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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Today’s the Day: Canada Opens Border

Today’s the Day: Canada Opens Border

by David Klemt

Canadian Border Services Agency sign on chainlink fence

The big day is here and Canada is opening their border to the USA.

Today, Americans and permanent residents can enter the country for “discretionary,” a.k.a. non-essential, travel.

Of course, the border is only open to travelers who can prove their vaccination status (full series).

Quarantine Lifted

As many Canadians are well aware, quarantining was mandatory for people traveling into Canada up until today.

Asymptomatic travelers, with very specific exemptions, were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The mandatory quarantine included a three-night stay at a hotel authorized by the Canadian government.

Oh, and the traveler had to cover the cost of the mandatory hotel stay.

However, that wasn’t all that was required. Travelers had to create and submit a quarantine plan. Foreign national who failed to submit a plan deemed suitable faced the risk of border agents turning them away.

Of course, the mandatory quarantine dissuaded Canadians from traveling across the border for essential travel. After all, Canadians weren’t exempt from hotel quarantine.

Requirements

Now, Americans or permanent residents residing in America aren’t receiving unfettered access to the border. Indeed, there are requirements that must be met for anyone hoping to cross into Canada from the US.

Per the Government of Canada website, in its entirety for clarity:

“Beginning on August 9th, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. EDTfully vaccinated United States (U.S.) citizens and permanent residents will be eligible to enter Canada for discretionary (non-essential) reasons, such as tourism, however these individuals must:

  1. be fully vaccinated: to be considered fully vaccinated, a traveller must have received the full series of a vaccine—or combination of vaccines—accepted by the Government of Canada at least 14 days prior to entering Canada. Currently, those vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
  2. be residing in and travelling from the U.S.;
  3. have a valid pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test result taken in the U.S. (antigen tests are not accepted);
  4. be asymptomatic;
  5. submit their mandatory information via ArriveCAN, including proof of vaccination in English or French;
  6. be admissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and,
  7. take a test on arrival, if required.”

So, if you or someone you know is planning to travel to Canada from America, make sure you follow the requirements precisely.

Operators, Be Ready

So far, news of increasing infection and hospitalization rates aren’t impacting Canada’s decision; the border is open as of today. Neither New York City’s vaccine mandate nor an increasing amount of counties and corporations implementing mask and vaccine mandates are deterring Canada.

Additionally, it doesn’t appear as though the Canadian government plans to implement other travel requirements (so far).

Canadian restaurant, bar, hotel, and entertainment venue operators need to be ready for an influx of guests. This is particularly true for operators in large metropolitan areas and well-known tourist destinations.

Pent-up demand for travel, experiences, reunions, weddings, and just escape should skyrocket with the Canada-US border reopening.

Also, should things go well, operators need to prepare for even more travels next month. While not written in stone, Canada plans to open the country’s borders to other countries on September 7.

Interestingly, this is also excellent news for those waiting to open a restaurant or bar. Plans to reopen borders should prove to be a boon for the Canadian economy. So, now’s the time to move forward.

Canadian operators must be vigilant about monitoring the border situation. Fresh opportunities arrive on your doorstep starting today.

Image: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Books to Read this Month: August

5 Books to Read this Month: August

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

This month’s fun and informative book selections will help you develop next-level culinary, beverage and leadership skills.

To review last month’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s dive in!

Something & Tonic: A History of the World’s Most Iconic Mixer

Author and bartender Nick Kokonas takes readers on a historical, global journey that focuses on the history of tonic. This informative book also contains tips, tricks, and 60 original cocktail recipes. Click here to purchase Something & Tonic now.

America Walks into a Bar

Do you have a passion for this business? Do you actually love bars and the rich history of our industry? Then you need to read Christine Sismondo’s America Walks into a Bar, equal parts adventure, entertainment and history.

Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End

I could try to sum up Burn the Ice for you, but Danny Meyer seems to have captured the essence of this Kevin Alexander’s book in one word: “Inspiring.”

The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World

When we come across a great bar, restaurant or hotel, we never encounter strangers. Instead, we meet friends we never knew we had. In The Power of Strangers, author Joe Keohane addresses the importance of getting over the fear of engaging with strangers and why, particularly in these divisive times, we need “strangers” more than ever in our lives.

Hacking the New Normal: Hitting the Reset Button on the Hospitality Industry

The world around us has changed, as has the food & beverage industry and the hospitality industry as a whole. But will some ways of life change for the better? Will restaurants, bars, and hotels come out of the pandemic even stronger? In Hacking the New Normal, author and president of KRG Hospitality Doug Radkey addresses the need to hit the reset button on the hospitality industry for its long-term survival.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Mask Mandates, Recommendations Return

Mask Mandates, Recommendations Return

by David Klemt

Downtown Los Angeles, California

Pointing to vaccination hesitation, vaccination refusal, and rises in Covid-19 cases, some cities are mandating masks indoors.

Importantly, mandates and recommendations are coming down irrespective of vaccination status.

Of course, many people are unhappy about this news. Much of the backlash includes the claim that a return to masks proves vaccines don’t work.

However, others point to variants—in particular, Delta—spreading via the unvaccinated and unmasked.

