BentoBox bought, Propane booted, Bateau boosted, Barzelay beaned, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, October 22, 2021

Hello Friday,

First, please remember that this past Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy / pasted at bottom as usual. Paying subscribers got it on Tuesday. If you want to be like them…

Friends. It has been a stressful last few weeks. And maybe these last few Family Meals have been choppy because of that. But I am happy to report that today at lunch, my two-year-old son — at the tail-end of his school’s Fall break and mispronouncing “yummy” like we let him watch Swingers last night — started pointing one by one at the rare, midday ice creams on the table, stating matter-of-factly, “That one’s money. And that one’s money. And that one’s money….”

Ups and downs. Strikes and gutters. Ate some ice cream. It was money.

Let’s get to it…

Quick Tech Roundup (“All-In-One-Place!”) – “BentoBox, the restaurant website builder, announced it will be acquired by Fiserv, a payments company that’s also parent to the Clover point of sale system. It’s the latest acquisition meant to bolster a company’s complete set of tech offerings to restaurants — the same do-it-all ethos that’s driven Toast’s recent success.” Details via Kristen Hawley in Expedite. Terms not disclosed, but Hawley says BentoBox brings Fiserve “a customer roster of 7,500 brands across 14,000 restaurant locations, per a press release.”

Also in Expedite: “Resy plans to pull its Android app.” Customers apparently hated it, so seems Resy will have to start over from scratch (with Amex money this time). “[The app] has a solid (and I mean solid) one-star rating in the Google Play store.”

And for your IPO / M&A crystal balls: What does it mean that ChowNow has hired Andre Mancl as CFO? Per that press release, “Mancl joins ChowNow from Credit Suisse, where he served as the Global co-head of Internet Investment Banking… Mancl has worked on more than 100 investment banking transactions, including the IPOs of Lyft, LegalZoom, AppLovin, Snap, TheRealReal, GoDaddy, Wix, Eventbrite, and Upwork.” Ask for some stock if they give you a chef-tech consulting deal?

The Chill – In NYC, “The temporary measure that allowed restaurants to heat their outdoor setups using propane heaters will not be returning this year, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed to Crains New York on Wednesday. The decision was made in regards to fire safety, according to the publication… To offset the costs of propane heaters purchased last year… de Blasio is offering small businesses a $5,000 grant to invest in natural gas or electric-powered heaters this year.” That link above hits a paywall at Crains. Luke Fortney’s summary in Eater NY is here.

The Profile Treatment – Congrats to the team at Bateau in Seattle for getting called iconoclasts (in a good way) underneath this NYT headline on Tuesday: “Beef Is a Problem. This Seattle Steakhouse Wants to Be Part of the Solution.” I have no reason to doubt that second sentence at all(!) but have to admit that in this era of exposés and endless caveats, I was surprised to read Brett Anderson write in the New York Times with such certitude about the restaurant’s sourcing, and call Bateau “nearly a genre of its own: a steakhouse that is also a critique of steakhouses, and a model of a better way forward.” Print that one out and frame it for the wall, folks!

Meanwhile… knives are out for the carcass of erstwhile “sustainable” meat darling Belcampo (See Tuesday’s FM below), with Bryan Mayer, Executive Director of The Butcher’s Guild not expressing a lot of sympathy on Instagram: “They have done great damage to the good meat movement. Which is strange to think and say since they were never a part of it...”

The Profile Treatment Too (For the Somm) – Not a profile of a wine country person, but of wine country itself: “Healdsburg was once a sleepy country town. Now it’s getting multi-million dollar mega developments.” A visual one from Esther Mobley and team at the SF Chronicle, best scrolled on a big screen. “Today’s Healdsburg boasts three-Michelin-starred dining and a resort with rooms that cost thousands of dollars a night. A flurry of development, including multiple luxury condominium projects in which a single unit could cost as much as $6.5 million, is still underway. If Healdsburg once looked like Napa’s country cousin, it now looks a lot more like, well, Napa.” With cameos from SingleThread, Montage Resort, Matheson, Little Saint (formerly The Shed, and now being redone by Ken Fulk), Dry Creek Kitchen, Cyrus, wineries Williams SelyemRochioli, and Jordan, and more…

The Suits – AP headline: “Restaurateur whose business was raided by sheriff gets $5M.” Dateline: Phoenix. “Maricopa County officials approved a settlement Wednesday with a restaurant owner in metro Phoenix who claimed in a lawsuit that then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office had defamed him and violated his rights about seven years ago when investigating whether employees at his restaurants used fraudulent IDs to get jobs.” Restaurant’s name: “Uncle Sam’s.”

For Design Fans – Eater has an entire package out this week called “Restaurant Design; Right Now — and What’s Next.” Exciting for design fans, right? Meh. It’s mostly a collection of personal essays and underwhelming and/or PR photos. BUT there is a list of “Who’s Defining Restaurant Design Now” by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans, including definer designers: Roman and Williams (Le Coucou, The NoMad London, La Mercerie); AvroKO (SingleThread, Momotaro, Nan Bei); Bells + Whistles (Animae), Nina Magon (51 Fifteenth); and Montalba Architects (Nobu Malibu, Cassia). Worth a read.

