PPP forgiveness, Pfizer Rorschach, Full-service ghosts, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, July 30th, 2021

Hello Friday,

If you are joining us because you saw Family Meal mentioned in the August edition of Food & Wine, welcome! The way this works is: The newsletter goes out on Tuesdays and Fridays, but only paying subscribers get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays. Everyone else has to wait till Friday, when Tuesday is copy / pasted at the end (as below). Got it? Great.

I set it up as a self-destructing paywall because most Family Meal readers are in the industry, and the industry has had a bit of a rough year. But if you have the means, and would like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays (and keep this thing going for everyone)…

Let’s get to it…

The Relief – Big news this week if you’ve still got outstanding PPP loans: Politico’s Zachary Warmbrodt reports the SBA is pushing “to accelerate the end of the nearly $1 trillion Paycheck Protection Program by making it easier for millions of employers to have emergency payroll loans forgiven.” They’re launching a new consumer-facing website on August 4th so that borrowers of smaller amounts no longer have to go through banks to apply for grant status, and “[sparing] certain borrowers who received second PPP loans this year worth less than $150,000 from having to supply documentation proving that they suffered a 25 percent revenue reduction in 2020.”

P.S. – Some data nerd should FOIA this and explain it to me like I don’t just make up statistical models out of thin air in order to get out of dealing with onerous documentation requirements: “The [SBA] has told lenders that it's using a combination of data sets to make the [forgiveness] determinations, including information based on foot traffic and credit card charging.” (Treasury: “Did you do inventory?” SBA: “Well, uh, based on a combination of data sets…”)

The Real ID – While governments struggle with mask mandates, Danny Meyer got a lot of attention yesterday for announcing on CNBC that USHG restaurants (not Shake Shack) would require staff and guests to show proof of COVID vaccination at the door (staff have 45 days to get their shots). Meyer is not the first by a long shot — this NYT piece from Christina Morales does a good job of taking vaccine passport temps around the country — but whatever you think of his leadership during the pandemic, having his big name behind mandatory vaccination is a big deal (and already got an endorsement from Pete Wells).

Meanwhile… Scoop in the Washington Post last night: “Internal CDC document urges new messaging, warns delta infections likely more severe.” Follow up NYT push alert hours later: “The Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and may be spread by vaccinated people as easily as the unvaccinated, an internal C.D.C. report said.”

There’s nuance beyond those headlines (surprise!), including this kicker in the NYT piece from a virologist in NY: “Overall, Delta is the troubling variant we already knew it was, but the sky isn’t falling and vaccination still protects strongly against the worse outcomes.” But, with host stands still on the front line, “vaccines don’t work!” could be the new “vaccines are fascist!” and restaurateurs like SF’s Pim Techamuanvivit are calling for government backup all over again: “I am 100% for requiring vaccinations in restaurants. But, again, until there’s a mandate & verification / enforcement procedures for us to follow, you’re leaving it to vulnerable restaurant workers to deal w/ potentially explosive situations on our own.”

Good luck, all!

Ghosts On Demand From Joanna Fantozzi in RH: “DoorDash announced Thursday that the company is expanding its DoorDash Kitchens ghost kitchen network to a second city — San Jose — and is now offering full-service operations capabilities for partner restaurants through a new ghost kitchen revenue sharing program. DoorDash Kitchens Full Service will expand outside of delivery/takeout capabilities to equip operators with DoorDash-facilitated operations and front of house staff, kitchen staff training, supply chain ingredients, and day to day operations. In return they’ll receive an unspecificed percentage of profits.”

That’s not far off from what influencers like Mr. Beast have already been doing in actual restaurant kitchens, but this sounds a lot like the beginnings of something like print-on-demand merchandising services, where any idiot (me) can run an online store selling items they’ve “designed” but don’t actually produce or manage themselves. Obviously, perishability / time-sensitive demand will make it difficult to replicate that custom retail strategy (where the producer / manager takes the lion’s share) in food, but I’m imagining a world where there’s a standard list of ingredients in a massive walk-in, and anyone who can upload a recipe can run a delivery-only “restaurant”? Stay tuned for Family Meal’s Famous Frittata Fridays, I guess.

