HK shuts down, JBF speaks up, PPP lives on, Ever rocks, and more...

Family Meal - Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Hello Tuesday,

And hello from Hong Kong, where for the first time, the government is banning dining in restaurants (starting tomorrow).

If you’re taking that as a warning to other cities, please know that less than a month ago local cases had been near zero for weeks, and the view on the ground here is that the problem is not that restaurants and bars stayed open in the first place. It’s that restaurants and bars stayed open AND the government carved out a bunch of exemptions to what was an otherwise airtight quarantine regiment at the borders.

To mix tropes: So many horror movies and thrillers are dedicated to the idea of sealing off a city to keep the bad things in, but sometimes the phone call really is coming from outside the house.

Maybe with all the money and energy US cities are putting into outdoor dining plans and reopening phases, a bit of budget should be set aside to consider what a real city and/or state border, ready to stand up checkpoints when needed, might look like? Is that going too far? I don’t know. I usually write about restaurants. Speaking of which…

Just three quick items today, so let’s get to it…

The Relief – The Senate and White House released their relief plan yesterday, with a drop in the unemployment supplement from $600 to $200 per week until October, when it would disappear completely and be replaced by a standard, total (fed and state) unemployment benefit equal to 70% of an individual’s previous wages.

Re PPP, WaPo’s Jeff Stein, Laura Meckler and Tony Romm report: “The proposal, combined with the existing leftover funding, would mean there is about $190 billion to support second loans for PPP recipients. The bill was also expected to address some PPP criticisms by mandating that only firms with 300 or fewer employees can qualify, and also requiring firms to demonstrate that their revenue fell by at least 50 percent.”

And check your tract: “Additionally, the package includes a separate and new pot of funding — totaling $100 billion — to provide long-term [1% interest] loans to seasonal businesses and businesses located in ‘low-income census tracts.’”

Or prep your outdoor power lunch menu: The legislation also includes “a 100 percent deduction on business meals through the end of 2020.”

Beard Reformers Per Elazar Sontag at Eater, “On July 16, a large group of James Beard Foundation employees sent a letter to the foundation’s senior leadership team, outlining a list of demands for the future of the organization… The five demands — each of which is followed by a thorough, bulleted list detailing next steps, are as follows: Diversify Senior Leadership Team; Diversify Board of Trustees; Incorporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals into every event and program; Full salary transparency with roadmap for merit-based growth; Hire a human resources representative that focuses on community culture, not just benefits.”

Re salary transparency, as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the foundation has to file a public IRS form 990 each year, so it’s relatively easy to see who’s making what (over $100k a year). Their 2018 filing is here (salaries start on page 8), and 2017 is here (salaries on page 18). A little confusing with the CEO transition, but if you’re curious: It looks like Susan Ungaro took home about $500k in her final full year at the top, and Clare Reichenbach appears to be making just over $300k since taking over. The next highest paid employee is Chief Strategy Officer Mitchell Davis, who draws around $200k, and there are five other employees making six-figures below that.For perspective: Revenue in 2018 looks about $15M (having more than tripled during Ungaro’s 11 years in charge). Lots of other interesting numbers in the docs if you want to poke around. (And please double-check my math / ability to read IRS forms while you’re in there.)

For Design Fans – I have been waiting for a look at the interior of Ever in Chicago ever since Michael Muser and crew did this photo shoot in the shell and it became evident he and Curtis Duffy were obsessed with their own logo (which looks more like branding for an upscale moto-leisurewear brand than a restaurant?). And… here it is in Eater Chicago! The design — all sleek and formal, black and tan (grey-ish cream?), with LED lighting for warmth (no windows or bulbs) — reminds me of the pictures of interiors of modern super-yachts that Instagram keeps thinking I’ll enjoy for some reason. There is some texture to the walls, which helps soften things a bit, but from what I can see this is a space designed more for plate worship than anything else. Which is fine, and I’m sure a lot of people will love it.

And anyway, for me the main show is probably in the three bathrooms, which we don’t actually get to see, but get hints of in the text. Per Ashok Selvam, one “reminds Muser of Tron,” one “feels more like a rest-room at a four star hotel,”(!) and the last one — you are not going to believe this, but — the last one “features rock from a mountain. Muser says crews used dynamite to break off the pieces.”

Don’t waste your time googling “where do we get rocks?” folks, because there is no way it is anywhere near as cool as “we use explosives to quarry them from big deposits such as mountains.” Nothing could ever be that cool.

And that’s it for today.

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

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Still here? P.S. - A penny for your thoughts on subscriptions: Before everything went to COVID, I was toying with new ways to make Family Meal more sustainable earlier this year. But with about 75% of you in the restaurant industry, it didn’t / doesn’t exactly feel like the right time to ask for cash…

SO, the elegant solution I am thinking of right now is switching to a model whereby: Paying subscribers would get both newsletters, delivered Tuesday and Friday.Non-paying subscribers get both newsletters delivered together on Friday only. (That Tuesday’s content would be copy/pasted at bottom of Friday’s). That way, no one misses anything.

Thoughts? Other smart ways to (sigh) monetize this? I’ve had interest from advertisers, including companies I respect, but as an indie it always makes me a bit nervous to sacrifice voice/flow and add an apparent conflict.

Please let me know what you think. The number of paid subscriptions everyone feels forced to buy out there is starting to add up, I know (I subscribe to five newspapers just to put this together, and even then sometimes need to bum a login to peep a piece). But opportunity costs add up too, and something’s gotta give.