Quick programming note: This past Friday’s Family Meal was overtaken by events and never sent, so a bunch of it is included here. I am sorry. This Friday’s will also be cancelled due to Chinese New Year (I’m in Hong Kong right now, and headed to Vietnam for Tet), but after that we’re back to regularly scheduled programming.
Speaking of which, let’s get to it…
This round to Besh – Down where it’s Mardi Gras (laissez les bons temps rouler!), the Besh Restaurant Group successfully convinced a judge that they should be allowed to keep using the Shaya name for their restaurant, despite the fact that, “In August of last year, Besh left a voicemail message for Alon Shaya [stating] ‘I don’t want your restaurant. I don’t want any of the fame that comes with it,’ according to court filings.” BRG lawyers said this was just “hot temper” talk. A presidential argument if ever I’ve heard one.
Key point from the story on Nola.com: Besh is very much trying to emphasize Shaya’s own alleged role in ignoring / mismanaging sexual harassment claims, “In court, [BRG’s lawyer] asked whether Shaya was aware of any sexual misconduct allegations before the investigation was published. ‘My client didn’t do anything wrong,’ [Shaya’s lawyer] said, drawing chuckles from part of the audience where Besh was sitting.” Tee hee?
Those delivery 1099s – “In a significant court decision on the status of so-called gig-economy workers, a federal judge ruled drivers for GrubHub Inc. are independent contractors and not employees.” Details and far-reaching implications (“The legislature may want to address this…” – the judge) are in Bloomberg.
Those delivery $$$ – Grubhub scored a partnership with KFC and Taco Bellthat includes a $200M investment for about 2.8% of the company. “This announcement came as Grubhub posted its fourth quarter earnings, revenues of $205.1 million, a 49 percent year-over-year increase.” How are your margins on Grubhub orders?
P.S. “As part of a five-year partnership, all 75,000 restaurants on the Grubhub platform will see the ability to order delivery through Yelp after they’re integrated… this integration should be completed by mid-year.”
And in case you were wondering, “Yelp’s Q4 earnings showed net revenue of $218.2 million, showing 12 percent growth year over year and beating estimates by $3.3 million.”
Deliver this – Send this New Yorker article out with orders if you can… “When the average consumer logs in to the Caviar app to order a Mulberry & Vinesalad… she might reasonably assume that her order is benefitting the restaurant’s bottom line. But [Michelle Gauthier]… paints a more complicated picture. ‘We know for a fact that as delivery increases, our profitability decreases,’ she said. For each order that Mulberry & Vine sends out, between twenty and forty per cent of the revenue goes to third-party platforms and couriers.” More to the point: “’It’s total bullshit, and you can quote me on that,’ Justin Rosenberg, the C.E.O. of the Philadelphia-based fast-casual chain Honeygrow, told me.”
For the bar – Stone Brewing is suing Miller-Coors for its new KeyStone Light look. They say the rebrand separates the “Stone” in KeyStone, and could cause confusion. Merit aside, the craft brewers that have rallied behind founder Greg Koch are probably right to say the big guys would sue if the roles were reversed. Still, that doesn’t make the embarrassing – and probably detrimental to their case – “lawsuit announcement” video any easier to watch.
Seafood watch – If you buy fish from Asia, read this NYT piece stat: “A fiery collision that sank an Iranian tanker in the East China Sea a month ago has resulted in an environmental threat that experts say is unlike any before: An almost invisible type of petroleum has begun to contaminate some of the most important fishing grounds in Asia, from China to Japan and beyond.”
Chicago Justice – In the Sun-Times: “The feds have charged the former owner of a successful West Loop restaurant with wire fraud and accused him of ripping off his fellow investors to the tune of $300,000. An arrest warrant was also filed Monday for Attila Gyulai, who with his wife controlled Embeya, a modern Asian restaurant in the 500 block of West Randolph. It opened in September 2012 to excellent reviews but suddenly shuttered in June 2016… He and his wife allegedly fled the country in 2016, defaulting on their mortgage and abandoning their car in the street.” Embeya chef Thai Dang, now at HaiSous, wants his money back. Go get ‘em, feds.
Tipping points (best I got, sorry):
Point via Ryan Sutton in Eater: “David Chang, who unsuccessfully tried to implement no tipping at his a la carte Momofuku Nishi, is giving the policy another go at a restaurant where it will likely be a more intuitive fit: his expensive and elegant Ko…. The 10- to 12-course set menu will rise from $195 to $255, though patrons will really only be paying about $20 more since gratuities will no longer be expected or accepted. The receipt will not have a tip line.”
