On Electrocuting Careless Customers and the Costs of Reopening a Restaurant in a Pandemic

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

This week we continue to explore how the hospitality industry is responding to both the global pandemic and ongoing protests.

We begin with troubling news close to home as BC continues to see a steady rise in Covid-19 cases, likely a result of increased contact since the province moved into its Phase 3 restart plan. While the Ministry of Health stated that our late June and early July Covid numbers were likely the lowest we’d see until a treatment or vaccine is developed, the increase is nonetheless concerning as the latest numbers include a marked rise in infections among young people, which points to possible lockdown fatigue and a sense of ‘invincibility’.

It’s a rough scene down in Portland, where workers from a mutual aid kitchen that was set up to support protestors were arrested and had their equipment confiscated.

“After 12 days serving free ribs, chorizo tacos, and Beyond sausages to the people of Portland, city and county police arrested at least five members of the Riot Ribs team between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., according to the collective; 10 members are still unaccounted for. Parks and Recreation brought in a cleanup crew, confiscating all of the group’s food, coolers still full of food for another day. As of 11 a.m. Thursday, the people behind Riot Ribs who haven’t been arrested are now separated from the kitchen they built, watching Parks and Recreation workers sift through from the other side of the fence.”

Several fast food restaurant workers went on strike last week in protest of their workplaces’ lack of safety measures to protect employees during the pandemic.

Similarly, Burgerville employees in Oregon went on strike last Friday in protest of the restaurant’s plans to re-open shortly after an employee tested positive for Covid-19.

Locally, Vancouver Coastal Health issued a warning of possible Covid exposure at Chewies Smoke and Oyster Bar’s Kits location:

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To our amazing community, Vancouver Coastal Health has informed us that one of our guests who dined with us on Sunday, July 12th has recently tested positive for COVID-19. The origin of this case has no relation to Chewies, however, with the well-being of our community and family at our upmost priority, we felt it necessary to inform you of the extra precautions our team will be implementing at this time.  With the recommendations provided to us by Vancouver Coastal Health, Work Safe BC, and our Provincial Health Officer, our team will be diligently following precautions including testing and self quarantining of our staff that were in direct contact with the guest.  As an extra precaution, it is recommended that anyone who dined with us that evening monitor closely for symptoms.  We are committed to continue our safety protocols to the highest of standards, including increased sanitization procedures and appropriate socially distanced capacity within our restaurant.  The support from our community has been overwhelming during the past few months, please know, we are here to support you in any way you need.  We will be posting any important updates here on our social media.  From the bottom of our hearts,  Thank you.  Chewies Family

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Meanwhile, a bartender in Texas who contracted the virus was warned by restaurant owners not to talk about her experience.

Unsurprisingly, many companies are using the pandemic as an excuse to stop employee efforts to unionize

Eater looks at the costs of reopening a restaurant during a pandemic:

“Purchasing face masks, maintaining a supply of gloves and sanitizer, investing in more rigorous cleaning regimens, and restocking kitchens for higher volumes of service are just a few of the costs of doing restaurant business at this pivotal moment. For some, the challenges of replenishing this now-essential equipment are nearly insurmountable.”

As some consumers continue to push the limits of new restaurant regulations, this bar in England has come up with a rather electrifying solution:

After a weekend of customers who pushed, shoved, and crowded around the taps, Johnny McFadden put an electric fence around the bar at the The Star Inn. “It’s there for social distancing,” McFadden told Cornwall Live. “Before the fence, people were not following social distancing and were doing as they pleased, but now people take heed to the guidance around social distancing. It’s for everybody’s benefit.” 

Perhaps an unanticipated consequence of the current pandemic has been rising food costs, even as many economies are facing deflection

Locally, we’re seeing numerous current and former industry workers come forward with stories of toxic, racist, misogynistic and homophobic work environments. This week a new Instagram account (@notourp49) was created by former Parallel 49 Brewing Company workers detailing stories of mistreatment during their tenure with the brewery.

This story comes on the heels of the founders of Matchstick Coffee Roasters leaving the company after several past and present employees took to Instagram to share their experiences of abuse while working for the cafe.

Since the early days of the pandemic hitting North America, it quickly became clear that poultry and meatpacking plant employees were at serious risk. The New Yorker explains why these plants have been so dangerous as well as how one poultry mogul in particular is profiting off of the pandemic.

While many have argued that it may be time to burn the restaurant industry to the ground and rebuild, The Takeout posits that perhaps food media should burn and rebuild along with it.

Case in point, New Republic urges food media to acknowledge the role it has played in propping up and perpetuating toxic chef behaviour.

“Mainstream food media perpetuates the dysfunction rampant in the restaurant industry by refusing to report on the “who” behind the “what.” Either the media glosses over its own role in creating kitchen monsters, or it busies itself with a studied silence, steadfastly refusing to address the sins of its imperiled darlings.”

Finally, last week we shared the story of the president of Goya Foods unabashedly kissing Trump’s ass. This week, as a thank you, Ivanka Trump literally posed with a can of Goya beans — a level of trolling (said in a Trump voice) the likes of which you’ve never seen!

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