Restaurant Operations

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Recently Awarded Michelin Star Shines Spotlight on Vegan Menus and Operations

Recently Awarded Michelin Star Shines Spotlight on Vegan Menus and Operations

by David Klemt

If there was any question that vegan restaurant concepts are viable, a recently awarded Michelin star has provided a firm and affirmative answer.

Michelin Guide France awarded ONA (Origine Non Animale or “Non-Animal Origin” in English) a Michelin star earlier this week. This marks the first time in the award’s history that a restaurant in France that uses no animal products received a star.

Chef and owner Claire Vallée opened ONA in the city of Arès in the southwest of France in 2016 leveraging a combination of crowdfunding a loan from La Nef, an ethical bank. It has been reported that volunteers helped to finish the project when funds ran out before construction had been completed.

The vegan diet has endured mockery for decades in the United States and Canada. It’s only in recent years that veganism has flourished, bolstered by a belief that the diet is healthier, more sustainable, and more ethical. Growing interest in plant-based diets have also no doubt boosted veganism.

In France, however, the vegan diet hasn’t been embraced as widely as it has throughout North America. Sifting through online searches, travel blogs and posts shows that, generally speaking, vegan options aren’t widely available throughout France’s rich and storied restaurant scene.

For ONA to win a Michelin star shows that attitudes toward the vegan diet in one of the gastronomy and culinary capitals of the world is undergoing a possibly seismic shift.

A number of chefs have returned their Michelin stars or requested their restaurants not be considered for the accolade. For now, however, Michelin stars still recognize outstanding food and operations.

The awarding of a star to ONA is a significant achievement for Chef Vallée and her team.

Image: Jo Sonn on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Tobin Ellis and Barmagic’s Relief Dashboard Contains Hundreds of Restaurant and Bar Resources

Tobin Ellis and Barmagic’s Relief Dashboard Contains Hundreds of Restaurant and Bar Resources

by David Klemt

In keeping with this week’s focus on good news, KRG Hospitality would like to shine a light on Barmagic’s Bar & Restaurant Revival Guide.

First, some background.

Tobin Ellis founded Barmagic of Las Vegas in 1997. He’s done so much for the hospitality industry that it feels almost criminal to just attach a few labels to describe him, but here we are.

Ellis is a hospitality industry innovator, advocate, designer, marketer and consultant. Anyone who has ever attended an hospitality trade show and sat in on a presentation, panel or Q&A session featuring him knows he’s passionate, quick-witted, real-world solution-oriented, and doesn’t suffer pretenders lightly.

He’s also more than put in the work to for the recognition he deserves as an industry icon. Ellis has been in the trenches for decades, beginning his hospitality journey washing dishes in upstate New York. He has worked around the world in essentially every type of venue, from sleepy dives to hyperkinetic high-volume cocktail bars, and everything in between.

A few years back, Perlick partnered with Ellis to create the Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station. This innovative hardware was designed with ergonomics in mind, focusing on improving bar team member’s physical comfort and safety.

Since restaurants and bars found themselves fully in the devastating and nearly inescapable grip of the pandemic, Ellis has focused on the health and longevity of the industry as a whole.

To help operators navigate the pandemic and the myriad challenges (again, a criminal label for what operators and workers have been facing for almost 12 months) it continues to present, Ellis added a Hospitality Relief dashboard to the Barmagic website.

Visitors will find hundreds of links for US- and Canada-based resources, including a relief map for those who need aid or who want to donate to relief efforts. There’s also a link to the Barmagic Bar & Restaurant Revival Guide, a 96-page download loaded with information and ideas that Ellis hopes “might just spark a thought or two” in the minds of restaurant and bar owners, operators, leaders and workers.

We’re not going to get through this if we don’t come together, save as many businesses as possible, and help new venues open and flourish. We applaud the Barmagic relief resources—more like this, please.


by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The 2021 Restaurant Start-Up Cost Guide & Checklist is Here! Download Today

The 2021 Restaurant Start-Up Cost Guide & Checklist is Here! Download Today

by David Klemt

This guide gives anyone starting a restaurant, bar, brewpub or other F&B venue the best chance for success in 2021.

Hospitality has endured a nearly endless thrashing for almost an entire year. The calendar has ticked over to 2021 but still, the pummeling doesn’t have an end date.

