Grubhub fine print, Journalism activism, Award seasons, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, March 20th, 2020
I mean. Damn.
First things first, if you are a paying subscriber to Family Meal and can’t make those payments right now, please remember to cancel. I’ll still be publishing (and am still grateful for all support), but don’t let me be your surprise fee.
There is so much to get to, and I apologize for being off the radar for a bit. Obviously, the gravity of the situation requires some serious attention on everyone’s part. I’m not there yet, and today’s Family Meal will be extra light and choppy while I get my legs under me again, but:
We’re home. I’m back. Let’s get to it…
The Resources – If you’re in need of solid links for up to date industry-facing news, I recommend Food & Wine Pro’s pro section here, and Eater’s new easy-to-sift coronavirus section here. Eater also has an updating nationwide roundup of resources for restaurants, bars, staff, and delivery workers here, and the LA Times’s Patricia Escárcega has a running list for LA. If you see good lists for other cities, please let me know.
P.S. – Media readers, please consider the pros of bullet points, outlines, and/or breakout boxes. There is way too much information coming way too fast, and the prose that once spotlighted nuance is now hiding facts.
The Fine Print – Grubhub got a ton of good PR last week, when they announced a relief program for restaurants that was interpreted as a temporary fee waiver. The actual details, according to Eater’s NickMancall-Bitel were much less generous than initially reported: “The deferral program only applies to Grubhub’s marketing commission fees, which is what restaurants pay to appear on Grubhub’s platform and it’s only for restaurants that are eligible to be a part of the program. Restaurants that apply and are granted the deferral will still pay other fees, including for delivery and order processing. Additionally, in the program’s fine print, among the terms and conditions of the agreement, is a stipulation that restaurants agree to keep Grubhub as a delivery service for one year after signing onto the program. It’s unclear how long the deferral will last, though a term sheet sent to restaurant owners states that it ‘will end on a date to be determined by GH in its sole discretion, although GH currently anticipates that such date will be no later than March 29, 2020.’ Once that time is up, restaurants will have four weeks to repay the deferred commissions, after a two-week grace period in which they make the regular commission payments of between 15 and 30 percent.”
It absolutely boggles the mind. Delivery services, presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to dominate and grow their markets, and be heralded as heroes for doing so, have decided instead that now is a good time to finally focus on revenue. Also, they don’t seem to understand the current economics of the restaurant industry, which…
P.S. – If you want to keep up with everything the tech sector is offering restaurants at this time (good and bad), highly recommend you sign up for Kristen Hawley’s Expedite newsletter here. (Past issue samples here.)
The Advocates – Before the mandated shutdowns began, food media had a tiny little tiff about what constitutes real journalism in times of trouble. It started with NYT critic Pete Wells tweeting, “Food media is about to execute one of its pivots into cheerleader-for-the-industry mode. I've done it myself in the past but it's always an awkward move for journalists.” and ended up the subject of a Jesse Hirsch article in the Counter titled: “Critic, cheerleader, or just-the-facts: As Covid-19 cases increase, food writers disagree on how to cover at-risk restaurants.”
Welp, that was quaint. Wells used his “Critics Notebook” column to advocate for government intervention on Monday, saying, “If the world needed the banks in 2008, it needs the restaurants this year.” Going even further, Eater’s Hillary Dixler-Canavan, who argued against Wells’s past position in the Counter, published a script she wrote to help people call government reps to push for assistance. In other words, you have the media fully on your side! Use it wisely!
(For the record, you can hate me, but I’m with past tense Pete. The facts speak for themselves here, and others will gladly do the advocating in quotes. If someone needs both sides, they can call Rand Paul?)
Beard Season Next Season – Per their press release, the James Beard Foundation has decided “to postpone the James Beard Awards Nominee Announcement, originally scheduled for Wednesday, March 25. This is in addition to the postponement of the annual awards ceremonies to summer 2020, which was announced last week. When new dates are selected for all events, they will be announced formally via the James Beard Foundation website and social media.” For what it’s worth, I’ve asked the JBFA folks whether nominations have been decided and set in stone or not. Will let you know.
And last and least: The Milkshake Duck – Restaurateur Keith McNally was off to a great start on Instagram. On recommendation of a friend, I followed him a couple weeks ago, and was glad to have some oddball whimsy in my feed. Then one thing led to another and he compared Woody Allen losing a book deal to what happened to Emmett Till. Whimsy!
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal. (And will try to live up to the moment by then.)
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