Beard Fund overwhelmed, 50 Best cancelled, Acheson checking, Eater at Home, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – Headline in Bloomberg: “$2 Trillion Virus Bill Leaves ‘Gaping Holes’ for Restaurant Industry.” Key quote: “‘I don’t think this package was set up to save the restaurants, it’s to save employees,’ Tom Colicchio, chef-owner of Crafted Hospitality [told reporters Kate Krader, Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, and Emma Kinery]. ‘Which is fine. But if they don’t afterwards save the restaurants, the employees won’t have jobs to come back to.’”
Unfortunately, the outlook for quick, additional, restaurant relief at the federal level doesn’t look great just yet. Per Politico’s Sarah Ferris, Andrew Desiderio, and Marianne Levine, House speaker “Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday that Democrats are in the early stages of drafting another major bill that will not only shore up health systems and protect frontline health care workers but could include substantial investments in infrastructure.”
Did you read small businesses there? You did not. “Republicans, meanwhile, have said it’s too early to consider what might be included in a potential ‘Phase 4’ package, noting that the current relief measure is in the process of being implemented.” In other words, at best it may be a while.
FYI: For more on the $2T already on the books, the Independent Restaurant Coalition has what look like some pretty thorough / useful explainers and how-to’s on its site, here.
The Relief Too – Sign of the times, just posted: “Due to an overwhelming response within hours of opening, the [James Beard Foundation] has suspended the application for the JBF Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund at this time. We recognize the tremendous need from independent restaurants across the country and will continue to work to support you however best we can. We will notify our audiences if the application is going to reopen.” Not when, if?
The Patchwork – Looks like the New Deal style restaurant effort José Andrés was advocating in the NYT last week is sort of coming to fruition, albeit as a patchwork of privately funded local and national efforts. Pete Wells reports that across the country, “Delivery orders for health care workers have begun coming in, ranging in ambition from bags of sandwiches paid for by small pledges on GoFundMe pages to multicourse meals subsidized by the philanthropic arms of major companies.” One example: “An artist in New Orleans named Devin De Wulf is sending local hospitals an estimated $10,000 worth of food each day from more than 30 local restaurants, part of a campaign that he calls #feedthefrontline.”
The Advocates – Mr. David Chang got the call for an NYT Magazine Q&A about the crisis, and, when not busy being the absolute most non-hyperbolic person ever (“I’m not being hyperbolic in any way. Without government intervention, there will be no service industry.”), he used that platform to lend his voice to the kind of top-down approach to relief that might make a Momofuku investor blush: “The government should give a greater bailout to real estate owners so that there can be relief for restaurant owners. It has to move up the chain.” Stephen Ross, eat your heart out.
Meanwhile, if I really wanted the public to understand the broader state of play, I’d be sharing this Hugh Acheson Op-Ed in Atlanta Magazine: “Yesterday, I shut down Empire State South and 5 & 10… The three restaurants today I ostensibly directly operate are kaput. We’re a couple-percent-profit-margin type of place. We’ve got nothing. On a purely personal note, I had $26 in my checking account last week. I’m borrowing personal funds from people I know to pay payroll… I would conservatively put the cost of reopening for Empire at about $70,000, and 5 & 10 at about $55,000. That’s my back-of-an-envelope [estimate]. Do I have $125,000 on hand right now? No. Does the fact that I employ almost as many people in Georgia as Caterpillar does matter? No. Does Caterpillar get millions of dollars? Yes.”
P.S. – Can’t list all the gofundme’s and local campaigns here, but if you see big government-focused efforts, please do send my way. For example: Reader Joyce Tang sent along a California-specific change.org effort for state aid that is gaining broad industry support around the Bay Area. Check that out here.
And for a conservative perspective, here are some words of inspiration from David Burke on Fox Business: “During trying times, it has helped me to look to the past for answers or encouragement. How did we ever accomplish all the things we have in the United States? It was a little more than 200 years ago when our patriots defied the most powerful country in the world, and won to begin the United States of America as we know it today. What we need to do now is to dig deeper into our hearts, be creative, be resourceful, be resilient, be imaginative like our forefathers. We need to listen and adhere to what our government is telling us to do.”
Oceans rise. Empires fall. We have seen each other through it all. etc. etc.
And for the far other side of the spectrum, there’s artist / chef / restaurateur Tunde Wey’s ten part series, “DON’T BAIL OUT THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY” on Instagram. Practical alternatives suggested in Part 9.
Tell PR: The Media – Add Eater to the long list of establishments permanently changed by COVID-19. For the past several years, their pitch guidelines have read in part (and in bold): “We cannot possibly overemphasize that we do not cover recipes and home cooking at all.” Yesterday, they launched Eater at Home, which looks like a mix of home cooking basics and a series of online “events” for restaurant enthusiasts stuck at home. NB: Legally, this means their entire pitch guidelines doc is out the window, and you should feel free to send every idea you’ve ever had their way. I believe I speak for the entire editorial team at Eater when I say: Bring the kink.
P.S. Forgot to include Friday, but Sam Sifton was added to the New York Times masthead last week. To celebrate, Sam has asked that everyone with his email address send notes in the following format: “Congrats, big guy! How you holding up? Wild times, huh? Anyway… [coronavirus-related recipe idea with attached high-res photos if possible].”
Some sad news – In Washington, “Family, friends and the legion of fans of Seattle’s Kona Kitchen are mourning the death of Elizabeth Mar, the beloved matriarch of the local Hawaiian restaurant classic. After a two-week illness, she succumbed to the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, at the age of 72. Her husband, Robert Mar, age 78, died of the virus on Thursday night.” Brief obit via Bethany Jean Clement in the Seattle Times.
And in Illinois, “Chicago’s restaurant community is in mourning after the death of chef and restaurateur Rodelio Aglibot. Family and friends posted that the internationally known chef, known for River North Pan-Asian hotspot Sunda and other Chicago restaurants, died Saturday of cardiac arrest... He was 52.” Elias Cepeda has that write-up in Eater.
Awards Season – “On March 30th, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards entirely abandoned plans for rankings for 2020... The awards ceremony, scheduled for June 2 in Antwerp, Belgium, will be postponed until next year. The voting… though already completed, won’t be revealed, even online.” Story in Bloomberg via Kate Krader and Richard Vines. Reaction from Ana Roš of Hiša Franko: “My team are crying… We’ve been looking forward to this so much. At this time, we need support more than ever. Gastronomy is not a cemetery. Michelin just canceled the stars for Slovenia, and now 50 Best? We’ve worked so hard this year, and now we will never know how we did. How am I supposed to motivate my team now?” A question worth asking, both now, and years ago…
And that’s it for today. Tomorrow is April 1st, so if you need someone to listen to your April Fools ideas and tell you no, I’m your huckleberry.
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 substantial investments in infrastructure to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. – I usually look these over to try to make sure there’s a diversity of voices before hitting send. If there isn’t, I try to figure out who’s fault that is. Meantime, especially interested in including a greater variety of perspectives on federal-level relief efforts if / when you see them… email@example.com. Thanks!