However, the industry has endured and continues to do so. We don’t know when Covid-19 will cease presenting a threat but we know this: there’s no end to the fight in those in the hospitality community.

Veteran and neophyte owners and operators are still going to open new venues in 2021, pandemic be damned. That fact means it’s more crucial than ever before that owners are positioned for success.

The KRG Hospitality 2021 Restaurant Start-Up Cost Guide & Checklist aims to structure the process of opening a restaurant or bar to maximize an owner’s opportunity. The guide contains 2021 start-up costs, renovation costs, scaled costs, an in-depth milestone checklist, and more that will help readers understand the process and keep them on track to go from concept to opening doors as smoothly as possible.

Click here to download the guide and start down the path of restaurant or bar success today.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

0.0 to 0.5 Beers to Know for Dry January and Beyond

0.0 to 0.5 Beers to Know for Dry January and Beyond

by David Klemt

As consumers become more conscious of their drinking habits, alcohol-free beer options are becoming more appealing.

Interest in NA beers grows during Dry January, but shifting consumer habits show that it’s wise to offer alcohol-free options year-round.

Putting both quality non-alcohol and true-zero beers on your menu as part of everyday operations is just good business. Doing so makes guests who have given up alcohol permanently or temporarily will feel included and they’ll remember that your business offered them a complete and enjoyable experience.

Below are several options that will help you develop the NA portion of your menu thoughtfully, split into two categories: 0.5 or lower and true zero.

0.5 or Lower Beers

Mikkeller: The world-famous, revered Danish brewer prepared for Dry January by curating a bundle of five 0.0 to 0.3 beers. Mikkeller Limbo Riesling and Drink’in the Sun are 0.3, and Kinder Series Xtra Grapefruit, Weird Weather and Limbo Raspberry complete the five-pack.

BrewDog: The manifesto for this awesome brewer states that BrewDog is “determined to make a stand for independence, a stand for quality and stand for craft.” This extends to their alcohol-free beers. There are six BrewDog alcohol-free beers, one of which, Ghost Walker, is a collaboration with metal band Lamb of God.

Partake Brewing: Founder and CEO Ted Fleming created Partake Brewing in response to the lack of quality, drinkable alcohol-free beers on the market. Fleming gave up alcohol more than ten years ago but missed drinking a good beer. The Canadian craft brewer has been making inroads into the United States, providing Americans with a high-quality NA beer choice. There are five styles in the Partake Brewing portfolio: Blonde, Pale, IPA, Red, and Stout.

Athletic Brewing Co.: Bill Shufelt, the founder of Athletic Brewing, explains on the Connecticut company’s website that he chose to lead an alcohol-free lifestyle but still enjoyed going out to bars and restaurants. What he didn’t enjoy were the subpar alcohol-free beers that were the only options at most places he visited. So, he filled that void with Athletic Brewing, which currently offers six non-alcohol brews.

Surreal Brewing Company: Husband and wife team Tammer Zein-El-Abedein and Donna Hockey, who live an alcohol-free lifestyle, felt excluded by the lack of quality beer choices available. So, they did something about it: they created their own craft NA beer company operating in California. There are currently seven brews in the Surreal Brewing Company portfolio: Natural Bridges Kolsch, Creatives IPA, Juicy Mavs Hazy IPA, Milkshake IPA, Chandelier Red IPA, 17 Mile Porter, and Pastry Porter.

WellBeing Brewing: This Missouri-based brewer has a singular focus—brewing craft alcohol-free beer. Founder Jeff Stevens, similar to other founders and CEOs of brewers who gave up drinking alcohol, still liked going out to bars and live-music venues. He also ran into a similar problem: NA beers that didn’t offer an enjoyable experience. WellBeing Brewing currently offers five non-alcohol beers, three of which are vegan and therefore work for Veganuary: Heavenly Body Golden Wheat, Hellraiser Dark Amber, and WellBeing Victory Wheat Sports Brew (with electrolytes). Intentional IPA and Intrepid Traveler Coffee Cream Stout round out the portfolio.

Clausthaler: German brewer Clausthaler claims the title of most-awarded non-alcohol beer brewer. Clausthaler offers five alcohol-free options that taste, smell and look like beer: Original, Unfiltered, Dry Hopped, Lemon, and Grapefruit.

