On Cautious Optimism and Chain Restaurants Hogging the Government Cheese

The Intelligence Brief is our weekly compendium of food and drink news sourced from outlets all over the world, including right here at home.

As we head into the fifth week of widespread shutdowns across the city, we continue to see positive results from our efforts. Health Minister Bonnie Henry shared some cautious optimism with preliminary conversations underway around easing some restrictions in the coming weeks. For now, it seems patience is key and the more we follow provincial direction, the sooner we’ll see an easing of social distancing measures. In the meantime, we continue with coverage on how the outbreak is impacting the hospitality industry both locally and abroad…

First up, a reminder that when we do see an easing of restrictions, it’ll be worth considering making your first trip one that supports BC tourism and small businesses!

“Our province won’t be able to rely on a steady stream of international visitors for at least a couple of years, which means tourism-dependent businesses small and large will need to rely on us. And that’s not such a bad thing if we’re truly all in this together.”

The folks at Bon Appetit are keeping up-to-date with how restaurants, bars, owners, chefs and workers are coping through the outbreak.

The CBC looks inside a local kitchen that is feeding some of the city’s most vulnerable populations through the pandemic.

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank is seeing a serious uptick in residents requiring their support.

In an effort to increase access to personal protective equipment, grocery stores and unions in the US are advocating for workers to be designated as first responders or emergency personnel.

While most supply chains remain intact, there are concerns about US slaughterhouses as the industry has failed to protect its workers from illness.

RIP, iconic restaurateur Sirio Maccioni of New York’s legendary Le Cirque, dead at 88.

This week in food podcasts, Track and Food talks with Superbaba’s Dallah El Chami about the unprecedented challenges faced by the local hospitality industry right now.

Similarly, David Chang chats with Momofuku CEO Marguerite Mariscal about the difficult decisions his restaurant group has made to cope during the pandemic.

If you’d like to hear more from David Chang and his perspective on the impacts of Covid-19 on the restaurant industry, check out Vice’s new series, Shelter in Place.

Eater explains why the impacts of coronavirus will hit Black women and their restaurants harder.

“Black restaurant owners, black women especially, are in a more precarious position from the get-go. According to the latest figures, from 2017, black women were paid 61 cents for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts, making wealth generation much more difficult. And while one in six restaurant workers live below the poverty line, African Americans are paid the least.”

This issue only serves to be exacerbated by a problem-solving table made up almost entirely of white men and mostly representation from large chain corporations.

“It is notable, as some observed on social media, that the White House’s hand-picked representatives of the food and beverage industry — at least, those who agreed to be involved — is nearly devoid of people of color, and entirely devoid of women. (Meanwhile, there are two Dans and two Davids.) Even more pressing is the fact that the interests of the everyday server, the immigrant cook, the independent mom-and-pop restaurant operator — essentially the working class whose labor undergirds the entire business of how consumers get to eat and drink — are damningly absent.”

Similarly, Food and Wine highlights how the US CARES Act will do little to help small businesses operating in the food and drink industry.

Esquire is equally skeptical about the CARES act as the bailout skews its support towards large chains while ignoring independent restaurants.

To their credit, Shake Shack just gave their $10 million loan back. “That doesn’t seem right to us,” Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti told CNN. “As we watched this opportunity play out over the weeks, it was very clear that the program was underfunded and wasn’t set up for everyone to win.”

While we look forward to the day that our favourite restaurants open their doors again, many are asking if certain Covid precautions may be here to stay.

Hanging out with the Bon Appetit test kitchen crew online may help to inspire some new meal options as we find ourselves cooking from home more these days.

The $3,714 worth of dollar bills stapled to the ceiling of this Georgia bar is giving the owner a unique way to support her staff through these challenging times.

Some local restaurants are now selling groceries as the industry continues to pivot and find new ways to stay afloat.

In a bit of hopeful news, a food rescue organization out of Ontario is offering $4.5 million in new grants to organizations across Canada that focus on issues of food security.

If you require a drink this week, Punch has come through with a few pantry cocktail recipes for those of us running low on some supplies.

And finally, a reminder that there are still substantial ways you can help the hospitality community through this crisis. These are people that can’t work from home. They are hourly wage earners who often have fewer extended benefits and paid sick time. If you’re looking for ways for ways to support our local hospitality industry and employees:

– Purchase gift cards to use at a later date.

– Participate in Canada Takeout Day and order from one of your favourite local restaurants.

– Support your local small grocers and independent food stores.

– Order food for pick-up or for delivery (keeping social distance during pick-up).

– Make sure to tip your delivery person well (in many ways, they are on the front lines).

– Support your local food bank. This pandemic is increasing the number of people facing food insecurity. They ask that you prioritize financial donations over food so as these can be made online.

– Engage with local restaurants, bars and cafes on social media. Share photos and leave words of encouragement and support.

– If you do need to go grocery shopping, consider supporting a local small business (they’re also often less busy than the larger grocery stores and have more supplies in stock).

– Buy restaurant/bar merchandise online if available (ie: t-shirts, hats, tote bags). Helen Rosner has compiled a list of great F&B merch on her IG Stories.

– If you have private events booked at any local bars/restaurants, consider postponing rather than canceling.

– Check in with your friends who are bartenders, servers, dishwashers, cooks, etc. and ask them how you can best support them through this.

Most importantly, stay safe and take care of each other. We will get through this!

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