Andrés glitches, Yelp gets (new) results, India organizes, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, August 30th, 2019

Hello Friday,

So. Many. Lawsuits.

Let’s get to it…

The Suits – After being sued for wage theft by bartender Tina Braunstein (and her lawyer, a Mr. Maimon Kirschenbaum), “ThinkFoodGroup, the Washington-based parent company that oversees Mercado Little Spain in New York City, said Wednesday that it had discovered a payroll glitch that underpaid some employees at the gigantic Hudson Yards food hall and market. The affected workers will receive back wages, plus another check of equal size to ‘offset any difficulties,’ ThinkFoodGroup founder José Andrés said in a statement.” That is, if they agree to terms. Tim Carman has the details in the Washington Post.

One interesting note: According to the article, this is the same Tina Braunstein who sued Blue Hill at Stone Barns for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in 2006. She “has been a plaintiff in other cases against restaurants, too, including one against the now-closed Telepan restaurant on the Upper West Side (the case was dismissed) and a still-open discrimination and retaliation complaint against the Plaza Hotel in New York City.” That either says something about Braunstein, or the industry, or both? (Bold stance, I know.)

The Suits Too (and three) – The Miami Herald’s Carlos Frías reports Salt Bae is also being sued for wage theft, and looking at a possible class action at his Nusr-et Steakhouse in Miami. Meanwhile in Manhattan, Eater NY’s Carla Vianna says, “A former Gramercy Tavern server has filed a discrimination complaint against restaurateur Danny Meyer’s fine dining jewel — claiming that the restaurant mishandled a number of racist incidents, including managers asking her to keep quiet when another employee called her a ‘black bitch.’” USHG declined to comment.

The Algorithm – FYI, may be time to update your restaurants’ Yelp settings. According to Will Oremus in OneZero, Yelp’s latest update “might shift the landscape for local businesses, because it will no longer be directing all of its users to the same top results for every search.” The app-only algorithm changes will now “tailor results and recommendations to the tastes of each user. That means two people searching for, say, Mexican food from the same location will now see different results, based on a set of preferences they’ll be given the option to enter when they update the app to the latest version... So if you let Yelp know you’re a vegetarian, you probably won’t see many steakhouses in your search results anymore... If you have young kids, you might see family activities on a Saturday morning instead of, say, boozy brunch spots. If you need gender-neutral bathrooms, Yelp will highlight businesses that offer them over those that don’t.” Tick the right boxes, folks!

The Influence – In D.C., writer Nevin Martell dug around the local food influencer economy for Washington City Paper. My favorite part is at the end: “As an experiment, City Paper set up an Instagram account with the handle @whattoeatinwashdc. Rather than put in all the work of organically growing followers, City Paper Googled ‘buy Instagram followers’ and spent a little over $100. As soon as the payment for what the invoice called ‘freelance software services’ went through, @whattoeatinwashdc skyrocketed to 11,000 followers within minutes. Over the next few weeks, @whattoeatinwashdc posted a series of food pictures, followed food-related accounts in the D.C. area, and interacted with other users. In no time, restaurants and other food influencers tagged the account in their posts. Voila!” (Voila is French for ‘fraud’.)

The Organizers – In India, restaurants are taking a classic approach to problems with delivery platforms. It’s union meets boycott: “About 300 restaurant owners in Gurugram, a New Delhi suburb that is home to many tech companies, including [India’s biggest food delivery platform] Zomato, decided they were tired of losing money to patrons of Zomato Gold [a discount-granting paid status]. They made a pact to pull out of Gold and other discount programs for a few days, saying that they wanted to ‘detox consumers from discount addiction.’ News of the protest went viral. Within days, more than 2,000 restaurants — from white-tablecloth establishments to neighborhood dosa shops — joined in. This week, the industry called for additional changes to the food delivery programs operated by the major players, including Uber Eats.” Details (inspiration?) via Vindu Goel and Ayesha Venkataraman in the NYT.

The Sign of the Times – Per Justin Phillips in the SF Chronicle, “Adriano Paganini is closing his sausage-centric, Belgian-inspired Belga to turn the Cow Hollow restaurant into a plant-based one called Wildseed. Belga’s final service on Union Street will be Sunday, Sept. 1. Wildseed will be the first entirely plant-based restaurant for Paginini and his Back of the House restaurant group, which includes more than a dozen restaurants.”

That Hotel $$$ – “Chef Erik Anderson, who recently left his post at SF’s two-Michelin-starred Coi, has found a new perch in the Napa Valley. In Calistoga, he’ll lead a restaurant called Truss at a forthcoming Four Seasons resort located on an active winery. The hotel and restaurant, years delayed, are finally set to open in 2020.” Details via Caleb Pershan in Eater SF.

The Media (Opportunity) – “The Philadelphia Inquirer is looking for an innovative and ambitious Food Editor to oversee digital and print coverage. Our ideal candidate is an emerging or established leader who is ready to shape food coverage in one of the world’s greatest food cities, home to a white-hot restaurant scene, James Beard Award-winning chefs, regional farmers with deep-rooted traditions, and, umm, cheesesteaks and hoagies and pretzels.” The job post has key details, but the Inquirer’s Director of Editorial Marketing, Evan Benn, says any FM readers who have questions can follow up with him directly at ebenn at inquirer dot com.

The (Wine) Media – Headline in Wine Spectator: “Harvey Steiman Retires. After 38 years with the company, Wine Spectator's lead taster on Australia, New Zealand, Oregon and Washington is stepping down.”

And Last and least – Fans of TV show Billions now have confirmation from co-creator / writer / showrunner Brian Koppelman that at least some of the inspiration for character Bobby Axelrod (unsurprisingly) comes from Dave Chang. Do with that information what you will. It’s at about the 18 minute mark in their conversation on Chang’s podcast this week.

Oh yeah, P.S. – I loved this headline in Eater London yesterday: “Famously Emotional Chef Marco Pierre White Says Women Are Too Emotional in Kitchens. Marco Pierre White once held three Michelin stars — now he holds terrible opinions.” Chef’s kiss.

And that’s it for today.

And that’s it for summer?

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

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