Beard Season – On Wednesday, the James Beard Foundation announced that their not-awards awards, “James Beard Awards: Stories of Resilience and Leadership,” will take place via live broadcast on Twitter “on September 27 at 7 P.M. CT / 8 P.M. ET / 5 P.M. PT.” And “in addition to the live broadcast, the Foundation will host 300-400 guests atop the Harris Theater in Chicago” to watch the show, while simultaneous “intimate satellite events in select cities” will include parties at: Lucille’s (Houston) with Chris Williams and Dawn Burrell; Town Fare (Oakland) with Tanya Holland, Reem Assil, and Dominica Rice-Cisneros; SOUTH (Philadelphia) with Ben Bynum and Stephanie Willis; and Moon Rabbit (DC) with Kevin Tien.

“Additionally, select industry and other guests will enjoy dinners at five restaurants that represent Chicago’s vast culinary landscape.” Check your spam folders, selects and other guests! (Still nada in mine.)

The Fire – NYC headline in the Daily Beast: “Celebrity Sommelier Has Been Moonlighting as an Arsonist: FDNY.” Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels wine and managing director Caleb Ganzer “has been arrested after allegedly setting several outdoor dining structures ablaze on at least three occasions this year,” per reporter Pilar Melendez. Included video apparently shows Ganzer casually lighting a napkin dispenser on fire in mid-July at Prince Street Pizza, a move FDNY says fits similar incidents at “the outside dining structure owned by Forsythia Restaurant, and a trash fire set on June 26 near SoHo.” Motive is… unclear.

The Media (Opportunities) – If you’ve been trying to get your foot in the door in food media, starting this October, Vox is running “a one-year, full-time fellowship program intended for people new to media” with the stated goal of bringing in “voices that were historically excluded… to strengthen reporting, storytelling and businesses, and to serve diverse audiences with meaningful work.” I am told that while no Eater positions are currently listed under Fellowships on Vox’s careers site, they are coming soon.

And while we’re there: Also up on the Eater job board are openings for a part time NY reporter, and a full-time staff writer, the latter of which can be remote. I’d apply, but EIC Amanda Kludt says “remote” means “NYC hours.” (Textbook timezone-ism.)

And Stephen Satterfield’s Whetstone Radio Collective also recently posted a bunch of jobs, including podcast hosts.

Fun Fact (because he has recovered) for your cover letter: Satterfield says he was struck by lightening earlier this week!

And that’s it for today! Except of course for last Tuesday’s Family Meal, which is copy / pasted below as usual. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…

I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else here in one week for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or an unspecificed percentage of profits to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!

Here begins Family Meal from Tuesday, July 27th, 2021:

Masks and mandates, Batali Bastianich fines, Design trends, and more...

Hello Tuesday,

And hello to paying subscribers only!

A slightly more superficial scan of the news today, as I was only released from Ramada quarantine purgatory at 12:06AM Monday morning, and immediately thrust back into in-person fatherhood after three weeks of FaceTime-based parenting. The transition has been LOUD.

Let’s get to it…

The Zeitgiest – Let’s take a quick whip around the headlines this week just for fun. Louisiana (The Advocate): “Gov. John Bel Edwards recommends mask-wearing indoors in Louisiana to stem COVID surge.”Providence (NBC 10 WJAR): “Health official recommends all people wear masks indoors as cases rise.” Houston (Eater): “Harris County Judge Recommends All Houstonians, Vaccinated or Not, Wear Masks Indoors.” Philadelphia (Inquirer): “Philly officials say even fully vaccinated people should again wear masks inside public spaces.” Washington State (K5): “Health officers from 8 Washington counties now recommend wearing masks in indoor spaces.” Northern California (Santa Cruz Sentinal): “Santa Cruz County again recommends wearing masks indoors. Coastal community joined in suggestion by Monterey, Napa, San Benito counties.”

And on and on, with Eater San Francisco giving readers what they really want: “Is Indoor Dining Still Safe with the Delta Variant Spreading Right Now?” (Third paragraph: “local health officials told the SF Chronicle, for vaccinated people it’s pretty unlikely that you’d get seriously ill”).

No new word on RRF refills.

Meanwhile, on the international front, Forbes says “France Mandates Vaccine Passport To Visit Eiffel Tower, Other Tourist Sites—And Restaurants Are Next,” and Italy will only allow people with COVID-19 antibodies to go to restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, etc. starting August 6th. And restaurants are still being singled out as public hot spots around the world, as in this headline from Channel News Asia over the weekend: “127 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in Singapore; new cluster linked to Samy's Curry.” (If 127 doesn’t sound bad, note that Singapore’s friendly rival(?) Hong Kong has had zero new local cases for 50 days straight.)

That said, a lot of American food media does feel pre-pandemic right now. The SF Chronicle’s website is currently topped by a piece about “11 exhilarating new destinations” for bread (tied to the pandemic baking boom, but still). NYT Foods leads with a piece about “No-Roll Pie Crusts” that doesn’t even mention the pandemic at all! And the LA Times went with: “Okra is so much more than its slimy reputation.” Same.

