Michelin Chicago, Grub Street sells, Ruta sued, DoorDash hacked, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, September 27th, 2019
Quick note at the top here to remind media mogul readers that Family Meal is now, always has been, and always will be for sale. Reasonable price. Onerous terms. Your move.
Let’s get to it…
Michelin Season – Chicago’s 2020 stars are out, and the list is just short enough for a bit of the ol’ copy/paste/reformat direct from the press release: Three Stars: Alinea. Two Stars: Acadia; Oriole; Smyth. One Star: Band of Bohemia; Blackbird; Boka; EL Ideas; Elizabeth; Elske; Entente; Everest; Goosefoot; Kikkō (new); Mako (new); Next (new); North Pond; Omakase; Yume (new); Parachute; Schwa; Sepia; Spiaggia; Temporis; Topolobampo; and Yūgen (new).
Per the Tribune’s Phil Vettel, that means no changes in the top two tiers, but “Dropped from the one-star ranks are Dusek’s Board & Beer and Roister, both of which experienced chef changes since the last Michelin Guide.” It also means there’s apparently a new standard for places like Next, which was previously left out of star running because of its regular changes in concepts and menus. Turns out you can switch up everything as much as you like, so long as you stay open long enough to prove consistency. Guide director Gwendal Poullenec said his team “have frequented Next for several years.” Quoth the chief inspector: “We’ve now seen the majority of Next’s menus, and it’s clear to us that, regardless of the reconception and reinvention, diners are going to have an excellent meal, really interesting food with excellent technique, and an experience consistent to the point that we feel very comfortable awarding a star.”
The Media – The big deal in media-land this week was Vox buying New York Magazine, which down in our little neighborhood doesn’t really mean Eater bought Grub Street, but... kinda? The news came out in an NYT business piece, and was apparently a surprise to staff at both companies, with Grub Street’s Chris Crowley tweeting, “One way to make your employees feel valued is to consistently reaffirm to them that they're less important than another publication's exclusive on news that affects them.”
Vox SVP / Eater EIC Amanda Kludt tells me: “The news of the merger is incredibly exciting and was as much a surprise for our team as it was for the NYMag team. I am a longtime fan and reader of all of the New York properties and am acutely aware of the strengths of Grub Street, as we've worked in the same space for over a decade. As much as I'm excited to work at the same company as people like Rebecca Traister, Stella Bugbee, Jerry Saltz, and Adam Platt, it's important to emphasize the editorial teams and publications will remain separate, reporting up into completely separate entities. And there are no editorial cuts planned as a result of this merger.”
“No cuts planned” sounds great, and Vox CEO Jim Bankoff has said the same thing, both in the NYT and at an all-hands staff meeting, according to someone there. But no one I’ve talked to actually believes that’ll last beyond a year or two (if “the unplanned” doesn’t come much sooner). There’s the matter of five NYC restaurant critics under the same roof, overlapping NYC beats at a time when outlets are moving resources west, and questions about what happens to independent editing / reporting after Grub Street moves over to Eater’s Chorus publishing platform and Slack channels.
Good luck, all! And if you’ve got something to say about this: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Non-Compete – In D.C., restaurateur Hakan Ilhan is suing Frank Ruta to enforce a non-compete clause the chef signed when the two opened Mirabelle downtown in 2017. “The agreement says the chef would be released from the non-compete if ‘the employer decides to change direction/concept of the business and Frank Ruta’s employment would no longer be necessary.’ Ilhan says he let Ruta go but is still pursuing the suit. ‘Frank was let go for having very high good[s] and labor costs, cost management was an issue,’ Ilhan tells Eater in an email… The complaint claims Ruta left September 15, 2018, so he would be ineligible to cook at a competing restaurant [defined as within 10 miles of Mirabelle] until the fall of 2020.” Ruta recently started working for Ashok Bajaj’s big Knightsbridge Restaurant Group which operates several restaurants in the exclusion zone, and is opening a new one soon named… Annabelle. Details via Tierney Plumb and Gabe Hiatt.
The Law – FYI, the US Dept of Labor has revised the ceiling on overtime eligibility upward, though nowhere near as high as previously proposed. “Up until now, only blue-collar workers and professionals who earn less than $23,000 a year can earn overtime pay under federal law, with some exceptions. That means they get paid 50 percent extra when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The new rule raises the salary threshold to $35,568…. The change goes into effect on January 1, 2020.” This Vox piece from Alexia Fernández Campbell is a good explainer if you need one. (I did.)
The Breach – Headline in TechCrunch: “DoorDash confirms data breach affected 4.9 million customers, workers and merchants.” Details via Zack Whittaker: “Users who joined the platform before April 5, 2018 had their name, email and delivery addresses, order history, phone numbers and hashed and salted passwords stolen. The company also said consumers had the last four digits of their payment cards taken, though full numbers and card verification values (CVV) were not taken. Both delivery workers and merchants had the last four digits of their bank account numbers stolen. Around 100,000 delivery workers also had their driver’s license information stolen in the breach.”
The Cut – POS FYI: Square is raising their take on lower end purchases “to better align [their] rates with industrywide transaction costs.” Bloomberg’s Julie Verhage and Jennifer Surane report, “Rather than assess a 2.75% fee on in-store transactions, Square will now charge 2.6% plus a 10-cent fee, the company said Tuesday…. The change means the fee on a $10 transaction rises to 36 cents from 27.5 cents. Costs for transactions starting at roughly $67 will go down.” By $69, customers should notice costs going down palpably enough to experience tangible, mutually beneficial transactions.
For Design Fans – LAT Food has a profile / photo spread of ceramicist Stephanie Shih and her “Asian grocery items” work via writer/ceramicist Marian Bull. I share because A) Cool. And B) That Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce bottle is on my Christmas list, in case you’re at a loss this year.
And last and least, The Side Hustle – According to Eater’s Carla Vianna, NYC restaurateurs Kyle Radzyminski and Melanie Lemieux, “the duo behind LIC bars and restaurants the Baroness and the Huntress,” are running a Real Kitchen Nightmare escape room now. “Radzyminski says special effects are meant to mentally break down players; some rooms get hot all of a sudden while things jump out to scare them, and the puzzles are based on logic. It’s even caused participants to drop to the floor, he says… So far, only one group has made it out.” cc: NYPD.
And that’s it for today.
NB: Tuesday is China’s National Day, and since I’m in Hong Kong, there’s a chance next Family Meal will be a day late. Either way, I’ll see you here soon.
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