Lagunitas IPNA: A 0.5 beer, Lagunitas IPNA is brewed with Citra, Mosaic & CTZ (Columbus, Tomahawk, Zeus) hops so the alcohol-free offering is still as hoppy and full-bodied as its traditional counterparts.

Coors: Launched toward the end of 2019, Coors Edge replaced Coors Non-alcoholic and is intended to taste like Coors Banquet.

0.0 Beers

Budweiser 0.0: Brewed with two-row and six-row barley malt, Budweiser Zero achieves true zero-alcohol status and weighs in at just 50 calories and 11.5 grams of carbs.

Heineken 0.0: It took years, according to Heineken, to get the recipe for Heineken 0.0 just right, which uses the brewer’s famous A-Yeast.

Bitburger Drive: A completely alcohol-free brew from a brewer that adheres German Beer Purity Laws, Bitburger Drive is 0.0 pilsner.

Image: Alex Knight from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Make Your Restaurant Concept ABSURᗡ in 2021

Make Your Restaurant Concept ABSURᗡ in 2021

by David Klemt

Those seeking new restaurant opportunities in 2021 should give serious consideration to Absurd! Kitchen Co., KRG Hospitality’s unique turnkey QSR.

Development of the concept was motivated by the realization that operators need to continue to pivot to survive the pandemic and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

“At KRG Hospitality, we immediately pivoted in March 2020 into ‘rescue mode,’ understanding the immediate needs of so many independent operators,” says Doug Radkey, president of KRG Hospitality.

Moving forward into 2021, guests will be more concerned health, safety and their comfort than ever before. Absurd! was developed as a response to heightened guest expectations and to create a path forward for operators in the post-Covid-19 era. Not only is the concept forward-looking, it’s designed for turnkey operation.

Restaurant guests were growing accustomed to the convenience of frictionless ordering, pick-up and delivery. Lock downs, restrictions, and health and safety concerns have pushed delivery and pickup closer to the forefront of guest expectation. Absurd! leverages the latest in technology and utilizes a subscription element to reward loyalty while offering a convenient and safe QSR experience.

In the new era of restaurant operation we can expect guests to be less tolerant of waiting in lines. Multiple publications have published articles hypothesizing that the Covid-19 pandemic we lead to the end of waiting. Considering the importance of social distancing and how commonplace curbside pickup has become, it’s understandable that many guests have developed a preference for speedy, safe service.

Equally understandable is a guest wishing to keep interactions with other people to a minimum. The ability to peruse a menu via QR code or pay their bill using their own device has offered a level of comfort to guests during the pandemic. It’s logical to believe these guest habits are here to stay.

At Absurd! locations there are no traditional lines. By design, there’s no contact between guests and staff. Guests interact with a location via designated pick-up or drive-through areas. In the pick-up area, guests access food-safe storage units through their mobile devices to grab their orders. The drive-throughs only serve delivery drivers or those who have placed pre-orders. Convenient, safe, time-saving restaurant features for a post-pandemic world.

Absurd! cuisine is inspired by Southern flavors and dishes such as loaded chicken strips, fried waffle sticks, breakfast bowls, and sandwiches. There are options for the full range of dietary needs and preferences, such as dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan meat alternatives. Along with a competitive, high-quality menu, KRG Hospitality has developed a retail offerings that include branded dry spices and meal kits, leveraging another trend that has seen significant growth during the pandemic. The concept’s packaging is sustainable, and adding a food truck can expand an Absurd! operation’s reach.

“Approximately 85 percent of the food menu will be prepared on-site, including the seasoning mix and ‘dredge’ for the fried chicken, which is intended to also be gluten-free and dairy-free,” says Radkey. “The brand is able to accomplish this by maintaining a small but robust and strategic menu mix over the breakfast, lunch, and dinner day-parts. Other food items such as the chile cornbread, breakfast biscuits, and sandwich buns will be sourced through regional partnerships.”

While developing Absurd!, KRG has created a loyalty program to go along with it that’s relevant to today’s guest preferences and consumer habits. Loyalty programs have made the news lately, with attention being paid to how they’ve been changing for the past couple of years. Tech has emerged as a driver for such programs, combining guest data and personalized digital interactions to increase loyalty. However, creativity is a crucial element as well. Recognizing the value of a unique but easily understood loyalty program that offers an attractive value proposition, KRG’s approach for Absurd! is a beverage-based subscription service.

