And Happy (almost) Fourth! 1776 feels like forever ago.
Let’s get to it…
What staff is reading – In SF, the Chronicle’s Jonathan Kauffman has a “months-long investigation” into labor violations at Mission burrito institution La Taqueria, which tells the story of four women who won close to $500k in damages and penalties for wage theft, and then another $100k when they were fired after the settlement. There is some expected backlash in the comments about the “business-hating” city government, and the “corrupt” California Labor Board, but whatever your feelings toward the state, Kauffman’s key point is this:
“What happened at La Taqueria exemplifies the violations that regularly occur in small family-owned restaurants: informal arrangements that turn out to be illegal, ignorance of labor laws on the employer’s end, and immigrant workers afraid to advocate for themselves in the workplace.” Everything is always nice and casual until someone sues you for half a million dollars.
That hotel $$$ – “LINE LA has a talented new chef to helm its room service and two restaurants — Josiah Citrin. The Melisse and Charcoal chef, who also oversees the casual Dave’s Dog House inside Staples Center… will take over the trendy Koreatown hotel. This comes just off the news that Roy Choi has vacated his five year tenure.” Details in Eater LA.
The (restaurant group) Profile Treatment – In Chicago, Brigid Sweeneytakes a long look at Fifty/50 and its founders Scott Weiner and Greg Mohr: “Today, the duo… operate 12 concepts with 15 locations—including two Roots Pizzas and three West Town Bakeries, Steadfast in the Loop, and bars and restaurants inside the Dana and Acme hotels in River North—and are gearing up for a two-year sprint they say will double the company’s annual sales to around $70 million by 2020…. ‘What sets us apart is that we have a portfolio that includes sports bars, upscale bars, fine dining, quick-service bakeries—we’re not all one style or one price point,’ Weiner says. ‘If the economy changes and certain restaurants are affected, we’ll be able to weather the storm.’”
So: Do one thing and do it well, or hedge your bets and open a sports bar? Per my read: Whatever you do, get a hotel and/or developer to cover the build…
For the somm: Some sad news – “Virginia’s wine community is celebrating the life and achievements of one of its giants, Dennis Horton, the maverick vintner who defied conventional wisdom by planting grapes few people had heard of, and in so doing convinced many skeptical oenophiles that Virginia could make great wine. Horton died early Tuesday at his home in Madison, Va…. He was 72.” Full obituary in the Washington Post from Dave McIntyre.
The close – “Preeti Mistry and her wife/partner Ann Nadeau on Sunday announced via Instagram they have closed their Emeryville restaurant Navi Kitchen, the year-old follow-up to their beloved Juhu Beach Club in Oakland, which they closed in January after five years.” No word on what’s next.
The Open – In the UK, Bloomberg’s Richard Vines reports/tweets: “Chefs Pierre Koffmann and Marco Pierre White plan to open a restaurant together at The Abbey Hotel, in Bath, this September… There are plans for a roll-out by Black & White Hospitality.” Bonus pic of Koffmann talking to White via trotter? (Update: More details in The Caterer.)
Free speech – Via the LA Times: “Online review site Yelp.com cannot be ordered to remove posts… that a judge determined were defamatory, a divided California Supreme Court ruled Monday in a closely watched case that internet companies warned could be used to silence online speech. In a 4-3 opinion, justices agreed with the warning…” Get mad at Yelp all you want, but you have only the reviewer to blame (and sue).
The Podcasts – The Eater Upsell this week has Uber Eats exec Jason Droege talking the business of delivery, and it’s worth a listen whether your restaurants already use them or not (they’re coming for you anyway). There’s a lot of spin, but also some interesting discussion on “virtual” restaurants that exist as purely online brands operating within established brick & mortar concepts, and a little bit of a peek into how they use – and plan on using – data to adjust both your menu and the way it’s presented to customers.
He also basically confirms what was already heavily implied: Uber Eats’ January purchase of David Chang’s delivery-only restaurant Ando didn’t include any equipment or “physical assets”; it was really an acqui-hire (probably little or no money changed hands: Uber got Chang’s staff, and Chang got to say Uber “bought” his company). No shame in that, but I’m happy to be proven wrong if you guys want to send me the terms!
(P.S. – Upsell hosts Dan Geneen and Amanda Kludt are usually pretty good interviewers, but at this point it’s journalistic malpractice not to ask people who profit off of the gig economy about the people actually doing the gigs.)
Tell (vacationland) PR – Eater national critic Bill Addison ended his last newsletter with: “A question for the Yankees: Any new dining favorites in Portland, Maine?” I’d get in his inbox if I were you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And that’s it for today. But before I go, a 4th of July message from my dog: “Fireworks are lame.”
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.