No relief, No tips, Delivery $$$, Ghost $$$, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, August 7th, 2020
Not usually a big fan of the “A disaster somewhere! Quick, when was the last time we were within 500 miles? Let’s post about that trip!” social media mourning style, but couldn’t help but think back to Family Meal from mid-September last year, when I had this for an intro:
Greetings from sunny Beirut. Had dinner last night with a local economist who was not feeling very positive about the near future here (“Will we be an Argentina or a Greece?”). Told him I was surprised to see so much optimism in people opening up bars and repairing restaurants in some neighborhoods. Paraphrased response: “That’s not optimism. It’s pessimism. All we can do is drink. And the drinks are getting cheaper.”
Reader, we drank arak.
There’s a word in the explosives business I’ve always loved: Brisance. It’s a relative measure of an explosive material’s ability to shatter. Depending on what you’re blasting, sometimes you want more brisance, sometimes less. I watch those videos of Beirut and all I can think about is those restaurants and bars with their new windows, those new glasses. And all that unnecessary brisance.
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – Update from John Bresnahan and Marianne Levine in Politico: Situation Normal. All… “Negotiations between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders on a new coronavirus relief package were on the brink of failure Thursday night, both sides said after a fruitless three-hour meeting in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.” That makes for the possibility of maybe four executive orders today: “resumption in federal unemployment payments for a short time period by redirecting funds already approved by Congress; reinstitute a federal eviction moratorium; extend a suspension of student loan payments; and defer collection of federal payroll taxes.” We shall see.
The (eventual) Playing Field – “Nearly 50 NYC restaurant owners, including well-known restaurateurs Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group, David Chang of Momofuku, and Tom Colicchio of Crafted Hospitality, are pledging their support of a new ‘Safe and Just Reopening’ plan for restaurants, developed in partnership with One Fair Wage, a non-profit organization that has long advocated for the elimination of the tipped minimum wage in the industry.” Eater NY’s Erika Adams reports, “The four-part plan calls for the elimination of the tip credit for restaurants in the state, a labor law that allows owners to pay tipped workers a base minimum wage of $10 per hour plus tips while NYC’s regular minimum wage is $15 an hour. Simultaneously, the plan calls for state legislators to allow tips to be shared equally across a restaurant’s entire staff.”
The Media – “Nearly two months after the beginning of Bon Appétit’s public reckoning with allegations of racism and inequity, three members of the food publication’s hugely popular Test Kitchen have announced they will no longer make content for BonAppétit’s YouTube channel. Priya Krishna, Rick Martinez, and Sohla El-Waylly announced their departures this morning on their individual Instagram accounts.” Details and screenshots via Jenny G. Zhang here, but if you want the nitty gritty, you’ll have to head behind the paywall at Business Insider. I’m not allowed back there, so here’s one of those details via the rare double-per: Per Zhang: “Per BI’s Rachel Premack: The initial contract, which was reviewed by Business Insider… guaranteed 10 video appearances per year. This differed from the contracts reviewed by Martinez that some of their white peers receive where guaranteed appearances total up to 60, he said.”
Meanwhile, unfortunately (coincidentally?) sharing a headline with that mess in Variety, there’s news that Eater’s director of editorial strategy Sonia Chopra is moving in to a newly created “executive editor” position at BA, while the Condé Nast search for a BA EIC goes on. “Chopra, as Bon Appétit executive editor, will help lead editorial content across Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Healthyish and Basically. Until the company hires a new EIC for Bon Appétit, Chopra will report to Anna Wintour… Chopra will start on Aug. 24.” Todd Spangler has that story. Congrats (and good luck) to Sonia!
P.S. – One big tip for anyone interviewing with or reporting to Wintour: She LOVES jokes, but they have to be very charming and always related to fashion. Once (pre-pandemic) we were sitting in a Chipotle and she asked me how I liked my burrito. I said, “Anna, this isn’t a burrito, it’s a von Furstenberg.” “A what?” she asked. “A wrap, Anna. It’s a wrap.” She laughed so hard hibiscus lemonade came out her nose. Loves jokes.
That Delivery $$$ – “Grubhub released its second quarter earnings last week, the first quarter of results since announcing an impending acquisition by Just Eat Takeaway.” According to Kristen Hawley’s Expedite newsletter: “Grubhub’s numbers are up, up, up…. In smaller and newer markets, the kind targeted by expansion efforts and aided by big enterprise deals, gross food sales are up as much as 150 percent from the same period last year.” Translation: Small-town McDonald’s delivers. Knock-on effects TBD.
Meanwhile in London, CNBC’s Ryan Browne reports, “Amazon has been given approval to buy a minority stake in U.K. food delivery start-up Deliveroo, ending a lengthy battle by the firms to convince regulators the deal would not harm competition.”
And back stateside, commission cap laws continue their spread. Per Eater Las Vegas’s Susan Stapleton on Tuesday: “Clark County Commissioners passed a new emergency ordinance that caps fees charged by third-party delivery apps at 15 percent.”
That Ghost $$$ – An aside that caught my eye in this Janelle Bitker SF Chronicle piece about “a food hub for Black-owned pop-ups” in Oakland: Before signing the lease on his Epic Ventures Test Kitchen location, founder Rashad Armstead went “looking for ghost kitchen spaces — commercial kitchens designed for delivery-only restaurants without dining rooms — but he was baffled by the high prices. Instead, he moved into a 2,500-square-foot commercial kitchen in East Oakland in July — and he said the rent is cheaper than what he would get for a smaller space at one of the Bay Area’s existing ghost kitchens.”
Obviously rent in SF is high no matter what neighborhood (or floor), but what’s the going rate for ghost kitchen spaces these days where you are?
And last and least – Everything’s tough, so I recommend heading back to a time when Coca-Cola “assembled young people from all over the world” on a hilltop in Italy to sing a song about buying us all a soda pop. And turtledoves. Kendal Jenner’s 2017 Pepsi has nothing on 1971 Coke. It’s the real thing.
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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