EMP's margins, Wine's drops, Cox's bazaar, Critic's coats, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, January 21, 2022
And hello to working parents everywhere! Just a week back into Zoom school here and I’ve already lost my mind and gained a handlebar mustache. My son and I just had about a 20 minute argument about which direction people write in English. If there are typos here, please remember:
.tseb ruo gniod lla era eW
Oh, and if you’re not a paid subscriber, Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy/pasted below for you as usual. If that’s not good enough…
Let’s get to it…
The Hike – Headline in Robb Report: “NYC’s Eleven Madison Park Is Reinstating Tipping. The… $335 tasting menu will no longer be inclusive of service.” Eater NY’s Luke Fortney got the news first, but RR’s Jeremy Repanich got the quotes: “‘When we reinstitute gratuities, we will be able to adjust the hourly pay of our food service team as a result of their wages being supplemented by the gratuities collected,’ restaurant spokesperson Ben Rosenthal told Robb Report. ‘Using that savings, we will increase the hourly pay of our kitchen team. Being able to pay our dining room and kitchen teams at Eleven Madison Park more competitively was our key motivation behind this adjustment.’”
Which… is exactly what EMP said they were trying to do when they eliminated tipping! Per their Friday email to customers (included in Fortney’s piece): “Like many of our peers, we originally embraced this model in an effort to ease the historic, often glaring financial stress between those that work in the kitchen and those in the dining room… After years of using this system, we learned that it does not positively provide for anyone in this new normal.”
Effectively raising prices by 20%, however… Massive positive potential all around!!!
For the Somm: The red flags – According to the latest Silicon Valley Bank report on the state of the wine industry: “In 2021, wine consumption in the U.S. did not grow. Wine lost market share to spirits, taking a nosedive into the negative for sales growth at liquor and retail stores, restaurant and bars, while spirits growth increased from 2020. Total wine sold wholesale, such as to supermarkets, also declined throughout most of the year…. That’s notable because restaurants and bars reopened last year, which should have been a boon for wine, [report author Rob McMillan said.” Story from Jess Lander in the SF Chronicle, with maybe the no-context kicker of the year so far…
“‘We’ve ridden the 65-plus-year-old for too long,’ he said. ‘There’s a saying in Texas. “When the horse is dead, get off.”’”
For the Bar: The big gig – “MGM Resorts announced [Tuesday] that Julian Cox will be stepping up as their executive director of beverage and corporate mixologist starting this month. [Cox’s] lengthy career spans projects in Chicago, Austin, and Los Angeles.... He’s worked with beloved LA restaurants like Tartine, Bestia, and Otium, as well as… Lettuce Entertain You Hospitality Group.” Details in Eater LV via Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme.
The Critics – It’s back to outdoors only for at least a handful of prominent restaurant critics, including Bill Addison at the LA Times, Soleil Ho at the SF Chronicle, and Pete Wells and Tejal Rao at the NYT. Addison, Wells, and Rao all give personal reasoning. In conversation with each other, Wells said his son has COVID (as of earlier this week), and Rao said she’s “terrified of losing my sense of smell again, among other things.” Addison says his partner “has a close family member living with a chronic illness whom he goes to see monthly.”
Ho wrote (ten days ago) that with many dining rooms closed anyway (“since the highly contagious omicron variant seems to take to indoor dining like a dolphin to water”) and lots of outdoor options still bumping, indoor info “isn’t very relevant to the public at the moment.”
Keep eyes peeled on the patios…
For Design Fans – Are we designing restaurants with COVID in mind, or are we ordering long communal tables like at the new Good Good Culture Club in SF (photospread by Patricia Chang in Eater SF)? I mean. Looks fun! Bright. Simple. Love the high school desk chairs (though maybe they could also use color?). And… Maybe there’s a fancy HVAC or something? That, or we’re placing more and more bets on a more normal new normal?
And last but not least: The Media – Eater is on a hiring spree this week, adding openings for editors in Las Vegas (full-time) and Dallas (part-time) on top of the Twin Cities (part-time) and DC (full-time) roles already out there (plus a few audience, social, and video gigs). Will keep you posted on who gets what (and what they look like)! I’ve started on my cover letter for the DC job, but so far the entirety of it is just a two-line riff on a slow service experience I had at IHOP one night:
3 in the morning, the pancake house.
I am a patient boy. I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait.
We shall see.
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s paid Family Meal, which is copy/pasted below. If you’re not from DC and/or you didn’t like that last joke, sorry! If you’re not a paid subscriber and wish you were getting Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays too…
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else on Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or historic, often glaring financial stress to email@example.com. 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!
Here begins the Family Meal that went out to paying subscribers on Tuesday, January 18th.
IRC's day, Edouardo's return, Management's toll, Schoenfeld gone, and more...
Here in Hong Kong, the big news is that not only can we not travel, not eat out at restaurants after 6PM, not go to gyms, pools, cinemas, etc. etc. and not send our young children to playgrounds, schools, or basically anywhere fun, but now… “Authorities have told pet shops and owners to hand over about 2,000 hamsters for euthanisation and temporarily suspended imports of small animals after finding evidence for the first time of possible animal-to-human transmission of Covid-19 in Hong Kong.”
