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Is Love, Nelly the Future of Bakeries?

By Mahira Rivers | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

Love, Nelly was forced to improvise during the pandemic, and the bakery has emerged even stronger as COVID restrictions wane.

At Love, Nelly, a bakery in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, the beef empanadas are as big as a fist. The bronzed, deep-fried dough pinched around a generous filling of minced beef is both flaky and flexible. Stephanie Gallardo perfected the recipe for those empanadas before she opened Love, Nelly with her business partner Keavy Landreth last July. Gallardo, whose parents are from South America, is on track to become a co-owner of the bakery, which puts her in a small but growing class of Latinx restaurant owners. Opening against the backdrop of a public health crisis, which took a disproportionate toll on communities of color, and as restaurant workers finally had a platform to speak out about substandard wages and mental health, Gallardo and Landreth felt a sense of urgency to get their new business right-for everyone.

Love, Nelly was originally meant to be an extension of another Brooklyn bakery-slash-bar called Butter & Scotch, where Gallardo had been working as general manager alongside Landreth (who co-owned the bakery with Alison Kave). Landreth was looking for a bigger production kitchen to crank out the bakery’s fan-favorite birthday cakes, but the details just weren’t coming together. Ultimately, she scrapped the expansion and gave Gallardo creative space to design her own concept. “We were having a really hard time,” Landreth said. “But once we figured out the shaved ice and empanadas, Love, Nelly just immediately happened.”

The two also decided to test a no-tipping service model in order to offer their staff some stability as hours and profits dwindled during the pandemic. A job at Love, Nelly currently pays $20 an hour, five dollars above New York’s minimum wage. A unilateral increase in retail prices helps to cover some of the costs, though not all. Currently, payroll is about half of the bakery’s overhead, which is significantly higher than sustainable industry standards. But it’s a commitment to the people and so far, it seems to be sending the right message. “Everyone is very happy to be here,” Gallardo said. “We make sure to listen to what everyone has to say. We care about each other.”

Gallardo’s nostalgia shaped many aspects of the bakery, which is named for her mother, Nelly, who is Colombian. The shop is drenched in transportive azure blues and peachy pinks and the menu is full of empanadas and raspados(Colombian shaved ice), which were a staple of Gallardo’s childhood years in Texas and New York, and summers spent in South America. There are cookies, cakes and seasonal loafs, which are tucked into every corner of the store. There’s also a freezer with empanadas to take-and-bake. And a merch and pantry corner with Love, Nelly mugs, rainbow sprinkles and bottles of homemade cilantro aioli and vinegary aji verde. It may be hard to choose favorites-but that’s kind of the point. “We want to give everyone everything,” said Gallardo.


 

Online, Gallardo and Landreth sell monthly care packages inspired, again, by Nelly. The logistics are complex, but the boxes have been a reliable source of sales since they launched last fall (and a way to stay close with friends and family during the pandemic). June’s box will include a pineapple cocktail, a novelty cocktail cup and ingredients for the bakery’s tres leches cake-a milk-soaked version of the signature Butter & Scotch birthday cake. Unfortunately, due in part to a significant loss of customers in the pandemic, Butter & Scotch closed  a few months after Love, Nelly opened, but Gallardo and Landreth continue to sell the cakes out of the Love, Nelly kitchen.

What has helped the most financially is the government aid that became available in the pandemic. Small business loans and the most recent round of government grants provided a safety net, something Landreth thinks should be made permanent, almost like a federal subsidy. That idea may be an outlier in the theoretical toolkit for fixing an imperfect and often exploitative industry, but it gets to the heart of the issue-business owners who want to build a healthier restaurant industry, from paying livable wages to offering health insurance and employee equity, need money to do it.

Luckily, as co-owners, Gallardo and Landreth share the responsibilities as well as the risk. “I always wanted to own a business, but I knew it would be incredibly hard to do alone,” Gallardo said, citing both the financial costs and the scarcity of intangible resources like time and knowledge. That Latinas have less access to capital when starting a business is a fact, so finding experienced partners who know how to navigate the bureaucracy is vital to growing a more diverse community of restaurant owners.

If it sounds like Gallardo and Landreth have a lot going on, they do. From the snacks and  packages made with care and skill to the mindful people policies and the intentional uplifting of exciting new talent-there are so many reasons to root for Love, Nelly’s success. It’s truly impossible to pick just one.


