Cohen and Foster and Nakano opine, a Post & Beam profile, Google hacks, and more...

Family Meal - Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Hello Tuesday,

Quick note to new subscribers this week: If you signed up because of my recent piece on Gaggan, welcome! You are joining thousands of industry types who start every Tuesday and Friday by opening Family Meal and wondering who the hell I think I am.

I’m Andrew, and when this little roundup of (mostly U.S.) news for and about the restaurant industry is good, it’s because I’m a master content curator with one of the sharpest minds online today. When it’s mediocre, it’s because all my friends in food media are lazy, navel-gazing hacks.

I don’t make the rules (but will aggregate them for spare change).

Let’s get to it…

The Pay-Per-Click – The New Food Economy’s H. Claire Brown isn’t the first to call out Google for its latest not-so-upfront restaurant ordering “growth hack” (here’s Street Fight calling it “reprehensible” last month for example), but her piece from Friday is maybe the most thorough takedown so far: “Earlier this summer, Google introduced a prominent blue ‘Order Online’ button on Search and Maps results for many restaurants. The button allows users to order delivery in just a few motions: Click the button, select your meal from a menu on the next screen, and receive your food in half an hour or so… There’s just one problem: To launch this service, Google has partnered with major delivery companies like DoorDash, Postmates, and ChowNow. That means the big blue button bypasses restaurants’ own online ordering systems, automatically generating a hefty commission for Google’s business partners. In some cases, the button links to delivery platforms that don’t even have a contract with the restaurant.”

P.S. – If you’re in need of a little delivery wars schadenfreude, Reuters reported yesterday that UberEats “will terminate its service in South Korea… facing intense competition in the world's No.4 online food delivery market.” Bet that’s a hefty little write off…

Tell PR – Chef op-eds: So hot right now. A quick rundown of the past week’s first person pieces:

In NYC, Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen is on Eater talking about a “necessary shift” to higher wages: “Because I’m a woman, and therefore prone to hysteria and unable to understand logic, economics, or how to run a business, I’m allowed to say irrational things like: The minimum wage increase isn’t the sole cause of our problems. It’s not even the main cause.”

In SF, Jay Foster of the short-lived Isla Vida, and now downsized Farmerbrown, is on Bon Appétit discussing how “Running Restaurants in San Francisco Made Me Rethink Everything I Thought I Knew About Success…. We were several weeks into Isla Vida’s opening when we knew we’d have to close Farmerbrown…. We were a $3 million company at the time, but even that wasn’t enough to survive in San Francisco.… Looking back to when I first started out in the restaurant industry, I had defined success as becoming established, having your restaurants, and being a pillar in your community. Now, success merely means surviving.”

And in Food & Wine, “Richie Nakano talks with fellow chefs about how they are coping with exhaustion, and if it's still worth it.” With a focus on working parents and cameos from tired people like Sarah Rich, Ryan Lachaine, Gregory Gourdet, and Philip Speer.

That Tech $$$ – Per Roland Li in the SF Chronicle, “Rooftop dining is coming to Salesforce Park above the Transbay transit center in downtown San Francisco. JSSK Group leased the dining and lounge space and will combine Californian cooking with Japanese influences… Chef Shotaro ‘Sho’ Kamio, who owns the acclaimed Berkeley restaurant Iyasare, and his partner, Josh Sigel, are behind the new restaurant. It doesn’t have a name or opening date, but more details will come out early next year.”

That Hotel $$$ – In NYC, “Reynard, the restaurant that opened in 2012 at the Wythe Hotel, is no more. [Sunday’s] brunch service was its last. Next month, the renovated space will open as Le Crocodile, a French brasserie run by Aidan O’Neal and Jake Leiber, co-chef-owners of Greenpoint’s Chez Ma Tante, in partnership with restaurateur Jon Neidich, whose Golden Age Hospitality group took over the hotel’s food and beverage operations in February.” Details via Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld in Grubstreet. (Love that headline photo — courtesy of Le Crocodile — of the team “on a water break in Paris.” Very approachable!)

The Profile Treatment – This Amy Scattergood piece in the LA Times is ostensibly about “how Post & Beam, the successful black-owned South L.A. restaurant, stayed in local hands,” but it’s just as much a profile of restaurateur Brad Johnson, with starring roles from chefs John Cleveland and Govind Armstrong. The CV section, for the unfamiliar: “Johnson’s resume is a long one, spanning 30 years as a restaurateur, first in New York and then in Los Angeles. That resume includes running the Roxbury (the setting of “Night at the Roxbury”); years with Georgia (notable partners Denzel Washington, Norm Nixon — whom Johnson met while playing basketball at UMass — and Debbie Allen), site, Johnson notes with heavy irony, of the O.J. Simpson defense team post-verdict party); BLT Steak with chef Laurent Tourondel; and Willie Jane, the Venice restaurant Johnson ran with Armstrong that closed in 2016.”

For Design Fans – DeZeen announced their 2019 awards shortlist last week, with (on the F&B side of things) links to old photo spreads for the very millennial pink Humble Pizza in London, the big log ‘n poured concrete Radhaus in SF,  a café in Mumbai made of recycled cardboard, all the arches and curves at Bar Lotus in Shanghai, and this “Antwerp cathedral turned into modern gothic café.” I need some help understanding the allure of the wood box vibe of that last one. Looks more like a temporary festival pop-up structure than a permanent bar. Then again, where better to ponder the impermanence of things than an old Belgian church slinging pricey cappuccinos to hipsters (read: heathens)?

And Last and least – Copywriting is hard, and I would certainly not want my rough draft notebooks getting passed around by peers, so it is with a heart full of love and a head full of bad ideas that I say to the very fancy restaurant fund that left the tagline “Investing in the Aristocracy of Craft” in their website source code, a word of advice: Take a step back. Invest in the Meritocracy of Edits.

And that’s it for today.

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

Oh yeah, and there’s a better than average chance I’ll be in Beirut from Monday to Thursday next week. Never been, so if you’ve got tips for stories I should write, people I should meet (you?), things I should do, or places I should eat and/or drink, please let me know at andrew@thisfamilymeal.com, or just reply to this. Thanks!

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