80/20 flux, Chubb's win, Check closed, Park out, Wasserman gone, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, August 27th, 2021

Hello Friday,

Still in the dog days of August and a bit slow, but September is just around the corner, and the James Beard Foundation promised they’d release their internal audit details this summer, so… the clock is ticking on some medium-to-big awards news? Maybe. Maybe.

Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy / pasted below for non-paying subscribers. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…

Let’s get to it...

The Tips – While One Fair Wage et al. work to do away with the minimum wage tip credit altogether, the battle over the intricacies of existing rules goes on. Behind a paywall on Tuesday, Law360 reported, “Five Democratic members of the Committee on Education and Labor told U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh in a letter Monday that they… urged a return to the 80/20 rule, saying the department for three decades has relied on the rule providing that employees who spend more than 20% of their time on side work that doesn't produce tips must be paid standard minimum wage. Under Trump's tip rule finalized in December 2020, they said, there is no safeguard for the 80/20 rule and no limitation is placed on how much time a tipped employee can perform ‘related duties’ such as mopping floors and taking out trash that don't produce tips.”

DOL says it’s gotten over 1,800 public comments on the potential rule reversion! Mine was: “Still don’t understand how every administration just gets to change a fundamental way workers are compensated however they want. Are we not ruled by laws?!”

The Suits – Also behind the paywall (sorry) in Law360 this week, a warning: If, at this point in the pandemic, a lawyer is trying to convince you that you have a case against your insurance company for “business interruption” or the like, get a second opinion and/or run. Headline: “NY Companies Denied Virus Coverage Like ‘More Than 100’ Before.” In dismissing a handful of suits (with prejudice), U.S. District Judge Gary R. Brown said: “Despite the tragic economic impact suffered by these plaintiffs (like so many small businesses), the policy language and the applicable law simply do not provide for coverage.”

A headline from a similar case in NJ yesterday — “Chubb Unit Beats NJ Restaurant's COVID Coverage Suit.” — drew cheers from the insurance industry.

“Way to beat it, Chubb Unit!” they (probably) said.

The Moves – “One of Momofuku’s top stars and one of the few women to be named an executive chef at the acclaimed restaurant group is leaving. Chef Eunjo Park, widely known for launching the instant hit Kāwi in Hudson Yards, is departing the company four months after taking over the Ssäm Bar reboot at the South Street Seaport. She will be replaced by current Noodle Bar at Columbus Circle chef de cuisine Kris Brumsted.” Details via Erika Adams in Eater. NB: Eater NY’s Ryan Sutton’s first negative review post-pandemic was about Park’s work at Ssäm Bar. No word on what’s next.

The Media – Headline in Eater Chicago: “WTTW Cancels ‘Check, Please!’ After 19 Seasons.” According to Ashok Selvam, the show, which led to versions in South Florida, the Bay Area, Philadelphia, Seattle, DC, Kansas City, and Arizona (among others?), “has been hiatus since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Show creator David Manilow and host Alpana Singh say they wanted to continue for a 20th season, but station executives had other ideas.”

For the Somm: Some Sad News – Headline in Wine Spectator: “Becky Wasserman, American Champion of Burgundy's Small Wineries, Dies at 84.” Full obituary from Bruce Sanderson there, discovered via Esther Mobley’s SF Chronicle wine newsletter, where she has her own personal Wasserman story, and says: “For those who want a little extra dose of Becky, I recommend this 2019 profile by Jancis Robinson and this 2017 podcast interview with Levi Dalton.”

P.S. – Also for the somm, from Mobley’s newsletter: I did not know wildfires were sweeping Provence (and tainting French wines) this year too... via Suzannae Mustacich in WS.

And last but not least, For Design Fans: The Critics – NYT’s Pete Wells is back to negative reviews too, this week saying the food at Tom Colicchio’s Vallata is fantastic, but... “The dining room, next door to Mr. Colicchio’s flagship, Craft, is an awkward pastiche of bland, vaguely corporate design and odd decorative hand-me-downs [(cow paintings!)] that have served time in other Colicchio restaurants. The standard cliché about restaurants in the rustic-Italian genre… is that eating there is like a trip to Italy without the airfare. Vallata manages to turn the cliché on its head: You don’t believe for a second that you’ve left New York, but you do start to think the restaurant itself could use a vacation.”

Colicchio responded with a Tweet of him wearing a shirt that read “Sorry, I DGAF,” which felt like a bit of a miss considering the thesis of Wells’s review was: “Maybe Tom just doesn’t GAF?”

And that’s it for today, except of course for Tuesday’s FM, which is copy / pasted below for non-paying subscribers as usual.

I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday for next Family Meal, and everyone else on Friday. If you’d like to read the next one on Tuesday, by all means…

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or policy language and the applicable law 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, August 24th, 2021:

Gigs, Mergers, Courts, NIMBYs, NFTS, and more...

Hello Tuesday,

And hello to paying subscribers only! If you got this as a forward and wished you were getting Tuesday Family Meals on Tuesdays…

A tech and media heavy one today, with apologies to those of you who would rather not.

