October 9, 2020
The week was characterized by the foodservice industry’s hopes for relief … which were abruptly dashed by President Trump.
- Grief over no relief
- A triple threat to restaurants
“Literally, winter is coming. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of restaurateurs will have no choice but to call it quits.”Chef Andrew Zimmern (The Washington Post)
Grief Over No Relief
The Trump administration halted a new stimulus package, despite the passage of a relief bill by the U.S. House of Representatives on October 1.
- Forbes detailed key facts of the revised $2.2 trillion HEROES Act.
- On October 2, Nation’s Restaurant News tempered expectations that the revised HEROES Act, which included $120 billion in restaurant industry relief, will move to the U.S. Senate.
- Food & Wine reported that “optimistic” discussions between Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came to an abrupt end when President Trump ended further stimulus negotiations on October 6.
- The National Farmers Union praised the HEROES Act for delivering needed aid to vital businesses, including the livestock industry. Five days later, the organization responded to paused negotiations: “Americans need help, and they need it now. Quite simply, he must reverse course and work with Congress to preserve our economy and the wellbeing of every American.”
- Eater staff writer Jaya Saxena reinforced the urgency of passing a stimulus bill, stating “restaurant workers don’t have the time to wait out Trump’s game of political chicken.”
- Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle calculated relief funds distributed to the agriculture industry for trade- and pandemic-related losses.
Triple Threat to Foodservice
Foodservice struggles to stay open in the face of tough pandemic regulations, a lack of relief funds and limited outdoor dining options as the weather turns.
- On October 4, The Wall Street Journal’s Steve Garbarino documented the “tossing of salad bars” with many colorful examples of saddened customers who miss these “mirages of healthful eating.” The next day, WSJ described fine-dining operations imposing time limits on customers.
- Washington Post food critic Tim Carman captured the sentiment of independent restaurant operators counting on the passage of the HEROES Act for further relief funds. The article quotes TV personality and chef Andrew Zimmern: “Literally, winter is coming. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of restaurateurs, will have no choice but to call it quits.”
- Eater editor Amanda Kludt polled restaurants and customers alike on their thoughts on dining out. Most erred on the side of caution; one self-described aficionado feared “a future of mass restaurant monoculture where Darden can borrow money for nothing, and little places become extinct.”
- Bad news continued about bankruptcies and closings. Bloomberg reported on banks having a hard time unloading bankrupt chains Ruby Tuesday and California Pizza Kitchen, while the Chicago Tribune described Ruth’s Chris closing its popular downtown location after 28 years.
- The employment situation in restaurants is improving, but remains 2.3 million jobs behind where the industry was in February, according to an October 2 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report (Nation’s Restaurant News).
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
War, Peace and Hunger Relief
On October 9, the world’s largest hunger relief organization, The United Nations World Food Programme, won the Nobel Peace Prize, largely for its work with hunger relief in areas of armed conflict: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to emphasize that providing assistance to increase food security not only prevents hunger, but can also help to improve prospects for stability and peace.”
Paring Back on Food Politics
Food Dive narrowed down data from the Center for Responsive Politics to see how much the largest food and beverage companies have contributed to political races. Less than the last election, evidently: “Donations to Democrats fell 30% to $828,300 while those collected by Republicans declined 52% to $876,700.” Author Christopher Doering suggested that companies may be backing away to avoid future backlash.
Food: The O.G. Insta
As Instagram celebrated 10 years this week, Forbes contributor Abigail Abesamis Demarest interviewed partner solutions manager CJ Hernandez: “Food is really OG Instagram. When we think back to the early days of Instagram, food was one of the original popular interest areas on the platform. All the food content was beautiful photos of food. Now we see people putting themselves and their personality at the forefront of this content.” Comparatively, food is far less annoying.
A Bee ‘C’
As part of an effort it began in 2017, environmentalist group Friends of the Earth published a “Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard” that ranks grocers on their sourcing policies. The activist group favors organic foods and commitments to forego neonicotinoid pesticides, which EPA maintains are safe and effective. As a result, the highest grade on the scorecard is a “C.”
‘The Strangest Innovation Since Crystal Pepsi’
Data-driven designer and Northern Arizona University sociologist James I. Bowie offered a critical look at PesiCo’s new Driftwell brand of functional seltzer water: “Its lowercase wordmark, set in an approachable sans serif typeface, echoes the logotypes of Allbirds, Warby Parker, Away, and their marketing progeny. … Historically, imitation in branding has tended to happen the other way around, where the little guys copy the big guys.”
Taco ‘Bout a Meal
Competitive eater Joey Chestnut celebrated National Taco Day on Monday by creating and then eating the world’s largest “Walking Taco.” He assembled a party-sized bag of Doritos weighing in at 12 pounds and hoovered it up in 38 minutes and 42 seconds. Following his achievement, Chestnut ended National Taco Day “with a beer, belly rub and nap,” and we don’t blame him.
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