“With a low monthly cost of approximately $8.99 USD per month, the Absurd! beverage subscription program, which is optional, gives the brand an easy way to attract customers and convince them to change their traditional F&B ordering habits while building a strong base of loyalty (and data),” says Radkey. “Consumers today are accustomed to low-cost monthly subscriptions. Therefore, we think it is time for restaurants to tap into that opportunity. The ‘unlimited drinks’ within this program include coffee, iced tea, lemonade, and an assortment of flavored soda waters.”

Absurd! Kitchen Co. isn’t unique for the sake of being different. First and foremost, the concept was designed for experienced and new operators alike so they can thrive in the new era of hospitality. The dedication of KRG Hospitality to helping operators flourish with concepts that are scalable, sustainable, profitable, memorable and consistent is ingrained in Absurd’s DNA.

The concept is a recession- and pandemic-proof QSR that doesn’t rely heavy upon day-to-day involvement by the owners, making it ideal for operators of any level, from the neophyte to the experienced hospitality group.

Click here to learn more about Absurd! and visit to download this turnkey concept’s information packet.

Image: KRG Hospitality

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

You Need to Watch “Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line” Now

You Need to Watch Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line Now

by David Klemt

Whether you own, operate, manage, are employed by or have ever spent time at a restaurant as a guest, you need to watch Food Network’s Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line.

Guy Fieri, who has helped raise $24 million (and counting) for restaurant industry workers, executive produced and co-directed the documentary, which aired last night. He tasked skeleton production crews (one would assume given the pandemic) with following four incredible chefs—Marcus Samuelsson, Maneet Chauhan (and her husband Vivek), Christian Petroni, and Antonia Lofaso—and said he wanted them to keep the cameras rolling to capture “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

When the scope of Covid-19 became clearer and the industry began to see how much devastating its impact would be on restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues, Fieri says in the documentary that he had two thoughts: “’No way can this happen,’ and, ‘Oh my god, this is gonna be worse than we ever imagined.’”

He’s angry about what’s happening to the industry and millions of people it employs and feeds.

“I was mad. I’m still mad,” says Fieri in Restaurant Hustle 2020. “Wrecked lives, wrecked families… Changed the history of the industry.”

Per the documentary, Fieri felt compelled to help his “millions of brothers and sisters” in whatever ways possible: “There was no words. It’s coming. Prepare. Stick together. What can we do?”

The documentary begins with three indisputable facts that speak volumes to the importance of the industry: The restaurant industry employs over 15 million people. That equals up to 20 percent of America’s workforce. The industry generates over $850 billion in sales.

From there, Restaurant Hustle 2020 introduces the four chefs, their restaurants, their challenges, and their collective hustle. Like so many in this industry, there’s no giving up in these people—there’s only fight.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson

Seeking community after 9/11, Chef Samuelsson opened the Harlem location of Red Rooster in 2010. That location employed 180 people—Chef Samuelsson had 30 venues located in eight countries when Covid-19 hit. Pre-pandemic, Red Rooster in Harlem would see around 1,100 guests on a Saturday night, and Chef Samuelson was just a week out from opening the doors of Red Rooster in Miami.

“It’s taken me 25 years to build this moment, but it took ten days to tear it all down. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy,” says Chef Samuelsson.

Chef Maneet Chauhan

Chef Chauhan and her husband Vivek operate four restaurants and three breweries within the Morph Hospitality Group portfolio in Nashville, Tennessee. At their peak, they served 2,500 guests over the course of a weekend. Morph employed nearly 300 people but by March they made the heart-wrenching decision to close their doors. Recalling the difficult choice, Chef Chauhan is brought to tears talking about how gracious her employees were about it.

However, Chef Chauhan and husband Vivek are willing to fight for their dreams and their employees: “The thing is, we are scrappy. We are immigrants,” she says.

Vivek focused on developing and strategizing reopening plans, and the duo fully embody the meaning of the Hindi word “jugaad,” or “a flexible approach to a problem.” While it only represented maybe a tenth of their regular sales, Morph implemented curbside pickup at three of their venues. They rotated availability offering curbside at a different location on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This allowed them to bring back a handful of employees.

