Eater's 11, Meyer's SPAC, Yelp's 'gram, Goldbelly's TV, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, November 12th, 2021
As usual, Tuesday’s paywalled Family Meal is copy/pasted at bottom for those of you who don’t pay to get this thing. If you’d like to get Tuesday editions on Tuesdays…
Let’s get to it…
The Big Lists – Eater is out with its big “11 Best New Restaurants in America” list this week, with editor Hillary Dixler Canavan clarifying: “In light of the workarounds required of the past 18 months, Eater’s nationwide staff considered any place our readers could reliably get food as a restaurant.” So, without further ado, the 11 Best New Places Readers Can Reliably Get Food in America are: “Albi, Washington, D.C.; The Anchovy Bar, San Francisco, CA; Baobab Fare, Detroit, MI; Bridgetown Roti, Los Angeles, CA; Dhamaka, New York, NY; Distant Relatives, Austin, TX; Eeva, Philadelphia, PA; Fonda Lupita, Sanford, NC; Kasama, Chicago, IL; Oma’s Hideaway, Portland, OR; and Over Under, Miami, FL.” Congrats, all!
Oh, and if you scroll all the way to the end there’s a bonus set of lists of “local favorites” (runners up?) with two or three restaurants each in Eater’s 20 US cities. Congrats to you too!
The SPAC – Private, then public, then private again, fast food company Panera Bread is going public again with a little help from a St. Louis dad. Clint Rainey has a decent explanation in Fast Company: “The arrangement involves Panera filing for an IPO—but also, in no particular order, Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer’s SPAC [Special Purpose Acquisition Company] investing in the chain, Meyer himself throwing in an undisclosed amount of his own personal fortune, and [current Panera parent company] JAB agreeing to invest additional money if investors in Meyer’s already public SPAC bail and sell shares before the Panera deal closes.”
It’s a complicated bit of corporate rigmarole, especially given that SPACs aren’t supposed to invest in companies involved in IPOs — they’re supposed to be the IPO (more or less). But all you need to know is that Danny Meyer will become “Lead Independent Director” of Panera’s board, and that his SPAC trades on the NYSE as “HUGS” (which is a shame because the acronym for Meyer Unrestricted Restaurant Development Enterprise Reinvestment was right there).
InstaYelp Yelpstagram Yeta? – Press Release: “Yelp launches new home feed experience on iOS.” Translation: Yelp looks like Instagram now. “For the first time ever, Yelp iOS users will be able to scroll through a vertical feed that features visual content from local restaurants in their city, including Popular Dishes, popular photos from consumers and updates directly from restaurants. The content shown on Yelp’s home feed is contextualized to users based on various factors, including their proximity to the business, the recency of the content and the popularity of a dish in reviews.” There is, of course, “machine learning” involved, and a note about how restaurants that pay for other Yelp services will “gain greater visibility than ever before.” Teaching those machines ain’t free…
Food Network 2.0 – Along the same lines as that Yelp announcement, nation-wide restaurant food shipper Goldbelly is launching “Goldbelly TV,” a video platform where viewers can buy what they see. The Hollywood Reporter’s Degen Pener says, “Veteran TV producer Art Edwards (co-creator of Cake Boss) has joined Goldbelly, overseeing new production arm Goldbelly Studios.”
As Expedite’s Kristen Hawley points out, Cake Boss is the show “that vaulted New Jersey baker Buddy Valastro into the national spotlight. What’s Valastro doing now? Well, funny you should ask, he’s created a Sweet Potato Pie Dream Cake available for nationwide delivery exclusively on DoorDash and Caviar via its just-announced nationwide shipping feature.” Appearing soon on DoorDash TV?
The End of an Era – Headline in New Orleans: “Upperline, classic New Orleans restaurant closed in pandemic, won't reopen; sale possible.” Seems JoAnn Clevenger has decided to retire, and NOLA(dot)com’s Ian McNulty has a fun exit-interview / profile of her (behind a paywall) this week. It’s packed with a personal and quintessentially New Orleans history: “She fought a legal battle to allow flower vendor carts in the French Quarter, and she ran a small fleet of them. She had a sno-ball stand in the French Market and eventually opened a vintage clothing boutique called Matilda’s on Decatur Street. Through the store, she made the costumes for the musical ‘One Mo' Time,’ a New Orleans production about Black vaudeville set in the 1920s. She knew little about costume design, but she did know the musical's creator and director, Vernel Bagernis, because he worked at one of her favorite restaurants, Vaucresson’s Creole Café (from the same family that today runs Vaucresson Sausage Co.).”
