whom are part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, that plans to use the grant funding for a summer patio build-out, new kitchen equipment, and hiring and training additional staff.

Frisaca – A Family Mexican restaurant that opened in 2019 and plans to use the grant funding for an outdoor patio build-out, replacing entrance glass door, and building a website.

Nana Station – An Authentic Thai restaurant with the atmosphere of an alley in Bangkok that plans to use the grant funding for a new patio, new indoor seating, a menu redesign, and social media marketing.

Nunu Ethiopian Fusion – An Ethiopian restaurant that hopes to use the grant funding for a brand new “lush” patio space, social media marketing, and patio musicians.
Queen Star – A Chinese Canadian greasy spoon that opened in 2000 and hopes to use the grant funding for new kitchen equipment, new furniture, and hiring a prep cook and additional staff.

The IDA Foundation is the non-profit arm of the International Downtown Association, a Washington, DC-based organization empowering place management leaders with knowledge, research and public policies for creating prosperous city centres, commercial neighbourhoods and liveable urban places for all.

The West Queen West BIA, formed in 2005, is an association of 300+ commercial property owners and tenants that works in partnership with the City and advocates for its members to make Queen Street from Bathurst to Gladstone a vibrant neighbourhood and business area. Home to an eclectic mix of galleries, design houses, unique shops, restaurants and boutique hotels, the WQW Art + Design District is the city’s centre of artistic innovation – ‘the cool neighbourhood with warm neighbours’.

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. American Express was established in Canada in 1853 and offers a variety of consumer and business products. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and 

For further information: Nicola McGroarty, American Express Canada,