 

 

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Starbucks Will Allow Customers to Use Their Own Cups Again

By Mike Pomranz | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

The program that comes with a 10 cent discount will resume this June after being put on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the largest coffee chain on the planet, Starbucks closures served as an early harbinger of the eventual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our daily lives. But as America continues to emerge from the grips of coronavirus, some fresh Starbucks news could also serve as a sign that normality is truly near: The chain has announced that they will once again allow customers to bring in their own reusable cups-a long-standing policy the company suspended in March 2020due to coronavirus concerns-starting on June 22.

Of course, life will probably never be exactly as it was before the pandemic, and Starbucks’ reusable cup policy-at least for now-is no exception. “As part of Starbucks ongoing commitment to prioritizing partner and customer safety, the company developed a completely contactless, new method-eliminating any shared touch points between the customer and Starbucks partners (baristas),” the company explained in the announcement yesterday, adding that the system underwent “extensive trials” in other parts of the world.

With the new system, customers must arrive with already cleaned cups which will then be placed in a ceramic mug. The Starbucks barista will make drinks while holding only the mug, and then the mug will be brought back to the customer who will remove their cup themselves. Essentially, the ceramic cups are serving as a glorified tray for baristas to use to handle your cup-or you can just watch a video of the whole system going down on Starbucks’ website.


 

Additionally, Starbucks warns that they are “currently testing safe options for allowing personal reusable cups via the drive thru, but for now personal reusable cups will only be accepted in stores.” But speaking of in-store, Starbucks also says they are bringing back washable “For Here Ware” to further reduce waste for dine-in (or just drink-in) customers.

And finally, one thing that’s definitely staying the same: Starbucks will continue to offer their 10 cent discount for customers who choose reusable cups-something the chain has been doing since 1985. “Bringing back personal reusable cups is a key part of Starbucks’ ongoing commitment to reduce single-use cup waste and goal to reduce waste by 50 percent by 2030,” the company stated.

Meanwhile, Starbucks also mentioned that they’re still hard at work seeking out other alternatives to single-use cups: Most recently, earlier this year, the chain trialed a new “Borrow A Cup” program that allowed customers to take away and return reusable cups (kind of library book-style) at five locations in Seattle.


 


 

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Lawmakers Request Additional $60 Billion in Restaurant Relief Funds

By Jelisa Castrodale | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

 

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would put another $60 billion into the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), after more than 200,000 applicants were unable to receive relief during the first round of funding. Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021 would provide an additional $60 billion worth of relief to America’s still-struggling restaurants. The bill was introduced by Senator Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

According to Restaurant Business Online, the U.S. Small Business Administration expected that the $28.6 billion in funding available through the RRF would be distributed among 100,000-ish restaurants and food service businesses. The original funding bill prioritized applications from independent businesses that were owned by women, veterans, and BIPOC. In total, more than 372,000 businesses applied for assistance during the first three weeks of the program; satisfying all of those requests would’ve required an additional $50 billion in funds. 

The Small Business Administration has suggested that restaurants that applied for the first round of the RRF but were unable to receive financial help would “automatically” be prioritized for the second round. “When the RRF portal closed in May, small business restaurant owners all wanted to know ‘what’s next’ for their pending applications,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice-president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “The introduction of this additional $60 billion in funding not only answers that question but proves once again that Congress understands and supports the foodservice industry.”

Although the easing of coronavirus-related closures, capacity restrictions, and other restrictions have helped the restaurant industry, it’s not enough to make up for the hardships of the past year-plus. CBS News reports that the restaurant industry added 189,000 jobs nationwide last month, but that employment is still down by 12 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

“Our restaurants are now beginning to recover from a year of lost revenue, but many establishments are still hurting and have not been able to access aid for which they are eligible,” Sen. Wicker said in a statement. “Replenishing this fund would help restaurants, their staff, and the broader food supply chain as they continue to get back on their feet.” 

Rep. Blumenauer echoed those sentiments. “While it appears that our work to prioritize restaurants most in need was successful in the first round, the extraordinary demand for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund shows that many more businesses still desperately need help,” he said. “We must work quickly to replenish this critical relief program and ensure all local restaurants get the support needed to keep their doors open, pay their staff, and support the industry’s trillion-dollar supply chain that impacts every sector of our economy.”

Hopefully, Congress finds a way to work together to make this happen. Guy Fieri can’t do everything. 


