Delivery red flags, Safe Silverton, Saint Olvera, GoFundMe later, and more...

Family Meal - Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Hello Tuesday,

A holiday weekend throttled down our firehose of news slightly, but still feel like I’m constantly behind and trying to catch up. Thanks so much to everyone who’s been sending tips and notes! It’s a huge help and much, much appreciated, even if what you send doesn’t wind up here (I’m probably working on it).

Let’s get to it…

What Consumers Are Reading – Headline in Eater LA: “As Health Concerns Mount, Prominent Los Angeles Restaurants Turn Off Their Delivery Apps.” Per Farley Elliott, “Even as they adhere to strict sanitation practices, restaurant owners worry that their delivery drivers aren’t maintaining the same standards.” Elliott does add that, “Every restaurant owner Eater talked to for this story was quick to note that the decision to stop offering delivery was a personal one, and that they could not say whether or not other restaurants should follow suit.”

BUT, that nuance gets a bit lost when restaurants blast their concerns to entire email lists, lists which almost certainly include other restaurants’ customers’ emails too. “Last week, [Texas-inspired restaurant chainlet] HomeState sent out an email to its customers stating... ‘Effective immediately, we are no longer able to offer delivery through third-party companies… While they provide a valuable service (and much-needed revenue), we have lost confidence in their ability to maintain safe standards during this viral pandemic. It is too risky to entrust your food with someone who may not share our total commitment to safe-handling practices, and it undermines all our efforts to keep our team and guests healthy. It is a risk we are no longer willing to take.’”

Implied q: Are you?

What Voters Should Be Reading – Headline in the NYT: “The Farm-to-Table Connection Comes Undone. A direct pipeline to chefs that took decades to build has been cut off by the coronavirus, leaving small farmers and ranchers with food they can’t sell.” Per Kim Severson: “The loss in sales could run as high as $689 million, with much higher costs in jobs and other businesses that make up the farm-to-table economic ecosystem, according to a report compiled in March by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.” Nothing like photos and stories of struggling local farmers to pull at the All American heartstrings of those who might not otherwise be sympathetic toward the world of mid to high-priced dining…

And for the food waste crowd, there’s this brutal bit of reporting from David Yaffe-Bellany and Michael Corkery: “Dumped Milk, Smashed Eggs, Plowed Vegetables: Food Waste of the Pandemic. With restaurants, hotels, and schools closed, many of the nation’s largest farms are destroying millions of pounds of fresh goods that they can no longer sell… The amount of waste is staggering. The nation’s largest dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, estimates that farmers are dumping as many as 3.7 million gallons of milk each day. A single chicken processor is smashing 750,000 unhatched eggs every week.”

The Cap – “As struggling San Francisco restaurants pin their hopes of staying open on delivery and takeout orders, city officials have stepped in to lower the commissions charged by the makers of apps like Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, Caviar and Postmates…. On Friday, Mayor London Breed announced a temporary cap of 15% on commissions. The cap will remain in effect for the duration of the local state of emergency, or until restaurants are able to open again for dine-in service.” Full story from Justin Phillips in the Chronicle. ICYMI, in the run up to the emergency order, Grubhub sent an email to all their Bay Area customers asking them to call the mayor to oppose what Grubhub called, “a limit on a restaurant’s ability to pay for delivery fees.” Asked about that phrasing in a follow-up interview, a Grubhub spokesperson waved her hand and whispered, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

The Gamble – In the rush to sell gift cards, I’ve been surprised not to see more raffle-style fundraising. Was thinking we’d see numbered tickets for things like in-home dinners, private parties, etc., but bar Proof in Charleston has gone all in with a much more aggressive prize: “For a mere $30, participants will receive a $100 bar tab every day the bar is open for a year.” Here’s hoping people buy chances (and the winner is reasonable), because per Eater’s Erin Perkins on Friday, “So far, they’ve sold 120 tickets.”

Some Good News – In LA, Nancy Silverton has been given a clean bill of health after her brief bout with COVID, while in London, Keith McNally is out of the hospital (and clearly unchanged by near-death because his thank you note to hospital staff ends in a bad joke about how nurses have sex with patients…).

The Hold – Forgot to include this on Friday, but an important FYI to those of you trying to crowdfund your way through this crisis: Eater’s Erika Adams warns not to count on quick access to GoFundMe accounts. “Some groups that have raised tens of thousands of dollars for their staff have yet to be able to start withdrawals on the platform, despite repeated efforts and automated warnings from GoFundMe that the funds may be reverted back to the donators if cash isn’t withdrawn quickly enough…. Ariel Arce, of [NYC] nightlife hot spots Tokyo Record Bar and Air’s Champagne Parlor, started a GoFundMe for her staff March 12; within a week, the campaign had reached its stated goal of $20,000. When Arce went to get the money, she was notified that the earliest she could start withdrawing funds was March 31 — even though GoFundMe stipulates that, once banking information is confirmed, withdrawals can start within one to seven business days. Each subsequent day that Arce tried to withdraw funds, that start date kept getting pushed back... She ended up finally receiving her funds, after many emails with GoFundMe’s support team, on Tuesday, April 7.”

The Profile Treatment – Just when I thought this crisis might begin to claw back some of the media mysticism around top chefs, shifting at least a little focus from the creative side to their roles as businesspeople, this profile in T Magazine came through to set me straight. Per Ligaya Mishan, Enrique Olvera is a “visionary” “prophet, defying convention,” who has a life story “like a hero in a myth.” In an article ostensibly about his “disciples,” you’ll have to wait until paragraph 6 (out of 9) before we hear anything about them beyond references to their love for Olvera (sample excerpt: “Their allegiance — to Olvera and his mission of showing the greatness of Mexican cuisine — goes deeper: a tattoo on the heart”).

I guess what I’m saying is: Don’t worry, folks. If we can make it past all this, there will still be a spotlight searching for some of you on the other side, and it will still have a halo effect (in both senses of the phrase).

And that’s it for today!

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

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