Uber grubs, Momofuku diversifies, F&W lists, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, May 15, 2020
Family Meal is coming to you this morning from an undisclosed hotel location in Hong Kong, where my wife and I are taking a one night break from… everything. As I ran down to a nearby Pret to grab a snack a few minutes ago, a staff member told me our brief descent together marked the first time since early March that his elevator journeys had been interrupted by a guest getting on mid-ride.
In my best Walter White: “I am the normal. I am the one who presses the down button.”
Let’s get to it…
The Big Buy – Per Cara Lombardo in the WSJ Tuesday, “Uber is seeking to acquire Grubhub in a deal that would unite two of the biggest players in the cutthroat meal-delivery business at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has sparked a surge in demand for their services. Uber… in February approached Grubhub with an all-stock takeover offer and the companies have been in talks since then, people familiar with the matter said. Grubhub recently proposed that Uber pay 2.15 of its shares for each Grubhub share, which Uber rebuffed as too high… The talks may not produce a deal.”
That last sentence proved a key hedge, because although Grubhub shares shot up 30% on the initial news, they dropped 6% yesterday, with Barron’s Eric J. Savitz reporting: “Wall Street analysts are becoming a little concerned about the regulatory risks in an Uber Eats / Grubhub deal. A combined company would leap ahead of DoorDash to be the industry leader, with 50% of the U.S. market, and a dominant share in many cities… The combined business would have 78% of the New York market, with 60% or more of the market in Boston, Chicago and Miami.”
The Big Close – I’ve hesitated to include “permanent” closures here lately for various reasons, but everyone’s talking about the news from Marguerite Mariscal at Momofuku, so… here’s that via her note to staff on Wednesday: “After significant deliberation, we have had to make the extremely difficult decision to permanently close Nishi and CCDC. In addition, we are planning to move Ssäm Bar to the Wayō space at South Street Seaport, where we will combine both teams.” Mariscal says looking forward they’re going to lean on their “concept most fit for standardization,” Noodle Bar, for expansion, and ramp up Momofuku retail products.
Side note: Not surprising stuff given the two personalities / business models, but someone (else) could write a mildly smart piece contrasting Dave Chang’s statements after these closures with Gabrielle Hamilton’s thoughts in that big NYT mag piece on Prune a few weeks back. One (of many) comparisons:
Chang (starting around minute 1:17:25 on his podcast): “We cannot be this vulnerable ever again…. That’s diversifying. That’s making sure not all our eggs are just in the restaurant industry. The majority of our income comes from restaurants. That has to change.”
Hamilton in NYT Mag: “I started my restaurant as a place for people to talk to one another, with a very decent but affordable glass of wine and an expertly prepared plate of simply braised lamb shoulder on the table to keep the conversation flowing, and ran it as such as long as I could. If this kind of place is not relevant to society, then it — we — should become extinct.”
The Lists – Food & Wine came out with their 32nd annual Best New Chefs list on Tuesday, this year compiled by restaurant editor Khushbu Shah. And the class of 2020 is…: Nick Bognar (Indo — St. Louis); Tavel Bristol-Joseph (Hestia, Emmer & Rye, Henbit, TLV, and Kalimotxo — Austin); Trigg Brown (Win Son and Win Son Bakery — NYC); Camille Cogswell (K'Far — Philadelphia); Eunjo Park (Kāwi — NYC); Niven Patel (Ghee — Miami); Daisy Ryan (Bell’s — Los Alamos, CA) Lena Sareini (Selden Standard — Detroit); Donny Sirisavath (Khao Noodle Shop — Dallas); and Douglass Williams (Mida — Boston). Congrats, all! (Links on names go to their individual mini-profiles connected to the list.)
P.S. – Eater’s EIC Amanda Kludt mentioned on their podcast last week that Eater has pulled the plug on both their national Best New Restaurants list and their Young Guns program this year (minute 31:20 or so). Her reasoning was that while a spot on the list might make the chef and staff happy, to a reader it’s confusing and will almost certainly be out of date either immediately or by the time things reopen. Personally — as a reader — I say: F a reader! But to each his own, readers.
The Ripples – Unconfirmed, but per NYU Food Studies professor Krishnendu Ray on Twitter last night: “My friends at the Culinary Institute of America got furloughed today. That is devastating. It is beginning to hit hard in education.”
The Socialism – After nearly clawing my eyes out reading all the depressing stories of PPP loan failures, one paragraph in Andrea Chang’s LA Times piece yesterday about Noma reopening as a burger spot next week hit me particularly hard. Be warned, whatever your politics, you will be frustrated: “Noma is better positioned than many of its peers. The Danish government has offered substantial financial support to affected businesses, and will cover all of Noma’s fixed costs for the first two months of the shutdown and up to 80% from May 18 to July 8. Between that and a recently approved bank loan, the restaurant was able to retain its entire 85-person staff and offer free meals to its workers every day, [René Redzepi] said, and has enough money to make it through the year.” Good. For. Them.
And last but not least – Assume you’ve seen this, but…. as he plots re-opening The Inn at Little Washington, chef Patrick O’Connell is making some innovative plans to counteract the depressing effect of Virginia’s 50% capacity rule. Per the Washingtonian’s Ann Limpert, “Instead of letting tables sit vacant, the whimsical chef plans to outfit his dining rooms with mannequins… The chef (who majored in drama in college) has been working with Shirlington’s Signature Theatre to get the faux humans costumed in 1940s-era garb.”
Key point: “Servers will be instructed to pour them wine and to ask them about their evening.” 1987 Kim Cattrall takes one sip: “I’m alive! He can see me and I’m still alive! Thank you! Thank you! You have to love me forever!”
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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