 

 

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The Cult of Blue Moon Ice Cream

By Khushbu Shah | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

Blue moon is a sweet staple of Midwestern summers.

The phrase “Once in a Blue Moon” never really made any sense to me as a child. In my world, you could find blue moon ice cream in the freezer aisle of every grocery store and in the cold case of any scoop shop worth its salt. The flavor, which has a distinct, Smurf-like hue, was always one of my favorites growing up-due in no small part to the fact that it would stain your tongue a bright, galactic blue.

Blue moon ice cream is not only memorable because of its vivid shade, but also because of its mysterious flavor. No one can agree on what it actually tastes like; some claim it tastes of citrus with strong hits of vanilla, while others swear it is flavored with almond extract. Some say it tastes like a bowl of Froot Loops or Fruity Pebbles; others say it is cotton candy and bubble gum. Recipes to re-create the flavor at home commonly call for raspberry and lemon. Personally, I think it tastes like a concoction of black cherry, vanilla pudding, and marshmallow.

Many attribute the invention of blue moon to Bill Sidon, who was the chief flavor chemist at Petran Products, based in Milwaukee, in the 1950s. The recipe, which still remains a secret today, was first trademarked by the company. Since then, blue moon has gone on to become a staple of Midwestern ice cream culture. It’s made by a number of creameries in the region today, but they each keep their proprietary recipes a secret-and I think the ice cream tastes better for it.

Best of the Blues 

Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream

This family-run shop in Madison, Wisconsin, was founded in 1962. Though it produces more than 100 different flavors, blue moon remains a fan favorite. $7 per pint, icecreamsource.com

Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery

At this small-batch creamery in St. Louis, blue moon is part of the “Nice” collection, meaning it’s free of alcohol, but its pungent raspberry and lemon flavors won’t leave you wanting. $12 per pint, clementinescreamery.com

Hudsonville Ice Cream

This Michigan staple sells its ice cream in big containers to feed a crowd. $125 for a multi-pack of four 1.5-quart containers, hudsonvilleicecream.com

Salted Blue Corn Waffle Cones

Nothing goes better with blue moon than a blue cone. These cones, from The Konery, based in Brooklyn, are a bit less sweet than a regular waffle cone, which works to bal- ance the sugary ice cream. $108 for 144 cones, webstaurantstore.com


 

 

 

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Coca-Cola Is Buying Everyone a Coke to Support Local Restaurants

By Mike Pomranz | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

Sign up now to get your free drink code sent on June 15.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is waning, times are still critical for the restaurant industry: Reopening your doors is only a good thing if people actually walk through them. So to encourage people to support local restaurants this summer, Coca-Cola has come up with a straightforward plan: They’re going to help you go out and grab a Coke at your favorite restaurant for free.

Coca-Cola is currently giving everyone in the country a chance to sign up to get “a Coke on us”-a promotion that allows people to go out, buy a Coca-Cola beverage at a restaurant, and have the company cover the cost. Simply go to us.coca-cola.com/summer, enter your info, and then you’ll receive an email on June 15 with details on how to score your free Coke, redeemable from June 17 to 21.

But how precisely does you getting a free Coke help restaurants? Coca-Cola pulled back the veil on the program for us a bit: The “free Cokes” will actually be distributed in the form of a $2.50 Mastercard Mobile Wallet credit which can then be processed by any restaurant that takes card payments. Coca-Cola admits that while, technically, the mobile wallet won’t be able to tell how you spend the money, the whole point of the promotion is to benefit local restaurants, so the company is simply encouraging everyone to hold up their end of the bargain, and infuse their favorite restaurants with a bit of extra cash-$2.50 at a time-preferably by adding a Coca-Cola soft drink to their meal.

“Coca-Cola has fervently supported local restaurants-a vital part of our beverage business-especially during the pandemic,” Melissa Schwartz, brand director for Coke & Meals, told me via email. “We provided employees with delivery credits, joined forces with #TheGreatAmericanTakeout, donated to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund and supported World Central Kitchen, among many others, but our work is far from over. In our latest effort to raise up local restaurants, Coca-Cola is incentivizing fans to revisit and rediscover restaurants after a very tough year with the ‘This Coke’s on Us’ program. We’re enabling hundreds of thousands of fans to kick off summer with a Coke and a meal from a local restaurant, and to feel good while doing so, giving Americans one more reason to support local.”

