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‘It’s been phenomenal for us’ – How the Miami Grand Prix partners local restaurants to benefit the community

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Justin Hynes
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When Formula 1 announced in 2021 that the sport was expanding its US reach with a second stateside Grand Prix, F1 celebrated the inclusion of Miami as another ‘destination city’ on the calendar. “The Miami Grand Prix is going to be Formula 1's Super Bowl,” purred Lewis Hamilton of the planned race around the Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.

There were some questions though. How would such a large-scale international event interact with the local community? Would big business take precedence over local organisations? Would local businesses have an opportunity to get involved?

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Three years down the road and those questions have been answered, as Kim Miller, Vice President of Community Affairs for Miami Dolphins, Hard Rock Stadium & Formula 1 Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix, explains.

“Community is ingrained in who we are and what we do here, but for us, it's not just about race weekend,” she says. “It's an important time of course, but our community work takes place throughout the year. We have a number of programmes, such as our F1 in Schools STEM Program in partnership with SEEK Foundation, and the paid internships programme for Miami Gardens students, but one we are particularly proud of for race weekend is the one that involves our community restaurant partners.”

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The Community Restaurant Program is now in its third year

A communal appetite for racing

In operation since the inaugural event in 2022 and now in its third year, the Community Restaurant Program is part of South Florida Motorsports’ continued effort to drive business development, exposure and networking with local businesses in Miami Gardens and the surrounding community.

For 2024, 10 local businesses have been invited to set up inside the circuit once again and provide race fans with some of the region's hugely diverse cuisine. This year, four are first-time vendors at the race, while six are returning due to fan popularity.

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One of those taking on another race at the Miami International Autodrome is Miami Gardens coffee roasting company, La Vela Coffee. Founded by Venezuelan emigres Salomon Moreno and Bertha Gross, La Vela brings single origin and specialty coffee roasts to more than 600 events each year. By far the biggest though, is the Miami Grand Prix.

“This is our third year,” explains Bertha. “We are super happy to have been given the opportunity and the people at the Grand Prix, and at the Dolphins, have helped us a lot because the event requires a massive effort from us. Really, the last two years have been phenomenal for us – the feedback from customers, the lessons we’ve learned, the opportunity to showcase our brand, everything.”

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Local restaurants get the chance to service an event on the scale of the Miami GP

“It's great that instead of bringing globally established brands, they bring that activity here and try to get the locals to service the event. It gives people like us the opportunity to participate in an event that otherwise we wouldn't be able to. And that gives us a platform to grow and to know more about the community and know more about the needs of those people.”

Salomon adds: “It’s been great because working at such a large-scale event means we’re more comfortable about taking up events with bigger volumes. We were always afraid to do big volume events and sometimes when we've got requests for events that are conventions or something bigger, we were always scared of doing them. The race has helped us create a bigger system and have the confidence to take on bigger events.”

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While La Vela has built on the experience of two years at the event, for Canisha Barnes of health food restaurant Pretty Healthy, 2024 is year one.

“I don't know what to expect,” says Canisha, who runs two outlets from her Miami Gardens base. “I don't normally do huge events like this but I'm just excited about the experience and for people to taste the food. I am really proud of what we do. When the average person thinks of healthy food, they think bland. But my food tastes really good and I am really happy to have the chance to bring that to people attending the event.”

She’s also proud to be representing the area at the Grand Prix. “It’s so important,” she says. “I am in Miami Gardens, I'm part of it and it’s very important to me that I'm able to showcase myself at such a large event like this, and that it's in the community that I already do business in.”

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The program gives fans a chance to sample the rich, diverse culture of Miami

It’s that opportunity to showcase local talent that Miller says the Miami Grand Prix is trying to grow.

“We want the community to be seen here,” she says. “It's such an important weekend. It’s incredibly busy and anytime there's a big event, that creates definite business in the area and it’s important for us that the community is represented. We want to be partners with the community and being a partner means people have an opportunity to run their business here with us. Community means coming to the race, but it also means being able to benefit from the race as well. We can directly see that from their sales over the course of the weekend, and that money goes directly to these local businesses and supports local families.

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“We also want to celebrate the rich, diverse culture of Miami and the greater South Florida region," she adds. "It represents the community, and it also represents everybody within our organisation. Our staff is from all different locations and backgrounds, they speak a variety of languages. Our community restaurant partners help us to showcase that diversity. And ultimately, the best thing is that I think it makes everybody feel a little bit more at home, no matter where they’re from because they can have a taste of a cuisine that they grew up enjoying.”

Miami’s appetite for Formula 1 has grown hugely over the past three years and thanks to the race’s engagement with the community hosting the event, that taste for racing is set to continue.

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