PPP forgiveness, Pfizer Rorschach, Full-service ghosts, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, July 30th, 2021

Hello Friday,

If you are joining us because you saw Family Meal mentioned in the August edition of Food & Wine, welcome! The way this works is: The newsletter goes out on Tuesdays and Fridays, but only paying subscribers get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays. Everyone else has to wait till Friday, when Tuesday is copy / pasted at the end (as below). Got it? Great.

I set it up as a self-destructing paywall because most Family Meal readers are in the industry, and the industry has had a bit of a rough year. But if you have the means, and would like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays (and keep this thing going for everyone)…

Let’s get to it…

The Relief – Big news this week if you’ve still got outstanding PPP loans: Politico’s Zachary Warmbrodt reports the SBA is pushing “to accelerate the end of the nearly $1 trillion Paycheck Protection Program by making it easier for millions of employers to have emergency payroll loans forgiven.” They’re launching a new consumer-facing website on August 4th so that borrowers of smaller amounts no longer have to go through banks to apply for grant status, and “[sparing] certain borrowers who received second PPP loans this year worth less than $150,000 from having to supply documentation proving that they suffered a 25 percent revenue reduction in 2020.”

P.S. – Some data nerd should FOIA this and explain it to me like I don’t just make up statistical models out of thin air in order to get out of dealing with onerous documentation requirements: “The [SBA] has told lenders that it's using a combination of data sets to make the [forgiveness] determinations, including information based on foot traffic and credit card charging.” (Treasury: “Did you do inventory?” SBA: “Well, uh, based on a combination of data sets…”)

The Real ID – While governments struggle with mask mandates, Danny Meyer got a lot of attention yesterday for announcing on CNBC that USHG restaurants (not Shake Shack) would require staff and guests to show proof of COVID vaccination at the door (staff have 45 days to get their shots). Meyer is not the first by a long shot — this NYT piece from Christina Morales does a good job of taking vaccine passport temps around the country — but whatever you think of his leadership during the pandemic, having his big name behind mandatory vaccination is a big deal (and already got an endorsement from Pete Wells).

Meanwhile… Scoop in the Washington Post last night: “Internal CDC document urges new messaging, warns delta infections likely more severe.” Follow up NYT push alert hours later: “The Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and may be spread by vaccinated people as easily as the unvaccinated, an internal C.D.C. report said.”

There’s nuance beyond those headlines (surprise!), including this kicker in the NYT piece from a virologist in NY: “Overall, Delta is the troubling variant we already knew it was, but the sky isn’t falling and vaccination still protects strongly against the worse outcomes.” But, with host stands still on the front line, “vaccines don’t work!” could be the new “vaccines are fascist!” and restaurateurs like SF’s Pim Techamuanvivit are calling for government backup all over again: “I am 100% for requiring vaccinations in restaurants. But, again, until there’s a mandate & verification / enforcement procedures for us to follow, you’re leaving it to vulnerable restaurant workers to deal w/ potentially explosive situations on our own.”

Good luck, all!

Ghosts On Demand From Joanna Fantozzi in RH: “DoorDash announced Thursday that the company is expanding its DoorDash Kitchens ghost kitchen network to a second city — San Jose — and is now offering full-service operations capabilities for partner restaurants through a new ghost kitchen revenue sharing program. DoorDash Kitchens Full Service will expand outside of delivery/takeout capabilities to equip operators with DoorDash-facilitated operations and front of house staff, kitchen staff training, supply chain ingredients, and day to day operations. In return they’ll receive an unspecificed percentage of profits.”

That’s not far off from what influencers like Mr. Beast have already been doing in actual restaurant kitchens, but this sounds a lot like the beginnings of something like print-on-demand merchandising services, where any idiot (me) can run an online store selling items they’ve “designed” but don’t actually produce or manage themselves. Obviously, perishability / time-sensitive demand will make it difficult to replicate that custom retail strategy (where the producer / manager takes the lion’s share) in food, but I’m imagining a world where there’s a standard list of ingredients in a massive walk-in, and anyone who can upload a recipe can run a delivery-only “restaurant”? Stay tuned for Family Meal’s Famous Frittata Fridays, I guess.

Beard Season – On Wednesday, the James Beard Foundation announced that their not-awards awards, “James Beard Awards: Stories of Resilience and Leadership,” will take place via live broadcast on Twitter “on September 27 at 7 P.M. CT / 8 P.M. ET / 5 P.M. PT.” And “in addition to the live broadcast, the Foundation will host 300-400 guests atop the Harris Theater in Chicago” to watch the show, while simultaneous “intimate satellite events in select cities” will include parties at: Lucille’s (Houston) with Chris Williams and Dawn Burrell; Town Fare (Oakland) with Tanya Holland, Reem Assil, and Dominica Rice-Cisneros; SOUTH (Philadelphia) with Ben Bynum and Stephanie Willis; and Moon Rabbit (DC) with Kevin Tien.

“Additionally, select industry and other guests will enjoy dinners at five restaurants that represent Chicago’s vast culinary landscape.” Check your spam folders, selects and other guests! (Still nada in mine.)

The Fire – NYC headline in the Daily Beast: “Celebrity Sommelier Has Been Moonlighting as an Arsonist: FDNY.” Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels wine and managing director Caleb Ganzer “has been arrested after allegedly setting several outdoor dining structures ablaze on at least three occasions this year,” per reporter Pilar Melendez. Included video apparently shows Ganzer casually lighting a napkin dispenser on fire in mid-July at Prince Street Pizza, a move FDNY says fits similar incidents at “the outside dining structure owned by Forsythia Restaurant, and a trash fire set on June 26 near SoHo.” Motive is… unclear.

