Seems like there’s just a bit of non-restaurant news happening today, but when you need a break from that, might I suggest…
Delivery wars – “Postmates and DoorDash have discussed a merger that would unite two of the largest restaurant-delivery startups in the U.S. in a bid to take on better-funded competitors like GrubHub, Uber and Amazon, multiple sources have told Recode… Combined, DoorDash and Postmates would have about 23 percent market share, according to data from Second Measure, a startup that analyzes debit and credit card transactions. UberEats has about 20 percent of the market, while GrubHub — counting its Seamless and Eat24businesses — has 52 percent.”
Lots of interesting numbers here, but a key Q remains: PostDash or DoorMates?
MIT culinary – “Last month, four recent M.I.T. graduates… stood around a hulking console that looked like an old mainframe computer but was actually a self-cleaning robotic kitchen, designed to prepare an entire meal in less than three minutes. They call their contraption the Spyce Kitchen, which spawned a nickname, the Spyce Boys.” This one may actually have legs. Daniel Bouludhas signed on as Culinary Director, and “Later this month, a nearly identical copper-clad unit will begin serving customers (seven different “bowls” will be available, for $7.50 each) at a fast-casual restaurant called Spyce, which will open near the Freedom Trail, in downtown Boston.” Details in the New Yorker.
P.S. The New Yorker hates photos, and I love illustrations, but here’s an old video of what Spyce Kitchen actually looks like in action because, you know, the Internet exists and it’s 2018.
The (Group) Profile Treatment – In Crain’s Chicago, Brigid Sweeney lays out the history and future of Boka Restaurant Group this week, with a focus on their possible expansion to LA, and lots of numbers: Revenue increased “from $19 million in 2010 to nearly $105 million this year. Only two of the 20 places they’ve created, Landmark and Perennial, are no longer in existence. Five of their ventures—they decline to specify which—gross more than $10 million each year, placing them on a short list next to Chicago Cut; Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab; and Tavern on Rush. (They will say that Swift & Sons, the steakhouse they opened in late 2015 inside Google’s new West Loop headquarters, brings in the most money, north of $15 million annually.)… By 2020, they expect revenue to exceed $140 million.”
Plus this little anecdote: back when founders Kevin Boehm and Rob Katztalked up Stephanie Izard’s future Girl & the Goat to investors, they pitched “it as a sure bet that would bring in $4.5 million in its first year. There were few takers… Girl & the Goat debuted in summer 2010 to fawning acclaim and went on to pull in more than $11 million its first year. Today, the 130-seat restaurant still books up six weeks in advance”.
And this dangerous jinx: “‘We recognize it’s almost a miracle that we’re still friends,’ Boehm says on a recent morning in their West Loop office.” Put these guys on the cover of Sports Illustrated already!
The (fun read) Profile Treatment – The NYT’s Kim Severson heads to Atlanta to talk to Eddie Hernandez of the Taqueria del Sol chain. “He puts cream and sugar in his shrimp and grits to counter the heat of jalapeños, a move that will get you kicked out of a lot of Southern kitchens, and makes his chilaquiles with Fritos because they don’t get as soggy as tortilla chips. And his popular jalapeño cheese dip? It’s based on whole milk and a specific brand of processed American cheese: Land O’ Lakes Extra Melt.”
Dispatch from Yountville (via Eater SF): “Hurley’s, a staple of local dining in Napa County, will close on April 15 when chef/owner Bob Hurley retires and transfers ownership of his Yountville restaurant space to celebrity chef Thomas Keller.” Presumably for the latter’s rumored Mexican concept.
Getting Gold – “The Los Angeles Times is presenting the second annual Gold Award to chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken…. The award, which last year was given to Wolfgang Puck, celebrates intelligence, innovation and brilliance as well as sensitivity to aesthetics, culture and the environment.” Congrats!
The suits – The partners in Dallas-based Mesero Restaurant Group are suing founder Mico Rodriguez for $1M for (among other things) “improperly collecting” a salary of over $200k and licensing fees over $350k, and dipping into bank accounts for “unexplained withdrawals”. Details in Dallas News, which notes that in the past, “alcohol, substance abuse and other woes stood between Rodriguez and success. Mesero was to be his redemption.”
The movement – In Chicago: “Logan Square icon Longman & Eagle now has a new executive chef and a slew of new dishes a few months after losing its Michelin star last fall. Maxwell Robbins, who previously was head chef at Soho House Chicago and Gilt Bar, is now leading Longman’s food program…” While in LA: “Kris Tominaga is now in as the chef at Manuela in the Arts District. Tominaga… first gained acclaim for a series of pop-ups before going legit with the founding of The Hart & The Hunter inside the Palihotel on Melrose.” Then there was Cadet, Mardi, and finally the entire Paligroup “dining portfolio.” And in SF: The Mission’s Ken Ken Ramen closed last month, but “according to a liquor license transfer, a new business, Ramenwell, will take over the space. That’s owned by Harold Jurado, a Chicago chef now living in San Francisco and working at Bon Appétit Management Company.”
Also in SF: “First time restaurateur Heena Patel is taking the reins at 1275 Minnesota Street, a Dogpatch restaurant space inside the Minnesota Street Project art gallery and studio that opened last year as a branch of Daniel Patterson’s restaurant Alta.” Patel will handle the Gujurati-Californian cuisine, while Patterson’s group manages the space and bar.
The Media – Eater is looking for a new social media manager. Turns out Anthony Bourdain thinks they’ve been doing it wrong their whole life.
For design fans – I don’t usually quote the comments section, but here’s one opinion from Eater LA’s photo spread for the new Yardbird Southern Table & Bar: “One rolling pin and five potato mashers for beer taps … golly gee, how dang down-home can ya git? Of course if they actually mashed their potatoes by hand I could get excited about the place, but so far I’m having a hard time getting past the unsettling impression of a ’way too upscale Cracker Barrel.” The space is inoffensive, if that’s what they mean?
And last and least – If you didn’t read the story about Heena Patel’s new project, you might still enjoy the work of the designer who’s handling some of her dishes. The quotes on these plates are pretty great: “Ever heard of salt, Beta?” “Is this samosa or sabotage?!” “Parvati, this chai tastes like shit.”
And that’s it for today. I hope that – at a minimum – you’re having a the-FBI-didn’t-raid-my-restaurant kind of week so far.
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.