The Media (Opportunity) – Former Dallas Observer critic Brian Reinhart, now in a new columnist role at the Dallas Morning News, emailed to say: “Loads of opportunities for people to come be food writers with me here in Dallas! And by loads I mean probably 2. The Dallas Morning News brought me on as ‘columnist’ (a revision/expansion of the traditional critic role) and is looking for a full-time staff writer who can do enterprise, business, & investigative reporting on the food industry.” The other opportunity he’s referring to is the editor job at Eater Dallas / Houston, which Amy McCarthy just left to move into a Staff Writer role at Eater. No job posting there yet. Good luck, all!

And last and least: The Bean PR – After Soleil Ho wrote last week about viral Tik Tok pranks centered on calling restaurants and asking if they have beans, someone at Lazy Bear in SF decided the right thing to do would be to let everyone know that that restaurant has also been fielding bean pranks, and got Dave Barzelay to tell the Chronicle’s Elena Kadvany that he loves bean pranks. “He finds the prank calls ‘hilarious.’ ‘If bugging (the restaurant about beans) makes us laugh, then I’m fine with it. That’s the least annoying thing that happens at the restaurant,’ he said.”

So… Congrats to whoever’s answering phones at Lazy Bear this week! The boss loves bean pranks. Hope you do too.

And that’s it for today. Except of course for last Tuesday’s FM, which is copy / pasted below ICYMI.

I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else in one week for next Family Meal. If you’d like to get Tuesday’s on Tuesday…

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or beans 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 the Family Meal that went out to paying subscribers on Tuesday, October 19th:

Belcampo collapses, Regan moves on, LAT Food still acting, and more...

Hello Tuesday,

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

Subscribe now

We are dangerously close to Halloween, and somewhere in America, a chef or magazine editor is convincing himself that he’s the guy who can get away with that costume. Be a friend. Tell him no.

Let’s get to it…

The Fallout – Headline in Eater LA: “Farm-to-Fable Meat Merchant Belcampo Is All But Done. Just four months after multiple employees revealed that the sustainable agriculture icon was passing off commodity meat products in place of its own, the company is ‘ending its branded e-commerce, retail, and restaurant operations.’” Maybe too soon to say which straw was last, but per Eater LA’s Matthew Kang: “The Belcampo Meat Company as we know it is done: It has quietly deleted all of its social media accounts; deactivated its OpenTable reservations in LA and the Bay Area; and co-founder Anya Fernald has removed any statement of affiliation with the company from her Instagram profile. Sources close to the company say employees were told via text message that their jobs were terminated today….”

Reminder (in the article): “This past summer, the company suffered a spectacular fall from grace after Evan Reiner, an LA butcher and former Belcampo employee, posted a series of Instagram videos alleging that company was passing off meat from other companies as its own. Multiple employees then described to Eater LA a yearlong pattern of mislabeling meat in at least two locations, during which the stores routinely sold customers cheaper commodity products, including factory farmed meat, in place of its own signature premium cuts — but at the same premium prices.”

Trust is a tough thing to win back! On a totally unrelated note, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island closes for the season on November 21st this year, and it looks like rooms are rare, but there are at least a few tables available right up until they winter-proof the place. Daniela Soto-Innes and whoever runs the Inn’s Instagram are posting happily about ingredients and the farm, but what will the offseason — and the next reservations block release — mean for the limits of food media exposés? Stay tuned (to someone local reporting about it)…

The Departure – In Chicago, “Iliana Regan, the acclaimed chef and owner behind Elizabeth, has officially departed from her Lincoln Square restaurant. Regan, who opened Elizabeth in 2012, has sold the restaurant to Tim Lacey, a longtime collaborator who has operated it since Regan and her wife Anna Hamlin moved to Michigan in 2019 where they own a bed and breakfast called Milkweed Inn that’s sold out through 2022... Lacey and Regan met 15 years ago while the two worked a Trio, the Evanston restaurant where other stars like Gale Gand and Grant Achatz also worked.” Regan told Eater’s Ashok Selvam and Aimee Levitt she and Lacey had been discussing this kind of transition since 2019.

The Media – ATTN restaurant PR and food media freelancers, there are some new editors in town:

At Saveur, Ellen Fort is now Senior Editor for “commerce.” She tweets: “That means I’ll be editing/assigning/writing guides and stories around culinary goods, services, and more. So! Please tell me all your favorite things immediately. And if you're a writer who loves to go deep on products and reviews, please hit me up.”

And in CA, former LA Taco editor Daniel Hernandez announced on Twitter that he is joining the LA Times Food desk as Acting Deputy Editor. He will report to Acting Food Editor Alice Short (who replaced Food Editor Peter Meehan when he resigned under pressure way back in July 2020), and fills a gap left vacant since Andrea Chang was reassigned shortly after Meehan left. In other words, we’re closing in fast on a year and a half of “Acting” editorial leadership in the food section of the top paper in the major American city that very much likes to call itself the greatest food city in the country.

Meanwhile, SF Gate EIC Grant Marek just announced his site is looking for a full-time Food Editor too. If you’re counting, that means Eater SF, the SF Chronicle, and SF Gate are all looking to fill food writing / editing roles right now. Very good news for Bay Area restaurants and food businesses looking to get their stories out there!

For Design Fans – This Rey Lopez photo spread of DC’s new Ilili is the rare night-but-bright dining room pictorial that really helps the colors pop. And, boy, are there colors! Look, I’m not going to pretend doves with energy efficient light bulbs for heads are my style, and as far as I can see, that blue and white floor pattern may start to wear out its visual welcome around square foot number two thousand or so, but... There is something about this place that makes me want to make a reservation for myself and some of Michael Pollan’s new fungi research pals…

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 commodity meat products 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!