And re the space, McNulty reports Clevenger and her family “plan to put the real estate up for sale, and, if things work out just right, perhaps also sell the business… with caveats. ‘We would sell Upperline with the name and the recipes but I only want to sell to someone who is not going to damage what we built here.’”
The Media (Opportunity) – The Portland Press Herald is hiring a “Food & dining reporter…. to cover the world-class food and restaurant scene here… from trend stories and Sunday features to investigations, data-driven journalism, breaking news and profiles.” NB: per the announcement, “This is not a job for a rookie.”
The Media Too – I’m just going to say it and make them confirm or deny: The Eater Digest podcast is donezo. As far as I can tell the last original episode came out at the end of May, and what was billed as a short break should probably now be considered a quiet death. RIP to one of the few podcasts mostly focused on restaurant news. (Amanda Kludt and Daniel Geneen, please prove me wrong or do a farewell episode.)
The Critics – DC’s Washington City Paper announced its first-ever “carryout critic” is DMV native Crystal Fernanders. If you see that name on a pickup ticket, note she does not enjoy peas (“Like, genuinely hate them. Ewww.”)
And last but not least: The Gifts – Everyone’s putting out gift guides, so I might as well let you know that I have officially reopened the Family Meal Store on Shopify. I cannot guarantee these things will get to you by the holiday, but… right this way to some of the greatest ever industry gifts ever designed by me.
Do you have a friend who gets all the attention in the press? Or a friend who was recently cancelled? Either one will get a hilarious kick out of the “Food Media Darling” mug! Or maybe you’d like to sip your coffee from a ceramic that lets Instagram professionals know you don’t have a lot of time this morning? Try the “A Group of Influencers Is Called a Comp” collection.
The possibilities are endless (there are 14 items) at the Family Meal Store! Merry Holidays!
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s Family Meal, which is copy / pasted below as usual. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday for next Family Meal, and everyone else on Friday.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or HUGS to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Family Meal from Tuesday, November 9th, 2021:
Michelin FL money, DoorDashBelly, Shake Shack tips, and more...
Let’s get to it…
Michelin Season – The price tag for Michelin Florida is becoming clearer. A spokesperson for the state tourism board writes: “VISIT FLORIDA is currently supporting the partnership announcement through communication, digital and marketing efforts on VISIT FLORIDA’s channels. Now that the launch announcement has been made, we are in the process of finalizing a contract between VISIT FLORIDA and MICHELIN for $150,000. This amount will cover a portion of the costs of production incurred in creating a Guide in a new territory.”
That said… Very important to note that there is a strong chance this $150k is just a small portion of the total amount of money Michelin is getting out of Florida for the new guide. Tampa, Orlando, and Miami each have their own tourism boards, and each is presumably in on this deal in some financial capacity. In the email I got, Visit Florida made a point of including its numbers on what visitors spent on F&B in Tampa ($1B), Orlando ($7.3B), and Miami ($4.9B) in 2019, which feels like stage-setting for, “See, this was a great deal!” talk. And it might be a great deal! But we won’t know till we see all the invoices.
The Tips – Looks like Danny Meyer’s tipping / anti-tipping pendulum is in full reverse swing right now. NRN’s Ron Ruggless reports Shake Shack is now in the very early, very small scale stages of testing tips: “‘For many, many years, our guests have said, “Can I give you a tip?”’ [CEO Randy Garutti] said, ‘And we've always said, “No. No. We're good. We don't do that here.”’ However, with guest pressure and the hope for higher pay levels, Garutti said the brand is testing a version in two Shake Shack restaurants.” (P.S. - Love the use of we there, Randy! People trying to tip you in the C-suite, big guy?)