The Media (Opportunities) – If you’ve been trying to get your foot in the door in food media, starting this October, Vox is running “a one-year, full-time fellowship program intended for people new to media” with the stated goal of bringing in “voices that were historically excluded… to strengthen reporting, storytelling and businesses, and to serve diverse audiences with meaningful work.” I am told that while no Eater positions are currently listed under Fellowships on Vox’s careers site, they are coming soon.

And while we’re there: Also up on the Eater job board are openings for a part time NY reporter, and a full-time staff writer, the latter of which can be remote. I’d apply, but EIC Amanda Kludt says “remote” means “NYC hours.” (Textbook timezone-ism.)

And Stephen Satterfield’s Whetstone Radio Collective also recently posted a bunch of jobs, including podcast hosts.

Fun Fact (because he has recovered) for your cover letter: Satterfield says he was struck by lightening earlier this week!

And that’s it for today! Except of course for last Tuesday’s Family Meal, which is copy / pasted below as usual. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…

I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else here in one week for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or an unspecificed percentage of profits to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!

Here begins Family Meal from Tuesday, July 27th, 2021:

Masks and mandates, Batali Bastianich fines, Design trends, and more...

Hello Tuesday,

And hello to paying subscribers only!

A slightly more superficial scan of the news today, as I was only released from Ramada quarantine purgatory at 12:06AM Monday morning, and immediately thrust back into in-person fatherhood after three weeks of FaceTime-based parenting. The transition has been LOUD.

Let’s get to it…

The Zeitgiest – Let’s take a quick whip around the headlines this week just for fun. Louisiana (The Advocate): “Gov. John Bel Edwards recommends mask-wearing indoors in Louisiana to stem COVID surge.”Providence (NBC 10 WJAR): “Health official recommends all people wear masks indoors as cases rise.” Houston (Eater): “Harris County Judge Recommends All Houstonians, Vaccinated or Not, Wear Masks Indoors.” Philadelphia (Inquirer): “Philly officials say even fully vaccinated people should again wear masks inside public spaces.” Washington State (K5): “Health officers from 8 Washington counties now recommend wearing masks in indoor spaces.” Northern California (Santa Cruz Sentinal): “Santa Cruz County again recommends wearing masks indoors. Coastal community joined in suggestion by Monterey, Napa, San Benito counties.”

And on and on, with Eater San Francisco giving readers what they really want: “Is Indoor Dining Still Safe with the Delta Variant Spreading Right Now?” (Third paragraph: “local health officials told the SF Chronicle, for vaccinated people it’s pretty unlikely that you’d get seriously ill”).

No new word on RRF refills.

Meanwhile, on the international front, Forbes says “France Mandates Vaccine Passport To Visit Eiffel Tower, Other Tourist Sites—And Restaurants Are Next,” and Italy will only allow people with COVID-19 antibodies to go to restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, etc. starting August 6th. And restaurants are still being singled out as public hot spots around the world, as in this headline from Channel News Asia over the weekend: “127 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in Singapore; new cluster linked to Samy's Curry.” (If 127 doesn’t sound bad, note that Singapore’s friendly rival(?) Hong Kong has had zero new local cases for 50 days straight.)

That said, a lot of American food media does feel pre-pandemic right now. The SF Chronicle’s website is currently topped by a piece about “11 exhilarating new destinations” for bread (tied to the pandemic baking boom, but still). NYT Foods leads with a piece about “No-Roll Pie Crusts” that doesn’t even mention the pandemic at all! And the LA Times went with: “Okra is so much more than its slimy reputation.” Same.

The Restitution – Headline in the NYT: “$600,000 Sexual Harassment Settlement Reached in Batali & Bastianich Case.” Details via Kim Severson: “The two men and Pasta Resources, the company formerly known as the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, will pay a total of $600,000 to at least 20 women and men who were sexually harassed while they worked at the Manhattan restaurants BabboLupa or Del Posto.” It’s up to the NY Attorney General’s office to decide who gets how much, but needless to say a $600k fine split between two wealthy men and a corporation is not exactly a bankruptcy blow, and a $600k one-off split between at least 20 people is probably not going to be especially life-changing money for the victims.

But: “Mr. Batali is still facing at least two civil suits and a potential criminal trial,” and Bastianich now has his name attached to a settlement wherein “The attorney general’s investigation, while not citing Mr. Bastianich for specific acts of sexual harassment, casts his role in a new, harsher light and emphasizes that both men were responsible for the toxic environment.” So, Pasta Resources has a long-term PR problem, for whatever that’s worth.

For Design Fans – Not a photo-spread itself, but Eater’s Laura Fenton has a lot of links to past pictorials under her thesis: “The 2021 Restaurant Aesthetic Is Optimistic, Nostalgic, and Vacation-Obsessed.” Cameos from ZZ’s Sushi Bar (Miami), Delilah (Las Vegas), and Kokomo(NYC), to back up the gist: “In 2021 restaurants are full of happy colors with swaths of turquoise, orange, and especially pink. Restaurant designers have dialed up the intensity from the pre-pandemic dusty pastels to decidedly pop-y shades. Color feels current again.”

OK. Maybe! But all I want to talk about is this Panorama Room feature she links to in Vogue. Those velvet chairs with the plastic backs look like someone went to the designer and said, “What if low stools, but worse?”, and there’s enough vacant, bare concrete for a rollerblade night, but I bet once darkness falls that massive light fixture above the bar plays pretty well with that view… Slide on your Heelys and let’s go Instagram some sundowners?

And that’s it for today! It’s my mother-in-law’s birthday tonight, and I’ve got to run. She’s wonderful (in part) because we share the most essential birthday food opinion: The best cake is carrot cake.

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

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or swaths of turquoise, orange, and especially pink to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!