The Restitution – Headline in the NYT: “$600,000 Sexual Harassment Settlement Reached in Batali & Bastianich Case.” Details via Kim Severson: “The two men and Pasta Resources, the company formerly known as the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, will pay a total of $600,000 to at least 20 women and men who were sexually harassed while they worked at the Manhattan restaurants BabboLupa or Del Posto.” It’s up to the NY Attorney General’s office to decide who gets how much, but needless to say a $600k fine split between two wealthy men and a corporation is not exactly a bankruptcy blow, and a $600k one-off split between at least 20 people is probably not going to be especially life-changing money for the victims.

But: “Mr. Batali is still facing at least two civil suits and a potential criminal trial,” and Bastianich now has his name attached to a settlement wherein “The attorney general’s investigation, while not citing Mr. Bastianich for specific acts of sexual harassment, casts his role in a new, harsher light and emphasizes that both men were responsible for the toxic environment.” So, Pasta Resources has a long-term PR problem, for whatever that’s worth.

For Design Fans – Not a photo-spread itself, but Eater’s Laura Fenton has a lot of links to past pictorials under her thesis: “The 2021 Restaurant Aesthetic Is Optimistic, Nostalgic, and Vacation-Obsessed.” Cameos from ZZ’s Sushi Bar (Miami), Delilah (Las Vegas), and Kokomo(NYC), to back up the gist: “In 2021 restaurants are full of happy colors with swaths of turquoise, orange, and especially pink. Restaurant designers have dialed up the intensity from the pre-pandemic dusty pastels to decidedly pop-y shades. Color feels current again.”

OK. Maybe! But all I want to talk about is this Panorama Room feature she links to in Vogue. Those velvet chairs with the plastic backs look like someone went to the designer and said, “What if low stools, but worse?”, and there’s enough vacant, bare concrete for a rollerblade night, but I bet once darkness falls that massive light fixture above the bar plays pretty well with that view… Slide on your Heelys and let’s go Instagram some sundowners?

And that’s it for today! It’s my mother-in-law’s birthday tonight, and I’ve got to run. She’s wonderful (in part) because we share the most essential birthday food opinion: The best cake is carrot cake.

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

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or swaths of turquoise, orange, and especially pink to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!

An ENTRÉE Act, a Bezos check, a Ssäm 360, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Hello Friday,

A very special quarantine edition of Family Meal today! Your dear narrator is coming to you live from a well-worn Hong Kong Ramada, with this cheery little sign on my door:

“Leaving outside the room will be deemed breaching of the quarantine order. Offenders will be referred to the police without prior warning. Offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $25,000 and imprisonment for six months.”

Day 4 of 7.

Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy/pasted at bottom as usual.

Let’s get to it….

The Sweet Birthday Baby – As cities across the U.S. begin encouraging masks indoors again, “in the Bay Area, more restaurants and bars are requiring or planning to require proof of vaccination to enter.” Janelle Bitker is keeping a growing list in the Chronicle, but I had to double check the date on the article when I read the first sentence of this paragraph: “Health experts say indoor dining is one of the riskiest activities because diners must remove their masks to eat and drink. While these experts say the risk of getting seriously ill from dining inside a restaurant for fully vaccinated individuals is relatively low, the level of risk is rising because of the prevalence of the delta variant.” Oof.

The Relief – Folks, we have an acronym! Headline in Restaurant Hospitality: “Congress introduces ENTRÉE Act to add $60 billion to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.” Details via Joanna Fantozzi: “Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) introduced the Entrepreneurs Need Timely Replenishment for Eating Establishments Act on Wednesday.” Obviously, there is already an RRF replenishment bill out there (as Fantozzi reported in early June), but that first bill simply hopes to add $60B to the original RRF, keeping all previous strings attached.

This new ENTRÉE Act would “eliminate the original three-week prioritization period of women and socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals, which led to several lawsuits and the rescinding of thousands of previously approved applications. Instead, the Congressman said, this round of funding would be distributed on a ‘first-come, first-serve’ basis and would require increased oversight and audits on the part of the U.S. Small Business Administration to prevent future issues.”

