Union down, Pricing variable, Gaga me, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, March 3rd, 2023
And hello from a newly mask-free Hong Kong! As of Wednesday, you can just walk down the street with your whole smile out there for the world to see.
Tuesday’s paid edition is copy / pasted below as usual. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays too (and keep your favorite industry newsletter going strong)…
Let’s get to it…
The Union for Never? – Headline in Eater NY: “NYC’s First Major Restaurant Union Since Covid Loses Ground After Vote.” Gist via Emma Orlow, “Restaurant workers at Lodi, the acclaimed Rockefeller Center restaurant by Ignacio Mattos — behind Estela, Cafe Altro Paradiso, and Corner Bar — have voted not to unionize (for now).”
Orlow dedicates a chunk of her brief update to referencing The Guardian’s prior reporting on alleged anti-union activity by management, but I wish we’d hear a bit more from the workers who voted no. Not because I’m anti union by any means — what a comfort to the widow, a light to the child — but because, c’mon guys, they can’t all be infantile minds unfairly influenced by sneaky corporate messaging…
On that note, I thought it was interesting — refreshing? — to hear a bit of more struggling, not-overly-excited-about-the-union industry nuance from Kelly Sullivan and Lillian Devane on their FOH podcast last week. (Starting around the 19 minute mark.)
Sample quote: “It’s not just that it’s high turnover. The union is sort of antithetical to the reason for the turnover. Because the union is saying you can build the kind of things that you’re looking for within this workplace. And it’s like, I’m lazy. I’m not trying to build that myself. I’m just trying to go to this bar where that already exists.”
The Survey – Universally beloved — universally beloved — lobbying group the National Restaurant Association released their big “State of the Industry” report on Tuesday, highlighting key findings like: “Growth will continue,” and “Rising costs create challenges.” Neat!
Luckily, Expedite’s Kristen Hawley dug a little deeper and found more interesting stuff like: “Seventy-nine (79!) percent of people have a favorable reaction to the concept of variable pricing in restaurants.” I have a hard time believing that will reflect reality among anyone discovering they are being charged more during a given time slot, but if you were leaning towards trying some new form of variable pricing anyway, there’s your green light?
The Media (ATTN: LA PR) – The LA Times has a new food reporter: Cindy Carcamo. “Her reporting will focus on how food intersects with immigration policy, labor issues, agriculture, economics and the environment.” No idea what that means for restaurant PR, but… sure you can think of something.
And last but not least: The Influencers – The Washingtonian’s Jessica Sidman put out a few new pieces on DC social media types this week, but by far my favorite is this an-influencer-looks-at-28 interview / status update with the man formerly known as @DCFoodPorn. After building up to a mid five-figures instagram career during college way back in 2017, the cheese-puller discovered dairy and gluten were bad for him, “lives in Boca Raton now, posts healthy, easy cooking videos rather than over-the-top restaurant dishes, and has surpassed more than 1 million followers on TikTok. He’s just @JustinMSchuble now.”
Says Schuble: “I saw a video about how Lady Gaga has gone through all these transformations in her career and her music and her style, and I feel like I can relate to this constant evolution and change.”
Same, pal. Same.
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s paid edition, which is copy / pasted below as usual.
I’m off to see Phoenix and Arctic Monkeys at Clockenflap here tonight, possibly with two small kids in tow (and up way past bedtime). Wish me luck…
NB: They will not be joining for Wu-Tang on Sunday, despite the fact that, as we all know, Wu-Tang is for the children.
I’ll see paying subscribers back here Tuesday, and everyone else on Friday for next Family Meal. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays too…
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or this bar where that already exists to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!
Here begins the Family Meal that went out to paying subscribers on Tuesday, February 28th, 2023:
Critical vacancy, Food agency, F&B TV accuracy, and more...
How is Hong Kong? Thanks for asking! Mainland tourists appear to be back in force, but almost everyone I know is totally consumed by two things:
Bright lights. Big city.
Let’s get to it…
The Critics (Job) – The SF Chronicle (and its Hearst overlords) have officially posted Soliel Ho’s old critic job for applications. CA requires employers to make public a “reasonable estimate” of the potential salary, and for this gig: “The reasonable estimate, if hired in San Francisco is between $90,000 and $110,000.”
Putting in my application tomorrow! (But asking 3x that range so I can afford to live in the Mission.)
NB: If you thought the Chronicle would use this opportunity to move back toward a more “stick to food” style of criticism, you are probably wrong… “We’re seeking a skilled writer who views restaurant criticism as a rich journalistic endeavor — an opportunity to talk about not only food but race, economics, emotion, conflict, culture and humanity.”
Good luck, all!
(Oh, and P.S. - There’s an opening for the SF Gate food editor position on the jobs page too. Reasonable estimate: $75-85k, FYI.)
The Agency – Whetstone’s Stephen Satterfield launched a new food talent agency via Instagram last week, and Eater’s Bettina Makalintal gave it a full writeup on Friday: “Like any talent agency, Hone wants to connect people with opportunities: brand campaigns or TV projects, for example. But unlike other talent agencies, which might also oversee sports and entertainment and fashion, Hone is focusing just on food. It hopes to offer an understanding of the hospitality and restaurant world and the breadth of its potential — both in terms of who’s considered talent, and what projects they might want to pursue. It’s also ‘a chance for brands and talent to find campaigns and work that is meaningful and not corny,’ Satterfield notes.”
Talent roster so far: Reem Assil, Femi Oyediran, Christa Barfield, and Alicia Kennedy. Respectively: Chef, Somm, Farmer, and Writer.
And last but not least: The Party, Down – Both NYT Food and Eater put writers on the TV beat this week, and the result is two great reviews for the reboot of catering comedy Party Down. The gist: This is not Chef’s Table or even The Bear, and that’s what makes it good. The NYT calls it (via a subhed on Tejal Rao’s piece), “A smart, funny antidote to the shows and films that focus on chefs and glamorize the business.” And Amy McCarthy says, “Party Down has always felt like an honest depiction of what it’s like to work in the service industry — gratuitous drug use and crass jokes and all — and that darkly funny realism feels especially appropriate In These Times.”
I can’t wait. But it’s important to go in with low expectations, so… Is it good?
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see everyone back here Friday for next Family Meal.
Actually, just one more thing…. In a few seconds of half-hearted clicking, I somehow managed to beat the Tock bots and book a dinner reservation for two at Noma on September 12th, 2023. That happens to be my birthday, but all still feels a bit much and a bit off, so… What should I do with it?! A giveaway? A subscription carrot? A gift to longtime subscribers? A moral stance culminating in loss of funds?
Ideas please, people!
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or race, economics, emotion, conflict, culture and humanity to email@example.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!