So there you have it: Take a bit of free cash from Coca-Cola and spend it at your favorite restaurant-preferably on a Coke. Or, if you absolutely must, a Sprite. Just don’t be a total jerk and spend the money on a Pepsi.


 

 

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No One Should Be Surprised That Fast Food Restaurants Want to Sell You a Bigger Combo

By Jelisa Castrodale | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

A Houston man—who just wanted a small fries and drink—has accused Burger King of dishonest practices when cashiers suggest medium and large options.

When you place an order at a fast food restaurant, you pretty much expect the worker behind the register or wearing the drive-thru headset to upsell you on something, asking you if you’d like to turn that sandwich into a combo-or if you want to SuperSize it, if that’s your McThing. But one Texas man has had it with his local Burger King trying to turn every combo meal into a medium or large, when he just wants the standard small version. 

“The girl automatically said, ‘Medium or large?’ So I said, ‘I only want a number 6.’ And she said, ‘medium or large’ with a higher tone,” Glen Tharp told Click2Houston. “To me, it’s not right to do that to the customer. I think it’s dishonest.”

Tharp told the outlet that he believes the restaurant is “tricking” customers into spending more money by selecting a larger combo; the medium version costs 54 cents more than the standard small size. “It’s the principle about it,” he harrumphed.

The Click2Houston investigative team visited seven Houston-area Burger Kings to find out how prevalent the small meal erasure was and learned that it maybe wasn’t as big a problem as Tharp suggested. At five of the restaurants they visited, the reporters were asked whether they wanted a small, medium, or large combo, while at the other two, they were asked if they wanted a medium or large. (“When we replied asking if a small was available, the employee said yes,” they admitted.)

The thing is, the idea of upselling at a fast food restaurant isn’t anything new-and in 2007 a columnist for The Dispatch in Davidson County, North Carolina, complained that a Bojangles restaurant tried the same thing with his order.

“I ordered the Chicken Supremes combo meal, priced at $4.99 on their sign. [The employee] asked me about my sauce preference, the fries-or-other-side question and what type of drink,” he wrote. “Then, the last question-‘Would you like the medium or the large?’ I respond politely ‘Medium, please,’ and I pulled up to the window to receive the food and pay. She asked for $5.86 and handed me a rather large drink […] The combo meal I ordered for $4.99 was a small combo. I was never asked that, only medium or large. What a scam!”

If this happened to you, he suggested turning your engine off at the pick-up window, telling the worker that you “expect and demand that my order be what I ordered,” and waiting for cars to “line up behind you.” (That entire column should also be used as Exhibit A when fast food workers explain why they deserve to be paid a higher hourly wage.)

In 2019, QSR magazine studied how many fast food restaurants perform “suggestive selling” in their drive-thrus and they learned that it was, uh, pretty much all of them. “There are a number of reasons why restaurants suggest other menu items to add to a purchase,” it wrote. “It could be to get trial on a new menu innovation, or possibly to complete a meal; the vast majority of upsells at every brand were either for a combo or a special. But of course, profit is the main objective, as suggestive sells drive higher check averages.” 

According to its research, Carl’s Jr was the most likely to try suggestive selling, followed by KFC, Hardee’s, and Arby’s. Recommending a combo meal was the most frequent type of suggestive selling in nine of the 10 restaurant chains surveyed, followed by suggestions to upsize a combo, try a special promo, get a larger drink, or add dessert to the order-although the frequency of those other upsells varied from chain to chain. 

So yeah, this isn’t a new or an uncommon thing, and it’s probably not a surprise to frequent fast food customers. But if you’re not a regular at your local drive-thru, it’s probably worth knowing that you can ask for a small, even if they recommend a larger size-and you don’t need to contact the local news to get the order you want. 


 

 

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Starbucks Is ‘Experiencing Temporary Supply Shortages’ Knocking Some Items Off Menus

By Mike Pomranz | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

“Specific items will vary by market and store,” a spokesperson said.

Whether you’ve encountered missing menu items at a local Starbucks location yourself-or simply seen the hype on TikTok-America’s largest coffee chain has admitted that, no, these aren’t isolated incidents or social media overreactions: Starbucks really is dealing with a variety of ingredient shortages, though they are working to get them resolved ASAP.

