Delivery on the reg, Tartine PR, Blaniela in love, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, February 14th, 2020

Hello Friday,

A special afternoon edition of Family Meal today, from our new (temporary) home in Carroll Gardens, NYC, where we’ll be at least another week as we continue to fret over when to return to Hong Kong. Email lines open for all your best Brooklyn recommendations:

Let’s get to it…

The Delivery Regulation – After an endless string of complaints and negative media coverage about the behavior of third party food delivery companies, legislators in both Rhode Island and California have introduced bills to regulate the likes of DoorDash, Seemless, Grubhub, UberEats, Postmates, etc. etc. Per WPRI’s Kim Kalunian, the Rhode Island version would “prohibit third-party delivery services from using any likeness or intellectual property of a merchant without written consent.” Out west, the Sacramento Bee’s Andrew Sheeler has the early word on the bill in CA, but here are the key points straight out of rep Lorena Gonzalez’s official announcement on Tuesday:

Assembly Bill 2149, known as the Fair Food Delivery Act, would… [require] food delivery apps to share certain information about customers [with restaurants], including location and email address. AB 2149 would also prohibit restaurants from being offered on delivery apps without a prior agreement in place.”

Sounds great? Except… As Expedite’s Kristen Hawley points out, we don’t yet know all the unintended consequences (this is the same legislator who introduced the bill that inadvertently hurt freelance writers and others while it was trying to help gig workers). And immediate reaction from customers is bound to be some version of what tweeter Zach Lipton told me yesterday: “Undermining the state’s privacy laws so that every restaurant I’ve ever ordered from will dump me onto their mailing list without my permission does not sound like a good idea.”

P.S. If you’re looking for a little delivery startup schadenfreude, note that DoorDash apparently forced all its “contractors” to use arbitration instead of lawsuits in disputes against the company, so a judge just ordered the company to individually arbitrate over 5,000 complaints. Per the story from Vox’s Ian Millhiser, “It also must pay a $1,900 fee for each of these individual arbitration proceedings,” which means that if it doesn’t settle each almost right away, “the delivery company will face a bill of nearly $10 million before any of the individual proceedings are even resolved. Add in the cost of paying for lawyers to represent them in each proceeding, plus the amount the company will have to pay to the workers in each proceeding that it loses, and DoorDash is likely to wind up paying far more money than it would have if it hadn’t tried to strip away many of its workers’ rights.”

Maybe this is a brilliant chess move to avoid re-classifying employees in general, but personally, I think 5,000 rakes is a lot of rakes to have laying wrong side up in your yard, so kudos to the DoorDash legal team for having the courage to put on that blindfold and walk out that door.

The Bad PR PR – Turns out when management declined to voluntarily recognize a new employee union at the SF Tartine bakery on Monday, they used “a surprising spokesperson: Sam Singer, a longtime San Francisco crisis communications expert known for his work with controversial companies like Chevron’s Richmond oil refinery nd issues like a fatal tiger attack at the SF Zoo.” Feels like a bit of a silly PR own-goal from Tartine ownership (it’s a union effort, guys, not an oil spill), not least because Eve Batey’s big story in Eater SF now begs the obvious question: Do Chad Robertson, Elisabeth Prueitt, and Chris Bianco support zoo-based tiger attacks? Jury still out.

What Guests are Thinking – Op-ed headline from Eater NY critic Ryan Sutton: “Dear Expensive Restaurants: Stop Posting Online Menus Without Prices.” Sutton makes the obvious case and then names names, with a full list of cost hiders at bottom, including: “Every Major Food Group Restaurant (Dirty French, the Grill, Carbone, etc.); Cosme; Atla; Wayan; Wolfgang’s; Peter Luger; Milos; The Fulton; Hyun; P.J. Clarke’s; Llama San; Misi; Lilia; Cut by Wolfgang Puck; and Katz’s.” That sounds like a list of pretty successful restaurants(!), but Sutton does say that Major Food Group co-owner Jeff Zalaznick “agreed with [his] concerns and said the group would finally start publishing prices online by the end of the month.”

Quoth the menu, “Market Price.”

The Podcasts – Finally got around to listening to NY Mag critic Adam Platt on the David Chang Show yesterday, and if you’re interested in the history of critics allegedly altering entire futures of dining scenes, it’s worth some time. (But, please, Dave, I beg you: Edit for time.) Also heard a recent episode of NPR’s Planet Money where “restaurant design expert” Stephani Robson visits Adda in NYC and does a live analysis/rejig of Roni Mazumdar’s seating layout. It’s a little more geared toward non-industry listeners (and includes some of what sounds like shaky pop-psych), but not a bad listen if you’re in early build stages or have a cold table or two…

For Design Fans – Love that they’re leaning hard into the lounge feel at the new bar beneath Split-Rail in Chicago, but good luck to bartenders trying to figure out not only who’s too drunk vs. just too tired here, but also who’s having sex, especially because they’re opening the bar tonight and love is in the air, and the air is on that seating, and that seating is, let’s be honest, beds.

And last but not least: Happy Valentines Day, everyone! You can celebrate by sharing a romantic post about escaping your ex-wife, like Gaggan Anand on Instagram from Bangkok, or read up on the bi-coastal love of Daniela Sotto-Ines and Blaine Wetzel via writer Jay Cheshes in WSJ Magazine.

In the latter you’ll learn:

How they met: At 50 Best, “We stared at each other for like a while.”

Their couple portmanteau: “On a visit to Noma recently, Soto-Innes etched a mashup of their names—‘Blaniela’—into a brick at the restaurant.”

Key details from the proposal and first commitment ceremony: “Wetzel popped the question under the stars on a beach in Tulum, Mexico. Two days later a shaman at their boutique hotel bound them together in a temazcal sweat-lodge ceremony, surrounded by ‘prayer flags, crystals and a giant roaring fire,’ as Wetzel remembers it.”

And more! (If you think I’m making fun of this, please look in the mirror and check your own cold, cold heart. Brrrr.)

And that’s it for today.

I’ll see you here soon for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or prayer flags, crystals, and a giant roaring fire to If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself

P.S. - For those interested in the news from Hong Kong: Schools are now closed there until March 16th (with people putting betting odds on an April re-start at best), many playgrounds and other public spaces are officially closed or otherwise empty, and companies that can are either allowing or requiring work from home. Friends in our apartment building tell me what kids are still there just stay home all day. Not an ideal situation with a five, three, and one year old.

BUT save your pity for us and send it toward Hong Kong’s many domestic “helpers” (including some of the best cooks in the city). I’ve heard people say some employers are forbidding their live-in staff from hanging out with friends. That, combined with government travel restrictions and general economic precariousness, means there are (not infected) women (and some men) from across the region de-facto quarantined in their employers’ homes. Ugh.

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