Chef Christian Petroni

There are five locations of Chef Petroni‘s Italian restaurant concept Fortina throughout New York’s tri-state area: Armonk, Brooklyn, Rye Brook, Stamford, and Yonkers. Heading into 2020, they were set to have another amazing year after doing very well in 2019.

“We were just gearing up to take over the world,” says Chef Petroni.

The first Covid-19 death in the United States was reported on February 28 in King County in Washington State. As we know, on March 16, 2020, NYC shut down around 27,000 restaurants, resulting in the loss of 225,000 jobs. Chef Petroni employed nearly 300 people but had to reduce his workforce to less than twenty. To help the communities they serve and generate some revenue, Chef Lofaso created Pies for the People so customers were able to buy pies for those in need or who needed a morale boost (such as hospital workers and EMTs).

Chef Antonia Lofaso

Over the course of a decade, Chef Lofaso has built and operated three restaurant concepts in Los Angeles, California. Her restaurants employed almost 500 people and back in February, serving 1,200 guests over the course of just two weekend evenings was common. Chef Lofaso’s biggest passion is the hospitality aspect of restaurant operation and being “the facilitator of the good time.” That good time came crashing down in March.

“It’s taken me ten years to build these three restaurants and it took a matter of a week for it all to be torn down,” says Chef Lofaso.

She admits to feeling sadness and anger, in large part because she had to lay off nearly 500 employees. Chef Lofaso says that she feels responsible to her team members because they help her build her dream. By March she was able to bring back roughly 20 workers, convert her locations into markets, and sell liquor, which allowed her to bring back 90 percent of her back-of-house employees for at least two days per week and double sales.

For the rest of the story, people will have to watch Restaurant Hustle 2020. The importance of Food Network, Guy Fieri and these chefs capturing this crucial moment in history cannot be overstated.

As Fieri says in the documentary, it’s “a historical moment in time in an industry that is so important to all of us in so many ways, shapes and forms, and these four very brave chef-restaurant owners captured it. Something you’ve never seen. Something you’ll probably never see again.”

As we move forward into 2021, it’s crucial we remember that this story is still unfolding—we don’t know what the new year holds for this or any industry. We know that without targeted aid, the lives of millions of Americans are in jeopardy. We know that even with vaccines available, we’re not out of harm’s way yet.

We don’t know what the industry will look like when the world returns to “normal,” whatever that may be. But we know this industry is made up of fighters and we look out for our own. We’ll get through this together.

Food Network is available via several streaming platforms, including Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV.

Photo by Shangyou Shi on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Is Texas the Model for Restaurant Operation During the Pandemic?

Is Texas the Model for Restaurant Operation During the Pandemic?

by David Klemt

The mass exodus to Texas has been all over the news lately.

Many new Texas residents moved to the Lone Star State moved from California. Some moved to escape exorbitant rent, home prices, and taxes. But others have left California due to what some deem over-reaching Covid-19 restrictions.

On December 5, a regional stay-at-home order took effect in five California regions. Included in that order was a restriction on “nonessential trips” between the hours of 10:00 P.M. and 5:00 A.M. Some California lawmakers disagreed with labeling the restriction a “curfew” but it certainly seemed like one to Californians.

Also included in the order was a full shutdown of businesses categorized as bars, while restaurants were restricted to delivery and takeout only. In response, a group of operators in Orange County formed the #OPENSAFE movement and made it known they intended to defy the order, which is expected to remain in place through at least Christmas.

It’s likely that some former Californians flocked to Texas due to Governor Gavin Newsom’s restrictive stay-at-home order and “Covid fatigue.”

But is Texas less restrictive than California?

Some counties in Texas did implement curfews. For example, a 10:00 P.M. to 5:00 A.M. curfew took effect in Bexar, El Paso and San Antonio Counties over the Thanksgiving holiday. However, they were short-lived and ended November 30.

According to reports, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego is mulling the idea of a “partial curfew” for the period between the Christmas holiday and New Year’s Eve.

One major difference between the orders implemented in California and those that were issued in Texas is that the latter weren’t blanket, statewide restrictions.