“We are experiencing temporary supply shortages of some of our products. Specific items will vary by market and store, and some stores will experience outages of various items at the same time,” a Starbucks spokesperson told me via email. “We know that a visit to Starbucks is an important part of our customer’s day and we apologize for the inconvenience. We are working quickly and closely with our supply chain vendors to restock items as soon as possible.” The company’s app even displayed a pop-up warning to customers informing them of possible issues with menu items being unavailable.

As for the cause of the shortages, Starbucks didn’t point to any specific problems, instead stating that the chain was facing the same obstacles that companies across the country and around the globe had been navigating in the wake of the pandemic. Starbucks certainly isn’t alone in dealing with shortages caused by trade and labor issues: Just last month, we were able to pull together a list of 12 seemingly random shortages brought on by the pandemic: everything from staples like meat and flour to very niche items like Caffeine-Free Coke and Grape-Nuts Cereal.

That said, Starbucks also tends to embrace customers’ affinity for social media. Sometimes-like with colorful pink drinks-that can work in the chain’s favor. Other times-like with last month’s Twitter chain of complicated orders-one might say that any publicity is good publicity. But when people take to sites like TikTok to complain about Starbucks shortages, word can spread fast: Even a simple clip of a Starbucks shortage sign has racked up over 185,000 views. I guess if there’s any silver lining to that sort of viral power, it’s that at least customers should know what to expect until these shortages get resolved.


 

 

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What We Wish Restaurant Guests Knew About Tipping

By Larissa Zimberoff | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

After a disastrous year for restaurants, the industry is rethinking how it does business, and tipping is a crucial part of the discussion.

Tips have a thorny past. Tipping was first popularized in the United States after emancipation, when formerly enslaved people working in the hospitality sector were expected to work for tips in lieu of wages. Since then, tipped workers have continued to depend on the whims of customers for their income. In one recent study, the Economic Policy Institute found that in states like Virginia, Texas, and Alabama, where restaurant owners can pay employees the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, 18% of hospitality workers live in poverty, a rate double that of non-tipped workers in those same states. 

Whether you’re settling in for a prix fixe dinner or grabbing an espresso to go, your tip has a huge impact on restaurant workers’ lives. Still, according to Michael Lynn, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and tipping expert, only about 70% of the country knows that it’s customary to leave a 15% to 20% tip. Ultimately, because tipping is so widely varied based on city, state, and restaurant, the best version of the system may be the one that is largely agreed upon by everyone, from servers to chefs to dishwashers: Do away with the subminimum wage, and pay everyone a full minimum wage. Until we get there, tip with empathy, certainly no less than 20%—especially if your check is small.

Can Tipping Be More Equitable?

Here are the ways restaurants are trying to even the playing field when it comes to tipping:

Pooled Tips Among All Workers

“I don’t know any other industry other than sales where so much of your wage is dependent on the customer,” says Sean O’Connor, general manager of Dóttir in Portland, Oregon. At Dóttir, staff make the full state minimum wage, which will be $14 on July 1st. On top of their hourly pay, O’Connor uses a practice known as “tip pooling.” This means that every dollar of the tip is put into one pot of money and distributed between staff based on hours worked. Front-of-house workers––servers, bussers, bartenders––get 65% of the tip pool; back of house––dishwashers, line cooks, chefs––split the remaining 35%. “In the best case it builds more teamwork, and a more even playing field for everyone,” says O’Conner.

In Kentucky, chef Ouita Michel runs seven locations all with slightly different models, but her most common practice is also tip pooling. At her counter service locations, every single employee shares the tips. On average, tips add between $3 and $5 per hour to each employee’s hourly wage. “We try to work with what makes each staff the most comfortable,” says Michel.

“Only about 70% of the country knows that it’s customary to leave a 15 to 20% tip,” says Mike Lynn, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and a tipping expert.

Pooled Tips, But Only for Front of House

Cristina Schenk, CEO of Merriman’s Hawaii, oversees four locations with over 200 employees. In addition to a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, front-of-house (FOH) workers pool their tips for each shift, which are then distributed among FOH staff. “It really evens out their earnings,” says Schenk. “If they’re unlucky, and get a table that sits for three hours, they don’t get dinged.” Back-of-house (BOH) staff earn between $16 and $24 an hour plus another $3 to $4 an hour that comes from a 2% service charge applied to every bill. “I think it’s important for guests to realize that tips are rarely shared with kitchen staff,” says Schenk.