Unfortunately, continuing divisiveness means hospitality and other frontline workers are again at risk for hostile confrontations.

Los Angeles County, California

If you’re an operator in Los Angeles County, masks indoors aren’t just a recommendation. An indoor mask mandate went into effect on Saturday, July 17.

Just a month prior, embattled Governor Gavin Newsom proudly announced California’s unrestricted reopening.

Now, the more cynical among us see Gov. Newsom’s June reopening as a bid to stave off recall efforts. However, recall ballots will go out to Californians next month.

Per reporting, California’s Covid-19 infection rate is close to tripling. Los Angeles County health officials say the indoor mask mandate comes out of an overabundance of caution.

On a different note, health officials expect the state’s vaccination rate to effectively combat a spike in infection rates. The current rate isn’t expected to match or surpass those of prior peaks in the state.

As far as mandate details, it’s quite simple: Masks are required for everyone indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

According to reports, an additional ten California counties are recommending masks indoors. No word yet on if other counties—or the state as a whole—will announce mask mandates. Nor is there an end date for LA County’s current mandate.

Southern Nevada

While not a mandate, the Southern Nevada Health District is recommending people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors.

Unsurprisingly, Las Vegas is experiencing an influx of visitors. With vaccination rates on the decline and infection rates on the rise, health officials are concerned.

More than 2.9 million visitors flocked to Las Vegas in May. Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, has a population of over two million.

Of course, it’s important to remember that, for now, wearing masks indoors is a recommendation. However, some resorts and casinos—Westgate and the Venetian among them—now require their employees to wear face masks.

So far, neither Las Vegas, Clark County or Nevada have implemented a mandate. Of course, that could change and a mandate may be in the wings.

Orange County, Florida

Much of the news of returning mask mandates and recommendations focuses on Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

In fact, some critics are attacking Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, accusing him of blindly following Gov. Newsom.

Interestingly, though, is that a mayor in Florida is also recommending face masks.

Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County recommends wearing masks indoors, vaccination status notwithstanding. The phrasing of the mayor’s announcement refers to the suggestion as an “official recommendation.” However, no mandate is in place currently.

Frontline Risks

Clearly, mask mandates and even recommendations are going to anger some of the population.

Unfortunately, hospitality workers (and those in other public-facing industries) are once again at risk of confrontations. Even without mandates, some businesses that choose to require masks experience hostility.

The last thing America needs is more divisiveness, anger, and potential for confrontations.

Millions of hospitality professionals have left the industry for good. One factor leading to those losses has been concern for safety due to people angry over mask and vaccine requirements.

Obviously, operators must do whatever’s in their power to ensure the safety of their team members and guests. Leadership must not only convey their support for their employees, they must stand behind that messaging with their actions.

In cities where masks mandates and recommendations return, operators need to focus on safety as much as employee retention. Indeed, the former aids the latter, which aids recruiting and hiring.

Image: Daniel Lee on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Tip Elimination is Back on the Table

Tip Elimination is Back on the Table

by David Klemt

Person holding up cash

Several operators across the country feel that as we emerge from pandemic life, now is the time to once again try eliminating tips.

Back in 2015, Danny Meyer made a decision about tips in his restaurants that sent shockwaves through the industry. Over the course of five years, Union Square Hospitality Group (Meyer’s group) implemented a hospitality included policy to eliminate tipping.

To be sure, it wasn’t only Meyer’s restaurants that examined and put no-tipping policies in place. However, Union Square was certainly among the highest-profile operators to try it out.

Good Intentions

Per the CEO of Union Square and founder of Shake Shack, attempting to do away with tipping was about promoting equity in the hospitality.

Tipping has been linked to the propagation of sexism, racism, harassment, and exploitation.

Meyer has also said that he believes it leads to wage instability, and studies have shown it contributes to outright wage theft. And, as anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows, tipping can create a gap—and therefore tension, among other issues—between the front of house and back.

However, it has proven difficult to for no-tipping policies to take hold. This is in part because tipping is so ingrained in American society. And, of course, there’s also the issue of increasing menu prices; some people are fine with tipping but not with paying more for menu items.

Guests aren’t the only individuals who have pushed back against eliminating tips. Unsurprisingly, the very people Meyers and other operators are trying to help have rejected no-tipping policies.

Many servers and other FoH staff have made it clear that they’re not interested in working for an operator who eliminates tips.

Reinstatement of Tipping

Around eleven months ago, Meyer announced he would reverse course on his hospitality included policy. According to reporting, Meyer had done so not because of pushback against increased menu prices (about 15 to 20 percent to cover increased labor costs).

Rather, the five-year experiment never worked exactly as Meyer and Union Square had hoped. As he told Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart during a Washington Post Live conversation back in March of this year, the policy wasn’t sustainable.

“It worked to a degree, but it was not sustainable, and the biggest reason it wasn’t sustainable was we could never quite do all the things we wanted to do for our team members like make sure that a formerly tipped employee could make as much as she made when she was tipped, make sure that we had a 401(k) plan, make sure we had a really, really generous family leave policy,” Meyer told Capehart.

