PPP problems, Zoltar speaks insurance, QED divergent, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Hello Friday,

Let’s get to it…

The Relief – Some bad news for restaurants looking to take advantage of the “Paycheck Protection Program” (the section of the $2T federal relief package that makes forgivable small business loans to companies that retain or rehire employees): Per Washingtonian food editor Jessica Sidman’s husband in Politico, “Banks are warning that a $350 billion lending program for struggling small businesses won't be ready when it launches Friday [today] because the Trump administration has failed to provide them with the necessary guidelines and has set requirements for the loans that are unworkable… The banks, which will be responsible for processing loan applications and doling out money, are expecting millions of applications from businesses. Some fear a disaster that could dwarf the failed kickoff of the Obamacare enrollment web site in 2013.”

Or, as Alinea’s Nick Kokonas put it on Twitter: “It's like tossing $350B into the street without any known rules of engagement. It's going to get 'interesting.'”

Good luck, all!

The Legislation – Continuing the push to use government funds to pay restaurant workers to feed the nation’s hungry, congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) is hoping to include a mechanism in a future federal relief package that would allow non-profits to “qualify for grants of $500,000 to partner with small and mid-sized restaurants for the preparation and distribution of food to vulnerable populations.” Share Our Strength (the folks behind No Kid Hungry) are supporters and hope to get other reps behind it ASAP. Details here.

The Class Action – On the insurance front, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Jérôme Bocuse, and Dominique Crenn have banded together to form a group called BIG, which is both advocating for “federal subsidies for insurers that pay Business Interruption losses caused by the Coronavirus,” and threatening that: “If Insurers do not start paying insurance business claims, we will bring BIG legal action in every state.” This combo strategy feels a little farfetched to me, but, hey, if they find the right Zoltar….

The Community – A couple of virtual events worth mentioning happening today: From the media side, you can “Join Eater Editor-in-Chief Amanda Kludt this Friday, April 3rd at 12pm ET/9am PT for a discussion on their incredible work, the role of chefs right now, and the latest developments.” (NB: Did not find this one on a public listing, so small chance you’ll all be crashing a private Vox Zoom. FM readers are welcome to use my personal login: JimmyBankoff.)

And for an industry perspective, the Independent Restaurant Coalition has a Q&A designed to help “our members and our community better understand last week's legislation, how they can take advantage of new benefits, and where we go from here.” Per the invite: “Join @indprestaurants on Instagram Live Friday (today) at 2pm ET, where [Boka Restaurant Group cofounder Kevin Bohem] & [DC lobbyist Chris Lamond] answer your questions and help you better understand the legislation.”

Fast forward to Sunday, and the annual Cherry Bombe Jubilee “will take place entirely on Instagram…. Join for interviews and demos via Instagram Stories and IGTV, virtual scavenger hunts, giveaways, snack breaks, links to recipes, cookbook reviews, and… of course, with a happy hour.” Details here.

The (Big) Pivot – In New Orleans, after shutting down eight concepts in two hotels, QED Hospitality’s Emery Whalen and Brian Landry founded “telehealth” company QED Resources this month. “Their work is in demand. Across the country hospitals are quickly expanding telehealth, screening patients remotely and setting up virtual appointments… QED staff are now coaching patients through the computer applications and familiarizing them with the process.” According to Nola.com’s Ian McNulty, Whalen and Landry “were able to offer new jobs to all their staff through QED Resources. About half, or 107 people, accepted the offers and were working again within days. The pay is comparable, sometimes better with overtime.”

Caveat: It’s not what you know… “QED Resources works under a contract with Divurgent, a healthcare IT consulting company based in Virginia... Emery Whalen’s brother, Ralph Whalen, is Divurgent’s senior vice president of consulting and innovation.”

For the history books – I’m sure the article is great, but could not get past the photo at the top of this NYT piece. Taken by Dominique Roy, who works in culinary research and development at Eleven MadisonPark, it’s not exactly level, the focus might unintentionally be on an empty chair in the very near foreground, and maybe it’s actually not interesting at all and I’m just losing it after all this isolation, but the staff in masks, the empty tables, the wildly appropriate anachronism of Rita Ackermann’s chalkboard… damn. These times.

And last and least – “Study Finds Most Restaurants Fail Within First Year Of It Becoming Illegal To Go To Them.” - The Onion. Brutal but perfect: “‘It may sound harsh, but our research found that over 90% of restaurants close just a few months after being declared a high-risk environment where people are no longer allowed to frequent or dine,’ said lead researcher Professor Cara Coleman, adding that while many bistros, cafes, and fine dining establishments may seem financially stable at first, they almost always run out of money once the authorities step in and make it physically impossible for staff to work, or for most of their customer base to purchase anything from their kitchen.”

And that’s it for today.

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

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or $350B in the street with no known rules of engagement to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. 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. – In the first item today, I made a subtle joke about how women are sometimes erased from headlines via referring to them as spouses-of instead of simply themselves. The joke was topical, hilarious, and arguably brilliant, but there is nothing brilliant about erasing bylines of hard working journalists. The reporter’s name is Zachary Warmbrodt, and I’m sure he’s great.

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