Let’s get to it…

The Gigs – Headline in the LA Times: “Prop. 22 is ruled unconstitutional, a blow to California gig economy law.” Details via Margot Roosevelt and Suhauna Hussain: “California’s giant ride-hailing and delivery companies suffered a setback Friday as a state Superior Court judge invalidated a 2020 ballot proposition that allowed Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and other app-based businesses to classify their workers as independent contractors. In a lawsuit brought by the Service Employees International Union and several drivers, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled that Proposition 22 is unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

Though there are CA specific reasons for the ruling (it’s about the state constitution), this would almost certainly impact the companies’ attempted rollout of similar initiatives around the country. The big BUT: This is just the first step on the way (back) up the ladder to the CA Supreme Court, and “traditionally, California courts are often hesitant to overturn ballot measures because the move can be seen as challenging the will of the people.”

Move Fast and Break Neighborhoods – Speaking of the giggers (we’re all frogs)… Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens has been relatively successful at flying under the radar, all fame considered. But now it’s getting physical, and this SF Gate story about the fallout is definitely worth a read. Sorry to over-quote, but some fantastic details from Georgia Freeman: After Oakland residents got wind of a CloudKitchen facility being built in their quiet, residential neighborhood with limited street space and tight traffic: “On April 29, CloudKitchens held an evening meeting with residents outside the building. While [NW regional GM Nate Pollak] had promised a walk-through of the site, attendees were kept on the sidewalk, and construction crews continued to work, drowning out much of the presentation as three of the company’s representatives offered boxes of mochi doughnuts, fried chicken and other foods made at some of the company’s other sites…”

Pollak then tried to reassure residents about traffic by saying he was asking a nearby church if he could rent their parking lot, and “deferred any other discussions until the company had ‘time to develop a plan,’ which felt, to those in attendance, like an admission that no one had taken the time to look into these issues when they selected the site.”

That is, of course, Uber Growth Strategy 101, which is often taught alongside a graduate-level early-90s tobacco-lobby-themed comms class that goes something like: “When the city of Chicago tried to restrict the kinds of customers the business could serve, as a way of alleviating some of the congestion, CloudKitchens staged a PR campaign against the neighborhood, calling the neighbors (a demographically mixed group similar to the population [in the Oakland neighborhood]) and local businesses (many of which are women- and minority-owned) NIMBYs and accusing them of being against BIPOC business.”

The Science – Headline in the NYT (that I missed on Thursday): “Those Anti-Covid Plastic Barriers Probably Don’t Help and May Make Things Worse.” Tara Parker-Pope has the 20/20 hindsight: “Research suggests that in some instances, a barrier protecting a clerk behind a checkout counter may redirect the germs to another worker or customer. Rows of clear plastic shields, like those you might find in a nail salon or classroom, can also impede normal air flow and ventilation… erecting plastic barriers can change air flow in a room, disrupt normal ventilation and create ‘dead zones,’ where viral aerosol particles can build up and become highly concentrated.” Great.

The Media – Press Release headline from Vox: “Vox Media acquires James Beard Award-winning Punch as part of food and restaurant network Eater.” In the announcement on Eater, EIC Amanda Kludt says, “Though the two publications will collaborate, Punch will remain a separate entity, not a drinks section of Eater. [Punch EIC Talia Baiocchi] and her team of [6] writers and creators will continue the industry-leading work they do, with more support for their ambitions.”

I asked Kludt the big questions: “How much?” and “Is Punch profitable?” but all I got was, “We aren’t discussing the financials of the deal,” and, “See above.” Cool cool cool. But there is a lot of booze company ad money out there, so let’s assume this is somewhat comfortably above an acqui-hire situation? AdWeek’s Mark Stenberg reports: “Punch currently attracts 550,000 monthly unique visitors, whereas Eater averages 15 million per month, according to Vox Media. Combined, the two publishers will reach over 1 million free newsletter subscribers.”

Anyway, if I’m bar PR, I’m reaching out today to say, “Congrats, all! Funnily enough, this merger reminds me of a new cocktail we’re debuting next week that merges the essence of…”

And last but not least: The Club – You know how digital-growth guru Gary Vaynerchuk started a restaurant group with Josh CaponDavid Rodolitz, and Conor Hanlon? Well, that group is obviously trying to start “the first NFT restaurant,” and per the launch announcement on CNBC’s Squawk Box (which I highly recommend watching as art and which tells you all you need to know about the ambitions here): “The punchline is a very modern restaurant where the token is the access to the membership and to your table. But unlike, let’s say a Rao’s where you own the table, the table and the access is ownable by you and transferrable on the blockchain…. And it’s going to change the world.” Starting Fall 2022. (Twenty American dollars to whoever opens an NFT restaurant before that and steals the thunder.)

Doesn’t sound like a world changer to me, but honestly not sure I can comment intelligently on this. Remember that scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where Hunter S. Thompson spills acid on his sleeve in a bathroom, and some hippy comes in and starts licking it up, and then a guy in a suit comes out of a stall and goes wide eyed at the slo-mo spectacle? I think the best way to understand my relationship to people who know about and are getting rich off crypto / blockchain stuff is that I’m an only slightly less worried / jealous version of the guy in the suit.

Johnny Depp voice: “With a bit of luck, his life was ruined forever, always thinking that just behind some narrow door in all his favorite bars, men in red woolen shirts are getting incredible kicks from things he’ll never know.”

And that’s it for today.

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 a very modern restaurant where the token is the access 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!