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Let’s get to it…
The Big News – Amazon Buys Whole Foods. There will be a thousand articles written about this today, so I’ll just say this: Amazon already does restaurant delivery, but they now own hundreds of restaurants, especially in the lunch market. They also have access to a massive network of prepared foods outlets that can be turned into “delivery-only” restaurants very quickly (think Galley, Maple, Ando, etc.). In other words, Amazon is officially in the restaurant business now. The fast casual, take out, and delivery crowds have some serious competition coming.
Hat tip to Jon Bonne for this tweet from a WSJ editor that sums it up: “Amazon did not just buy Whole Foods grocery stores. It bought 431 upper-income, prime-location distribution nodes for everything it does.”
For specifics: Here’s the news in The Washington Post, including this side-note parenthetical: “(Bezos owns The Washington Post.)”
In somewhat related news… Mark Bittman was an activist investor in Whole Foods, probably made a pretty penny on this deal, and is now headed to Grubstreet to write about food for NYMag. Here’s his “What I’ve Been Up To” piece announcing the new gig (scroll over the underlined parts for footnotes including 60s acid trip memories), and his “The New Foodieism” first column in which he shakes off his New York Times shackles and refers to the new administration as “climate deniers, racists, xenophobes, and sexists, along with financial lobbyists, billionaires, novices, misanthropes, and just plain fuckers.” Not exactly an olive branch from The Minimalist…
Tattle Tale – Heads up star seekers: Xi’an Famous Foods incurred a pop-up warning after using “customer experience management” app Tattle to identify satisfied fans and offer them incentives to post on Yelp. They were giving out $5 gift cards for 5-star reviews, but now their Yelp page for the next 90 days will look like this: “Consumer Alert – We caught someone offering up cash, discounts, gift certificates or other incentives in exchange for reviews about this business. We wanted you to know because buying reviews not only hurts consumers, but also honest businesses who play by the rules. Check out the evidence here.”
This Humbling Industry – Via philly.com: “The Fat Ham in King of Prussia, the remaining restaurant in Top Chef Kevin Sbraga’s onetime mini-empire, will close after business Sunday, after nine months… Sbraga was a meteor through much of his short career as a restaurateur, opening five highly visible restaurants in less than five years, and seemed to symbolize the high-flying celebrity chef. On Wednesday, he took the bus home to Center City from King of Prussia after his announcement. His Chevy Tahoe had been repossessed.”
This Family Meal is brought to you by Add Passion and Stir: Big Chefs, Big Ideas, a weekly podcast about inspirational people who are changing the world. In each episode, Billy Shore, the creator of the No Kid Hungry Campaign (www.strength.org), brings together prominent change-makers and guests from the culinary world to discuss how food is at the intersection of social transformation.
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Speaking of Top Chef shutters… Judge Hugh Acheson is closing Florence in Savannah later this month according to Eater.
Put a peach on it – The news from Nike: “On June 22, Nike SB and New York-based chef David Chang will launch the Nike SB Dunk High Pro ‘Momofuku.’ The shoe, which is dressed in a dark denim reminiscent of Momofuku’s aprons, is the result of a long-standing relationship between members of the skate community, the Nike SB team and the Momofuku restaurants… The numbers ‘163’ and ‘207’ mark the sock liners, noting the addresses of David’s Fuku and Ssäm Bar restaurants in NYC.”
Steven Starr doubles down on DC – He’s opening a follow-up to Le Diplomat next year, and if I were his PR folks, I would start crafting very clever responses to the “yet another steakhouse” cliché stat.
LocoL retrenches – After the Pete Wells zero-star review of their West Oakland location, Roi Choi and Daniel Patterson are closing 2214 Broadway and moving its operation to nearby 3446 Market. Part of the Pete Wells takedown was about the fact that there was already a lot of competition near the Broadway space, so maybe this move represents a return to focus on the original mission of bringing good food to underserved areas.
And finally, I’ll just leave this here… “Why this 3-Star restaurant has a 3 day workweek” from Munchies in Oslo – “Holmboe Bang decided he had to take action. In September 2016, he cut Maaemo‘s workweek from five days to four. ‘I saw the effect immediately,’ he says. ‘People were rested, they had higher energy, they would walk through the doors at the start of the week with a sense of “this is where I want to be today.”’ And then, he did something even crazier… He cut his staff’s schedule to three days. Everyone—back- and front-of-house—would still be putting in about 45 hours a week, but they would always have four days off in a row. And once a month, they’d get five days off in succession, so they’d have time to go visit far-flung family, or travel just for fun.”
That’s it for today! See you Tuesday for next Family Meal. Good luck with all the dads this weekend. Here’s hoping all those kids breaking piggy banks saved enough to tip…