Counterpoint via Ryan Sutton in Eater: “Agern, a Michelin-starred Nordic tasting menu-centric restaurant in Grand Central, will abandon the no-tipping policy that it opened with and focus more heavily on a la carte offerings…. Claus Meyer, the globetrotting chef, television personality, and philanthropist who co-founded Noma and a restaurant in Bolivia, tells Eater… ‘We will have a better chance of getting more butts in the seats,’ if the restaurant’s prices seem more approachable.”
Meanwhile, Danny Meyer told NRN that after Union Square Hospitality Group went no-tipping: ‘We lost, of our legacy front-of-the-house staff, probably about 30 to 40 percent over a period of time.’”
Brexit – Per The Mirror a star is “restructuring” across the pond: “Jamie Oliver‘s restaurant empire owes staff £2.2m and has amassed debts of £71.5m, it has been revealed. Earlier this month, the company announced the closure of 12 of its 37 restaurants, amounting to 450 job losses in cities such as Bristol, Reading, and Harrogate.” Lest you worry: “Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools are reportedly worth around £150m. The star’s personal assets are not thought to be at risk if the company goes into liquidation.” PHEW.
Bloody Valentine – “There’s a cruel irony that exists in one of San Francisco’s most romantic restaurants closing around Valentine’s Day because of a broken (landlord-tenant) relationship. But that’s the reality for Gitane. The decade-old date-night destination, tucked away on Claude Lane downtown, will have its final dinner service on Feb. 17.” Bittersweet details in the Chronicle.
Speaking of cookbooks – “Ferran Adrià’s Bullipedia Will Be 17,500 Pages Long; The full 35-volume series will be released over the next four years… One book will cover the Paleolithic and Neolithic era, also due in 2018. Per its subtitle, this will be a ‘history of gastronomic restoration.’” Neanderthals will finally get the culinary credit they deserve. Thank you, chef. God’s work.
The Suits – If you went to Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, OR, you may be owed some tuition money or loan forgiveness. The class-action suit claiming the school sold education it knew to be worthless – and overcharged for it in cahoots with loan companies – is heading to settlement, and “the school has agreed to pay back 44 percent of students’ tuition or loan amount.” Story and details on filing claims: here.
The Suits Too: PR Edition – The guys behind the Black Tap “crazy shake” craze are suing each other for all the usual “he started a secret company without me” reasons, but what you need to know about this story is that Bullfrog & Baum is named in the suit as the PR firm behind a series of social media influencer parties and comps that led to 250k Instagram followers, 3-hour lines at the restaurant, and ostensibly millions of dollars in milkshake profits. Don’t hate the player, etcetera etcetera.
Real estate – In Manhattan, Google “is close to acquiring the Chelsea Marketbuilding from Jamestown for north of $2 billion, The Real Deal has learned. The 1.2 million-square-foot office-and-retail property at 75 Ninth Avenue is home to the popular food hall as well as Major League Baseball and the Food Network. Google is already the largest tenant at the building, leasing about 400,000 square feet of space.” Current vendors, big congrats on your new lives as Google Food Nodes! Please remember to lift Soylent cases with your legs.
The Profile Treatment – Accurate Headline: “You Need to Know Ashley Rath, the Powerhouse Chef Behind [NYC’s] The Grill.” Curriculum Vitae: “Her big breaks came from line cook positions at Atera, then run by ultra-disciplined chef Matthew Lightner, followed by Gramercy Tavern, where she received the basic culinary education she never had. In 2014, Major Food Group chef and restaurateur Daniel Haar called out of the blue to tell her about a sous chef job at soon-to-open Santina. Haar had met her when she trailed at now-shuttered Torrisi Italian Specialties, and he remembered her inquisitiveness and intensity.” Read the rest: by Priya Krishna in Bon Appetit.
#MeToo / not famous – Vox reporter Alexia Fernández Campbell reporting beyond fine dining last week: “More than 60 women have filed sexual harassment complaints against IHOP, Applebee’s restaurants. They describe a work environment where groping and sexual requests from co-workers were rampant.”
Last and least – Anthony Bourdain says Food & Wine is doing Twitter wrong: I scrolled back as far as I could while still caring, and found that F&W has tweeted some clickbait garbage involving AB every single day – often twice a day – since at least January 23rd. On February 10th, he asked them to knock it off, and there hasn’t been one Bourdain tweet since. #blessed
And that’s it for today. Have fun and stay safe out there, NOLA. If you run a romantic restaurant, I hope they spend like love depends on it tomorrow night. Happy Chinese New Year! Gong hei fat choy! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới, and tiền vô như nước!
See you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or the whereabouts of one Mr. Attila Gyulai to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!