The Relief Too? – Asked about the industry’s staffing shortage at a CNN town hall event this week, President Big Joey B told restaurateur John Lanni, “I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things, and there is a shortage of employees, people are looking to make more money and to bargain.” Lanni, a Republican, told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Sharon Coolidge he felt like Biden didn’t answer his question, and that the vast majority of his team makes over $15/hour, but… I’m not sure what he was looking for in an answer? Ohio already began blocking the oft-blamed additional $300 unemployment benefit last month, so — and this is an honest question — what else do restaurateurs want government to do about lack of labor?

The Critics – Knives out. About a month ago, Soleil Ho said she couldn’t wait to get back to writing negative reviews, arguing in part that they help restaurants get better. Eater NY’s Ryan Sutton appears to have taken that to heart and is out with what I think is the first big negative review-as-consultancy of the post-lockdown(?) era (maybe not surprising since he was kicking a dead TAK Room mid-pandemic last summer). Headline in Eater NY: “Why You Shouldn’t Eat at the New Momofuku Ssäm Bar Just Yet. The Seaport District restaurant seems to have culinary DNA that puts it more in line with expensive mall food than Momofuku food.” It’s a mix of tough lines (“the tartare, for the most part, is like eating nothing wrapped in herbs for $29”) wrapped in hopeful hedges (“Team Momofuku tells me most of [Ssäm’s classic dishes] will return as the restaurant finds its sea legs and hires more folks”) that ends in a second chance (“I’ll be back… as the venue revamps itself”). Cool?

The Check – Headline in Washington Post: “Jeff Bezos awards José Andrés $100 million for ‘Courage and Civility.’” Details via Emily Heil: “Bezos noted that the recipients can distribute the $100 million however they like, noting they could give it ‘all to their own charity, or they can share the wealth.’ In his acceptance speech, Andrés indicated he would use the money to advance the work of his World Central Kitchen.” Full disclosure: Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post and could definitely buy Family Meal if he wanted to.

The Plaintiff – Headline in the NYT: “The Man Who Filed More Than 180 Disability Lawsuits.Is it profiteering — or justice?” There have been a bunch of pieces like this over the years, but I highly recommend this one for restaurant owners. The protagonist, Albert Dycht isn’t even the most litigious person in the piece (though he’s prolific enough that a defense lawyer buys Adwords tied to his name), and he says he’s still struggling to decide whether to start suing restaurants again now that lockdowns have subsided. Key quote on the dual rationale behind his suits: “The law is subsidizing me to correct things… Then I earn money to defray the exorbitant costs of being disabled.”

Plus, I learned something. Writer Lauren Markham says the judiciary has basically given litigants like Dycht its blessing when it comes to the A.D.A: “In 2007, in response to a lawsuit claiming vexatious disability litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion [saying]: ‘For the A.D.A. to yield its promise of equal access for the disabled, it may indeed be necessary and desirable for committed individuals to bring serial litigation advancing the time when public accommodations will be compliant with the A.D.A.’”

For the Bar Per Robert Simonson: “For the first time in its history, an American will run the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. Shannon Tebay, who was the head bartender at Death & Co., the celebrated cocktail bar in Manhattan, has been chosen to be head bartender.”

And last but not least – My new favorite line that would have made no sense pre-pandemic is: “No, I’m not anti-shed. I’m pro-public space.” It’s from David L. Doctoroff’s NYT op-ed “Tear Down the Restaurant Sheds Before It’s Too Late,” which is NYC-focused but could be about anywhere with pandemic-era outdoor dining setups. Doctoroff argues that outdoor dining was constructed hastily, will start to rot, and should be replaced with a more long-term, tech-forward plan: “We could reconfigure street spaces in ways that change depending on the day, season or year. What’s more, we now have technology like availability sensors, embedded pavement lights and digital signage that can change in real time, signaling what uses are acceptable when.”

I get what he’s saying! And anyway, nothing says street cafe, Parisian charm quite like LED lights telling guests that sidewalk sensors have informed The Algorithm that lunch is over and it’s time for their table space to “serve as dynamically priced loading zones for trucks, ride-hail services and delivery vehicles.” Cheers, to the future!

And that’s it for today. Except of course for Tuesday’s paid Family Meal, which is copy / pasted below as usual.

I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else on Friday for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or expensive mall food to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!

Here begins Family Meal from Tuesday, July 20th, 2021. If you’d like to get Tuesday Family Meals on Tuesdays…

McNally's pot, Delivery's suit, Conlon's comeback, Union's brag, and more...

Hello Tuesday,

And hello to paying subscribers only!

After a final round of takeout from ChiKo in DC, one last US drink at newly reopened Silver Lyan (where Mr. Ryan Chetiyawardana himself was holding court), and about 29 hours of airplanes and airports, today’s Family Meal is coming to you from lucky room 1313 of the beautiful Ramada Grand View Hotel in North Point, Hong Kong.

