Keith Lee has been amplifying Black-owned restaurants with his viral food reviews on TikTok.

In an interview with AFROTECH™ in 2023, the viral food critic discussed increasing the visibility of local Black-owned restaurants in the U.S.

“Just to be able to be on a scale where people see the hard work that’s put in because a lot of times these restaurants have great food and great customer service, but they just don’t have the eyes on them,” Lee told AFROTECH™. “I think it’s just gonna be so dope to allow these restaurants to have the platform that they deserve.”

For 2024, Lee has a new partnership to create efficiency for Black-owned businesses. 

According to a press release shared with AFROTECH™, Lee has teamed up with Microsoft to provide restaurateurs with AI tools to help their businesses thrive. In 2021, two-thirds of Black-owned businesses had fewer than 10 employees, per Pew Research Center. Lee and Microsoft aim to tackle the barrier through the efficacy and growth that AI creates.

“I don’t partner with just any brand,” Lee told AFROTECH™. “I see the people behind these restaurants. I don’t just see a business. That is why it was so important for me to partner with Microsoft to give them the tools they need to continue to make an impact in their community. AI isn’t something I knew loads about, but that’s exactly why I wanted to partner with Microsoft as I understand the power AI can have on small businesses, from streamlining processes, making things more efficient and saving businesses time — it’s incredible to see how tech can help especially when resources are tight.”

The collaboration came about after Lee was invited to Microsoft’s headquarters earlier this year to check out the company’s tools firsthand, Microsoft’s Senior Product Marketing Manager Anthony Kerr shared with AFROTECH™.

“Keith’s millions of fans, what makes him stand out for them is his integrity and his relatability,” Kerr said. “His viral food reviews have become a lifeline for these small businesses leading to massive surges in customers and virality. At Microsoft, we have a shared commitment to leveling the playing field, supporting our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. With this partnership, we are excited to provide support and resources that help these small businesses grow.”

The duo has also launched “The Reheat,” a video series that features Lee and Kerr showing Black restaurateurs live demos of how to use Microsoft AI tools and solutions to manage and expand their businesses, according to the press release.

“AI offers tools and solutions that help automate time consuming tasks, provide insights through data analysis or enhance decision making processes,” Kerr said. “So, by integrating AI into their operations, they can streamline their processes and focus on growing their businesses. Every minute counts for Black-owned businesses, small businesses, so finding ways to make the most of their time is critical to their success and we believe AI can do that.”

The restaurants, which have each experienced the overwhelming “Keith Lee Effect,” include Brandi Bond’s Pretty Soul Kitchen, Jessie Washington’s Brunchaholics, and Larry Morrow’s Monday Restaurant + Bar. As for the AI-backed workshops, they include a crash course on Microsoft Copilot.

“Thankfully, I have been able to be a blessing to others with my platform,” Lee said. “Giving back is what I love to do. I hope that the businesses can continue to grow and serve their community for years to come. I also hope that this campaign inspires other businesses to give AI a try.”

In addition to the video series, Microsoft’s business resources are free to download. To learn more about “The Reheat,” click here.