And then there was the impact of the pandemic. Meyer finally pulled the plug on his no-tipping policy after New York allowed restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining a year ago. Reportedly, Meyer didn’t see how he could stand in the way of his staff making additional money.

2021 Experiment

Interestingly, several news outlets are reporting that operators around the country are at least considering doing away with tips this summer.

Again, this is at least in part due to the pandemic. Restaurateurs who have wanted to implement policies similar to Meyers’ Hospitality Included see this year as the time to try.

We still don’t know exactly what post-pandemic life will be. However, a hospitality industry reset is certainly coming—and it’s absolutely overdue.

So, it does make sense that as operators can change guest and staff perception of tipping and living wages as we all emerge from pandemic life and face a new world.

For example, the Chicago Tribune has reported that Big Jones, owned and operated by Paul Fehribach, has implemented service fees so he can cover offer servers between $18 and $25 per hour. A 20-percent fee for in-person dining or placing an order with a live person, and a 10-percent fee attached to online orders go to Big Jones payroll.

While there has been some pushback, the Chicago Tribune reports that Fehriback says Big Jones reactions are trending toward the positive.

It’s possible that tip elimination simply doesn’t work for some restaurant categories. As an example, those policies may work out in the casual dining space but not fine dining. Time will tell if it works at all.

Image: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Are You Ready for St. Patrick’s Day?

Are You Ready for St. Patrick’s Day?

by David Klemt

Green neon "DRINKS" sign on brick wall

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. Operators need to make sure they’re ready for in-person, delivery and takeout guests eager to celebrate.

An interesting element for this year’s holiday is that many people will be celebrating at home. That makes themed delivery, takeout and pickup packages important.

Over the past 12 months, consumers have grown to correlate drinking occasions with drinking at home. That shift in behavior can make it more challenging to succeed with holidays.

Of course, challenges also present opportunities. Working from and drinking at home has made weekday day-drinking more common. Operators can leverage new behaviors to offer in-person, delivery and takeout packages starting earlier for St. Patrick’s Day.

Such packages can include Irish Coffees for the morning or early lunch, Irish beers for lunch or dinner, Irish whiskey and beer packages for dinner and late-night…you get the idea. Classic and modern riffs on St. Patrick’s Day food mainstays are also a crucial element. The key is to get creative with inventory and offers, attracting a combination of in-person and off-premise consumers.

To give you a helping hand, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Irish, Canadian and America whiskeys. We’re including the standards but also focusing on innovative and single malt expressions that boost guest spends and overall revenue.

Irish Whiskeys

One thing all operators know when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day: Irish whiskey and high-visibility brands must be represented.

After all, according to the Spirits Business, Irish whiskey generated well over $1 billion for distillers last year in the United States alone.

Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore DEW, Kilbeggan and Redbreast shine on St. Patrick’s Day. Proper No. 12 is just a few years old but is on its way to becoming a St. Patrick’s standard.

In markets that can bear it, premiumization can help generate more revenue during this year’s holiday.

There’s nothing wrong with OG Jameson but consider premiumization with Jameson Black Barrel or 18 Years, which is finished in first-fill barrels.

When it comes to Bushmills, the original expression is great. Rare Cask 01, however, is the distillery’s Cognac cask premium dram.

For the adventurous guest, Cider Cask Finish, XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish, and Old Bonded Warehouse Release from Tullamore DEW will get their attention.

Operators who feature Kilbeggan would do well to consider premiumization in the forms of Single Pot Still and Small Batch Rye.

Redbreast 12 Cask Strength and Redbreast Lustau are undeniable elevations of traditional Irish whiskey.

Canadian Single Malts

When people hear or think about St. Patrick’s Day, they tend to immediately leap to Irish whiskey. However, this holiday can be a time to highlight whiskeys from other countries.

Central City crafts Lohin McKinnon Single Malt with “pure British Columbia” water, per their website. The distiller recommends adding a splash cold, filtered water, a tip you can share with your guests.

Another Central City single malt takes Canadian in an interesting direction. Lohin McKinnon Tequila Barrel Finished instills single malt with unique flavors.

Eau De Claire boasts the distinction of being Alberta’s first craft distillery and first single malt whisky producers. The distillery uses only Alberta barley and rye to craft their liquid.

American Single Malts

There are a number of superlative American single malt whiskeys to consider promoting on St. Patrick’s Day.

Westland produces American single malt in Seattle, Washington. The distillery’s Outpost Range—Garryana, Colere, and Solum—celebrates American tradition, innovation and Pacific Northwest provenance.

Westward aims to craft and bottle the spirit of the American Northwest. Westward Pinot Noir Cask and Stout Cask elevate the distillery’s American single malts.

Those searching for a Rocky Mountain single malt need look no further than Stranahan’s. Each of their expressions is thoughtfully crafted, so it can be hard to choose just one. However, Blue Peak is interesting because it undergoes high-altitude distillation and is also finished using the Solera Method.

Also hailing from Colorado is Deerhammer. The distillery’s American Single Malt mash bill can experience temperature swings of well over 40 degrees in a single day.

Image: Stéphan Valentin on Unsplash

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