Zero-COVID, baby! Pros and cons. (Mostly cons for hamsters.)
Let’s get to it…
The Big Day – Email from the Independent Restaurant Coalition: “TUESDAY: National Day of Action to Save Restaurants.” That’s today! The plan: “Look out for an email from us that morning as well as posts on Instagram explaining how we can unite our voices to deliver relief for not just those who were left behind by the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, but every single independent restaurant and bar impacted by the pandemic.”
Nothing says capital ‘A’ Action like an email teasing an email… Good luck out there today, folks!
The Comeback – Headline in the Seattle Times: “7 months after sexual misconduct accusations, ‘it’s time to reopen JuneBaby,’ Edouardo Jordan says.” Details via Jackie Variano: “On Friday… Jordan announced via Instagram that he is ready to reopen the Ravenna soul food eatery: ‘As someone who has been taught to stay the course through all of life’s obstacles, I’ve always kept moving, growing, and learning. I’ll continue to do just that, but with a clear lens, and renewed purpose. The future is unknown, but i do know it’s time to reopen JuneBaby — a small, Black-owned family restaurant that is my livelihood and my purpose.”
Jordan got a bunch of support for the comeback on his MLK-inspired Instagram post, but several commenters also said negative posts were being deleted. The gist of the positive notes seems to be: “No one is perfect. I’m hungry!”
The gist of the critiques is that Jordan has still never really apologized or fully dealt with the allegations (detailed here). That’s backed up by Variano in the Times, who says that after a couple attempts at lackluster apologies on social media, “By the fall, all apologies had been deleted from Jordan’s Instagram.”
Will a media/awards boycott matter? We shall see…
The Bad PR – Everyone’s struggling to figure out the best way to handle sick leave and safety with omicron, but damn some own-goals read a lot worse than others…. Shannen Joachim, service director at Gabriel Kreuther in Manhattan told the NYT’s Priya Krishna and Christina Morales “that last month, members of management encouraged several employees not to get tested, even if they had been exposed to the virus. She said the person in charge of the restaurant’s Covid protocols told her he didn’t believe the virus was real. One chef, she said, led mandatory breathing exercises on Saturdays before service in which many people were unmasked.” A spokeswoman for the restaurant denied all that, but per the NYT, “All of these allegations were corroborated by other employees.” Oof.
The Managers – In her Food Section newsletter, Hannah Raskin sorts through some new data from between March 1, 2020 and Sept. 1, 2021, and finds that (at least in Georgia), while it’s true that COVID killed more cooks than any other food service worker, the deadliest job per capita was actually “Food Service Manager,” which Raskin equates to a GM role. Obviously, it’s not a competition(!), but her math goes like this:
“173 restaurant, fast food and institutional cooks died of Covid in Georgia during the 18-month span, which works out to 24 percent of deaths in the industry statewide.” But over that same time period, 102 food service managers also died, and because “as of May 2020, there were 61,000 cooks working in Georgia… compared to 8,440 food service managers… if you were a food service manager in Georgia during these 18 months, you were four times more likely to die of Covid than if you were a cook.”
The Media – Tweet from (now former) Wine Enthusiast editor Layla Schlack: “I'm still enthusiastic about wine, but [Friday was] my last day at Wine Enthusiast. Starting [today], I'll be editorial director at Whetstone Magazine — my dream since before it even existed.” NB: Whetstone is making all kinds of moves lately, including launching a new suite podcasts, at least one of which topped iTunes charts last week. And its founder, Stephen Satterfield, hot off starring in the first season of Netflix’s High on the Hog, signed a “major” book deal late last year. Congrats, all!
Some Sad News – “Ed Schoenfeld, who helped open the eyes of New Yorkers to the glories of Chinese regional cuisine with a series of top-rated restaurants in the 1970s and ’80s, notably Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan, Auntie Yuan and Pig Heaven, died on Friday at his home in Newark, N.J. He was 72. The cause was liver cancer, his son Eric said.” Full, very fun obituary from William Grimes in the NYT, who says, “Mr. Schoenfeld, a Jew from Brooklyn who in his 20s looked like a roadie for the Grateful Dead, seemed an unlikely ambassador for Chinese cuisine....” Cameos from teachers and business partners Joe Ng, Jeffrey Chowdorow, David Keh, Michael Tong, Grace Chu, and more. Obituaries and tributes also from critic Adam Platt in Grubstreet, Luke Fortney in Eater NY, and others, I’m sure.
And last but least: For Design Fans – If you’re up for a trip to the architecture side of things, take a look at Wallpaper’s 2022 Best Restaurant Design award winner in Thailand, which goes by its full name, The Artisans Ayutthaya: The Women Restaurant. I usually see glass bricks used in spotty, unnecessary ways, but I like their critical mass here (they are the entire structure), at least from the outside. From the inside, feels like it might get a bit boring — and hot? Still, probably fun for staff to watch guests get lost in the relatively small grounds…
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal. (If they don’t cull me first.)
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or posts on Instagram explaining how we can unite our voices 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!