The hotel has seen better days, but so have I. And I’m only on day 2 of a 7 day quarantine stint here, so…

Let’s get to it…

The Profile Treatment – Headline in NYT’s Style section: “Keith McNally Stirs
the Pot
.” Treatment via Jacob Bernstein: “[McNally] has staved off the humiliation of being a straight white goliath in decline by heaping it on everyone in his way. A Howard Beale for the Instagram era, he’s here lashing out on behalf of boomerish power lunchers who believe in a woman’s right to a safe abortion and oppose police brutality but are too scared to admit how enraged they are by a generation of absolutist woke whiners. One minute, he’s uploading sumptuous shellfish shots. The next, he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.” Mostly about cancel culture?

Not much new here on the McNally backstory (Anna Wintour and Jay McInerney both say hello), and some stuff missed or omitted (initial anger over McNally’s defense of Woody Allen had at least a little to do with the fact that he invokedEmmet Till for comparison!), but for me the key quote was this: “[McNally] wants to live in a world where some distinction exists between a boss flirting with an employee and a boss harassing one. ‘When I was single, I’d of course, occasionally ask a waitress out,’ he said. ‘But if she said no, which she invariably did, I wouldn’t dream of badgering her. I would rather promote a server who had the sense to reject me.’”

Not all bosses!

P.S. – Whether you treat that profile as hate read or welcome balance, we can all laugh a bit that the journalist who threw in a “Paging Dr. Freud!” parenthetical and wrote about the time McNally got taken to task for calling a woman “a hooker” on Instagram is the son of two of the most famous journalists / writers in America and once had to publicly apologize for calling Melania Trump a hooker. Bright lights, small world.

The Suits – “San Francisco’s permanent cap on third-party delivery fees, the first in the nation, is headed to court.” Per Elena Kadvany in the SF Chronicle, “DoorDash and Grubhub sued the City of San Francisco on Friday, firing back at the cap as an ‘irrational law, driven by naked animosity and ill-conceived economic protectionism.’” Supporters of the cap are projecting a lot of confidence, but I bet those tech companies can afford some pretty pretty pretty pretty good lawyers...

The Skin and The Bone – The unions are coming? “The past year and a half has been a watershed for labor organizing,” according to Priya Krishna in the NYT, and “one of the most surprising places those campaigns have surfaced is independent restaurants, bars and bakeries, where unions are rare.” The piece cites a handful of anecdotes (including some union drives that failed, but forced owners to the table anyway), but I’m not entirely convinced it’s a sweeping trend.

Still, One Fair Wage’s Saru Jayaraman tells the Times, “‘Honestly, in my 20 years of organizing, I have never seen such a willingness’ to organize among restaurant workers” (exactly what I’d say if I were an organizer!), and per Krishna, “To help coalesce workers across many restaurants, citywide groups have formed recently in places like Detroit, Memphis and New York. The Restaurant Workers’ Council in New York, founded by 12 restaurant employees in March 2020, aims to force the creation of a multi-employer bargaining unit. They plan to picket several employers one by one, creating an incentive for the owners to bargain together.”

The Comeback? – “Fat Rice, the award-winning restaurant that helped make the Logan Square neighborhood a dining destination in Chicago but closed under a cloud of controversy last year, will reopen as NoodleBird. Owners Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo… closed the business in June 2020 after employees accused them of racism and creating a hostile work environment.” Conlon and Lo say they’re working with both HR and diversity, equity, and inclusion partners to turn things around. Louisa Chu has details in the Tribune.

We shall see if Conlon and Lo can convince their fans to come back, but getting called out during the pandemic may have been great timing for them finance-wise. Chu says Fat Rice took just over $900k in PPP loans, to which Eater’s Ashok Selvam adds: “According to federal records Fat Rice received $1.8 million from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.”

The Media – Feels like The Counter has been minting fellows left and right lately, but most have been focused on agriculture and food supply. Yesterday, writer Matthew Sedacca announced on Twitter that he’d be working the restaurant side of things too: “Some personal news: It's my first day as a fellow at The Counter! I'm excited to be joining such an incredible and smart team to track the winding Covid-19 recovery efforts in restaurants and agriculture. Holler at matthew.sedacca@thecounter.org.”

And that’s it for today.

If we missed each other on my brief, wild whirlwind of a stateside tour, I hope we see each other next time, here or there.

But before that, I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal, still in quarantine. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see Lloyd about a drink.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or sumptuous shellfish shots to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!

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