That (Nationwide) Delivery $$$ – “Last week, DoorDash quietly debuted nationwide delivery on its platform, giving customers the ability to have everything from pie to fresh flowers delivered from thousands of miles away. The company’s new nationwide shipping offering seems like a move directly aimed at the neck of Goldbelly, which has been delivering culinary icons like fresh lobster rolls from the Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine, and brisket from Austin’s famed Franklin Barbecue since it was founded in 2013.” Story from Amy McCarthy in Eater. NB: Near the end it gets both a little too bearish on DoorDash’s sign up rate and a little too bullish on GoldBelly’s market stronghold than is probably fair (especially given the aside on DoorDash’s successful muscling out of Grubhub)…
Meanwhile, wanna know where the big money on delivery is going? Headline in Techcrunch: “Autonomous delivery startup Nuro lands investment from Google, Tiger Global in new $600 million round.” That puts total funding at $2.1B per Crunchbase, and while obviously not all of the dollars here are interested in food delivery, Kroger and Chipotle are both investors.
Mandate Update – “A federal appeals court suspended the Biden administration’s new vaccine requirement for private companies, delivering a major blow for one of the White House’s signature attempts to increase the number of vaccinations to corral the pandemic… The vaccine requirement… ordered companies [including restaurants] of 100 or more employees to institute mandatory vaccinations for their staff or weekly testing, with a Jan. 4 deadline.” Details from Eli Rosenberg in the Washington Post.
The Critics – From SF Chronicle food and wine section editor Serena Dai yesterday: “The Chronicle’s food and wine team is excited to announce our new associate restaurant critic: Cesar Hernandez.” Background: Hernandez hails from LA, and “Before [he became a regular contributor to LAist; Thrillist; and L.A. Taco], Hernandez worked at a McDonald’s, as a taxi dispatcher and as an Amazon delivery driver. Since 2018, he has also co-hosted a podcast about television called Pilot Boiz. You can follow Hernandez on Instagram and Twitter.”
Not sure if he’s trying to go at least a little more anonymous than his counterpart Soleil Ho, but good photos for the host stand are available near the bottom of this first-person LAist article, and via the Wayback Machine’s capture of his LA Taco profile (switched to an illustrated avatar just before this announcement?).
Dai says Hernandez is “already making plans to move to the Bay Area and will start eating with us soon.” Good luck, all!
Oh, and sorry I missed this last month in Charleston: “Parker Milner named food editor of The Post and Courier.” He’s a former pro hockey player from Pittsburgh who replaced Hanna Raskin in early October after leading the Charleston City Paper food section for a year and a half. Instagram and Twitter here.
And last and least: The Letdown – Close readers of this newsletter will note that I did not, despite much bravado, get the associate critic job at the SF Chronicle. So it goes. But I am not a quitter. I am attaching below the cover letter I sent Hearst with my application. If you run a major American newspaper and need a critic, I have equally smart and strong opinions about food nationwide. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
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 communication, digital and marketing efforts on VISIT FLORIDA’s channels to email@example.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!
ATTN: SERENA DAI
Willing to Relocate to Sausalito
August 18th, 2021
To Whom It May Concern,
The word restaurant comes from the Olde English rest-aur-ant, where “rest” meant rest, “aur” meant or, and “ant” meant eat. Rest or eat.
I do not rest, but I do eat. And write. Strong, attention-grabbing, complete sentences. About eating.
I saw on Twitter — which I only go to sometimes — that the San Francisco Chronicle is looking for an associate critic to balance out the tainted influence of noted Thomas Keller apologist Soleil Ho. I do not blame you. I am the right person for the job.
The job description says the best candidates will be comfortable expressing strong opinions about SF dining. Let me tell you some of mine:
The French fries at the Battery are too hot! Chef should let them cool before he gilds them.
Domoic acid is an STD. Crabs’ own fault.
The your-Korean-dad guy gets all the attention, but his coffee shop cofounder is “a licensed Q-Grader and credentialed Q Trainer.” Are you fucking kidding me? Peel back the layers, sheeple!
My first headline will be: “Marin Is The New Tahoe, At Least When It Comes To Taco Salads!” and for my efforts, I would like $69,420 per year and the Instagram handle: @SausalitoBadBoysEatFree_SFChronicle.
Looking forward to continuing the conversation.
Have a blessed day.