At La Luna and Tree House in Chicago, Samantha Sanchez doesn’t distribute tips to the back-of-house staff, either. Tipped wages allow small businesses like hers to remain open. “As a restaurant owner, it’s very upsetting to have tables walk out tipping less than what I consider the appropriate amount,” says Sanchez. “Many industry workers consider this their full-time career, rather than a temporary job.”

A third proponent is Max Stampa-Brown, beverage director for The Garret Bars in Manhattan, New York. Through the pandemic, he ensured that everyone at The Garret Bar’s three locations learned the different service roles. Once this happened, it was actually the staff that suggested they split their tips evenly. In addition to an hourly wage of $15, staff “average anywhere from $400-$600 per weekly paycheck,” says Stampa-Brown.

Studies have shown that guests tip the same regardless of how tips are distributed. “But they like thinking that servers are keeping their tips,” says Lynn.

A Service Charge, Instead of Tips

Life is much different at Petite León in Minneapolis, Minnesota. No tips are collected, and in its place is a mandatory service fee of 20% on all checks. Jorge Guzman, chef and co-owner is optimistic. “It’s kind of a big idea but I think that we’ve done the math, and it will succeed.” After subtracting payroll taxes and employee benefits, the remainder is split by the employees. Everyone, including the owners, are paid $22 an hour. This was the number Guzman, and his partner Travis Serbus, came up with after determining a living wage ($45,000), then dividing it by 40 hours a week, and 52 weeks in a year. Extra money, Guzman hopes, will be paid at the end of the year in the form of a bonus.

In a 2018 study by Lynn, he found that transitioning from tips to service included harmed the online reviews of mid- to lower-priced restaurants. When expensive restaurants converted to service charge there was no downside.

What About Delivery Drivers?

One thing that went up during the pandemic was our food delivery habits. DoorDash, a 3rd party delivery provider, says it gives its drivers 100% of the tips they earn. This comes on top of an hourly wage that ranges from $2 to around $10. Slice, a tech and delivery platform that supports independent pizza shops, charges owners a flat fee of $2.50, and then passes 100% of the tips over to drivers. “These drivers are making somewhere between $100 – $200 a shift,” says Slice CEO Ilir Sela.

This explains how drivers get their tips, but what about the kitchen staff back at the restaurant? At Square Pie Guys, in Oakland and San Francisco, tips are pooled and split evenly no matter the job. When the pandemic hit, wages plummeted because dine-in eating disappeared, and tips went to drivers. Marc Schechter, and his partner Daniel Stoller, quickly discussed how to make up the difference. “We guaranteed staff $4 an hour in tips even though we didn’t have tips from our customers,” says Schechter. But sales were up, so instead they took the money from their own sales.

Research into tip recommendations—when specific numbers are suggested at the end of a meal—shows that when you give people a larger tip recommendation, the more that guests will tip. “Fewer people will tip,” says Mike Lynn. “But the higher number is so much more.”

One positive outcome of the pandemic is that it shined a light on the industry and given us a glimpse into how difficult it is to run a restaurant. As much as we’ve missed our favorite places, they’ve missed us too. When we’re all back to indoor dining, take time to ask your server how they handle tips. There’s a good chance they’ll want to share exactly how it’s done. One thing universally agreed on by everyone we talked to was that the smaller the check, the more money you should tip.

What’s Next

President Joe Biden failed to get the minimum wage to $15 in his recent stimulus bill, but if the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 is passed, it will gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025. It will also phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers by guaranteeing that they are paid at least the full federal minimum wage, ensuring decent, consistent pay for every server in the U.S. To support a full minimum wage for all, visit fightfor15.org.


 

 

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White House, Anheuser-Busch Promise Free Beer for Everyone if U.S. Hits Vaccine Target

By Jelisa Castrodale | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

The countdown to the “biggest beer giveaway in history” has begun.

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden called for a “National Month of Action,”and provided several incentives that the administration hopes will help the United States get to a point where 70% of eligible adults are at least partially vaccinated against the coronavirus by the Fourth of July. One of the most refreshing ones? Free beer.

