The Family Meal – Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Hello, Tuesday.

Quick reminder: If you’re getting this as a fwd, welcome to Family Meal. It’s a twice-weekly roundup of news for / about the restaurant industry, and you can sign up to get it delivered at thisfamilymeal.com. (Side note: feel free to fwd this on!)

And now, the news…

The Big Bet: Thomas Keller’s $$$ new kitchen at The French Laundry is finally up and running, and the SF Chronicle has a nice little slideshow for all your jealousy needs. “The project’s price tag has surpassed $10 million, and the overall scope of the work encompasses a 2,120-square-foot annex, 9,000 square feet of landscape design and a rebuilt wine cellar capable of housing 16,000 selections.”

That all sounds wonderful, but the Chronicle’s Justin Phillips is quick to point out that the big spending comes at “a unique time… as storied dining destinations are no longer surviving on reputation alone.” And unfortunately for Keller, every article about him these days has to reference Pete Wells and… that review.

The Better Bet: For about the same price as Keller’s new kitchen, Joël Robuchon has a brand new restaurant in Montreal. The catch: all $11M for his latest Atelier came courtesy of Loto-Québec, the province’s casino / gambling authority. In other words: the government paid for it.

If you like Awards Shows – Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson is hosting the James Beard Awards Gala on May 1st, and Asia’s Top 50 restaurants happened this morning (nighttime in Bangkok) with an Oscars-esque look and a brand new list. (Top 10 top to bottom: Gaggan – Bangkok, Restaurant André – Singapore, Amber – Hong Kong, 8 ½ Otto E Mezzo Bombana – Hong Kong, Nahm – Bangkok, Narisawa – Tokyo, Nihonryori Ryugin – Tokyo, Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet – Shanghai, Odette – Singapore, Burnt Ends – Singapore).

Canary in the Coal Mine / Business Model? According to Bloomberg, “The day millennial retailer Urban Outfitters announced it was buying Philadelphia’s Vetri Family group of restaurants, including Pizzeria Vetri, to complement its clothing stores, its stock fell as much as 10 percent.” That was back in late 2015. Now, Eater Austin says the only Austin location of Pizzeria Vetri has closed.

Reservation Wars – Speaking of struggling business models, the Chicago Tribune has word that “Table8, the last-minute reservation service for in-demand restaurants, said it will shut down Feb. 28 after it failed to secure enough funding to continue.”

A Happy Accident: “A workmen’s café in central France was overwhelmed with phone calls from gourmet diners wanting to book tables after it was awarded a Michelin star — by mistake.” Story in the Telegraph. “Reporters, TV crews and prospective customers were astounded when they turned up at the Bouche à Oreille, in the small town of Bourges, to find a cheap and cheerful eatery with red and white polka dot plastic tablecloths. Many patrons wear high-visibility vests, it is often packed at lunchtime and the atmosphere is lively, with customers ordering beers at the bar.” Sounds like the kind of place a tire-shop mascot might love…

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A Big Buy – Just, FYI: Burger King announced this morning that they finally bought Popeyes.

Battleground: Yelp – After last week’s #ADayWithoutImmigrants strike, some participating workers were fired. Unfortunately, it has come to this: “In a development that’s seemingly become de rigueur when a restaurant makes headlines for any kind of controversial incident, IDC’s Yelp page has now been flooded with one-star reviews… Folks on the other side of the political divide are firing back with their own reviews defending the restaurant. The restaurant’s Yelp photos are now polluted with stock images of people vomiting and photos of KKK members, as well as racist memes and images of the Confederate flag.” – From Whitney Fillon in Eater.

Retrenchment – “After opening in 2011 and helping spur on a sea of change in the San Antonio culinary scene, Lüke San Antonio, celebrity chef John Besh‘s first restaurant outside of New Orleans, is closing…. The news comes after months of industry speculation following what some called a ‘hit job’ of a review from the Express-News’ food critic Mike Sutter… headlined “The Party is over for Lüke on the Riverwalk”. – Full story in the SA Current.

Oportunidad – Know anyone who wants to be the personal chef of the Ambassador of Spain in D.C.?

And finally “What Restaurant Workers Need to Know about Immigration Raids” – A primer from Daniela Galarza for the folks who make the food. Here’s hoping you never have to use it. Potentially very useful after today’s NYT story on Trump’s new deportation plans.

That’s it for today. Hope you’ve recovered from the long weekend. I’m sure I will soon.

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and send tips and/or new retail/restaurant fusion ideas to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com.

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