“It’s going to take everyone, everyone—the federal government, the state governments, local, tribal and territorial governments, private sector, and most importantly the American people—to get to this 70% mark so we can declare our independence from Covid-19 and free ourselves from the grip it has held over us, our lives, for the better part of a year,” President Biden said, according to CNN. Some of the country’s biggest pharmacies will be extending their hours every Friday during the month of June, to give people some additional opportunities to get their shots and many childcare providers have offered free drop-in childcare while parents and guardians go to their vaccine appointments. One of the most welcome incentives as the summer heat rolls in? Anheuser-Busch has promised to buy every American (of legal drinking age) a beer if the country hits that 70% number by July 4.

“That’s right. Get a shot and have a beer,” Biden added. “Free beer for everyone 21 years or over to celebrate the independence from the virus.” Anheuser-Busch is calling this “its biggest beer giveaway in history,” and since this could theoretically involve almost 200 million brews—if literally every eligible adult takes them up on the offer—that’s probably true. Once Biden’s vaccination goal is reached, the only thing that adults of legal drinking age would need to do in order to collect a complimentary beer, seltzer, non-alcoholic beverage, or anything else that Anheuser-Busch produces, is to upload a picture of themselves “in their favorite place to grab a beer” at MyCooler.com/Beer. That’s it. (And if that sounds similar to some of the other “free beer for getting vaxxed”offers that have materialized in the past several months, that’s because it is!) 

“At Anheuser-Busch, we are committed to supporting the safe and strong recovery of our nation and being able to be together again at the places and with the people we have missed so much,” Anheuser-Busch CEO Michel Doukeris said in a statement. “We pride ourselves on stepping up both in times of need and in times of great celebration, and the past year has been no different. As we look ahead to brighter days with renewed optimism, we are proud to work alongside the White House to make a meaningful impact for our country, our communities and our consumers.” 

You might not want to spend that money you’ve set aside for beer just yet: according to the most recent data from the Washington Post, 50.9% of Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and 41.2% are fully vaccinated. In order to hit Biden’s 70% target, another 20 million adults will need to receive their shots by July 4th. If you have friends and family member who are hesitant, you could always offer to buy them a beer if they get vaxxed before the Fourth of July. After all, we’ll all hopefully be drinking free beer by Independence Day. 


 

 

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McDonald’s Is Testing Automated Voice Ordering at Drive-Thrus

By Mike Pomranz | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

The fast-food chain says the system can handle about 80 percent of orders, after a trial at about ten Chicago locations.

Many, many moons ago, the idea of a drive-thru itself seemed technologically-advanced: Order a meal through a talking box without ever leaving your car! More recently, however, fast-food companies have been looking to enhance the drive-thru experience in ways that truly feel futuristic, like by tracking license plates to create customer profiles or using artificial intelligence to predict what people want to order. At least two companies, McDonald’s and White Castle, have been testing replacing humans with automated voice ordering at the drive-thru speaker, and apparently, McDonald’s believes their trial is on target to become the future of ordering.

On Wednesday, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski discussed the company’s ongoing automated voice trial, which is currently taking place at about ten locations in Chicago, at the AllianceBernstein Strategic Decisions conference, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

“There is a big leap between going from the restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the U.S. with an infinite number of promo permutations, menu permutations, dialect permutations, weather—I mean, on and on and on and on,” Kempczinski began. However, later, he seemed to imply that the robot takeover was just a matter of time. “Do I think in five years from now you’re going to see a voice in the drive-thru? [. . .] I do, but I don’t think that this is going to be something that happens in the next year or so.”

Kempczinski reportedly explained that, currently, the system—which is largely based on technology from Apprente, a tech firm McDonald’s acquired in 2019—is about 85 percent accurate and can successfully handle about 80 percent of orders in general. “There’s still a lot of work, but I do feel confident that the acquisition that we did with Apprente, the work that we’ve done since then, we feel good about the technical feasibility of it and the business case,” he was quoted as saying.

Kempczinski also seemed to imply that the employees, maybe even more so than the customers, were having difficulty making the adjustment. “One of the things that we’ve learned in our ten restaurants that we’ve done it is: How do you train a crew to actually not want to jump in as soon as they hear a question or a pause?” he was quoted as stating. “We weren’t getting enough of the orders to be actually able to be processed through the voice recognition technology [. . .] because as soon as there was a question or a hiccup, the crew had a tendency to just want to jump in. And it took a little bit of time to actually learn to trust the technology.”

That said, it’s easy to see why employees might be reluctant to trust the technology that is being tested to potentially replace them. It would be interesting to hear Kempczinski’s tone if the McDonald’s board began testing an AI CEO.