Another difference regards bars. Drinking establishments are closed throughout California. In Texas, according to this document located on the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission website, “[b]ars or similar establishments located in counties that have opted in may operate for in-person service up to 50% of the total listed occupancy inside the bar or similar establishment,” and guests must remained seated if they’re drinking or eating.

Interestingly, no occupancy limit exists for a bar’s (or “similar establishment’s”) outdoor area. Another interesting detail: “the County Judge of each county may choose to opt in with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to allow bars or similar establishments to operate with in-person service.”

That statement relates to Texas’ GA-32 executive order. In counties where Covid-19-related hospitalization rates and case counts meet state requirements, county judges can opt-in to reopen bars. In fact, the TABC features a map—updated daily at 3:00 P.M. CST—that displays the counties in which bars are permitted to open their doors.

Bars are required to stop serving alcohol at 11:00 P.M. but don’t have to close for business or send guests away at that time.

Restrictions are different for Texas restaurants. According to the TABC’s website, “Restaurants may operate for dine-in service up to 75% of the total listed occupancy inside the restaurant; outdoor dining is not subject to an occupancy limit; and restaurant employees and contractors are not counted towards the occupancy limitation. This applies only to restaurants that have less than 51% of their gross sales from alcoholic beverages.”

Per news coverage, the cutoff rule Texas bars operate under doesn’t apply to restaurants, motivating the decision of thousands of bar owners to reopen their businesses as restaurants.

One of the highest-profile ex-Californians who made the move to Texas recently is Joe Rogan. Rogan speaks with Texas native and entrepreneur Richard Rawlings on the most recent episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast on Spotify. The subject of California comes up roughly 23 minutes into the discussion, with Rogan calling out California and saying that Californians “are recognizing” that “California itself doesn’t exist as everybody thought of it.”

Rogan goes on to say that California’s government is to blame for the exodus to Texas, saying, “Literally, it’s a case of now we know that if you have poor government, the government can ruin a state.”

He praises Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his approach to Covid-19. In particular, Rogan lauds Gov. Abbott for shutting down the state for a short period of time but allowing businesses to remain open. He mentions that while businesses are still struggling—capacity restrictions, social distancing protocols, mask requirements—at least they’re able to operate.

At around the 24-minute mark, the conversation shifts to restaurants in particular.

You can’t even go eat outside. There’s a 10:00 P.M. curfew in Los Angeles. It’s insane. There’s no science behind it, either. There’s no science that shows that if you get people to stay home after 10:00 P.M. that there’s less transmission,” says Rogan.” There’s no science, nothing. It’s arbitrary decisions that are made by politicians. And that’s the minimum: The outdoor dining thing is the most egregious because you have all these people that spent so much money to try to convert their restaurants and make these outdoor dining [spaces]—spent thousands of dollars that they didn’t even fucking have. They just wanted to stay open, and then they just get shut down.”

Rawlings then references the owner of Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill, Angela Marsden, and the emotional, viral video she posted in response to Los Angeles restaurants being prohibited from offering outdoor dining.

Marsden claimed to have spent $80,000 to comply with L.A. County health requirements and create an outdoor dining area before the restriction was put in place. In the video, she shows a television production crew dining under tents set up next to her outdoor dining area. Ultimately, Marsden had to shut down after running out of funds.

I was pretty pissed off at that one because, you know, we shut down Gas Monkey Bar & Grill for the winter,” says Rawlings. “We’re just hanging out, see what happens.”

Texas hasn’t fully reopened and some may still view some of the state’s Covid-19 rules as arbitrary. However, capacity limitations for bars (up to 50 percent) and restaurants (up to 75 percent) are much more viable for operators.

There are other questions to consider regarding Covid-19 protocols and restrictions. If state lawmakers implement rules that ultimately encourage their residents to flee to other states, does that increase the risk of infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths rising in those states? Is America capable of setting aside our divisions and pulling in the same direction to flatten curves nationwide? Are our lawmakers capable of abandoning the arbitrary for the targeted and logical to provide relief and increase the survivability rates of restaurants, bars and other small businesses?

Covid-19 protocols can change in any state at any time, but for now, Texas may serve as the best model for restricted restaurant and bar operations in the United States.

Image: Thomas Park on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Take Steps to Become a More Sustainable Operation this Green Monday

Take Steps to Become a More Sustainable Operation this Green Monday

by David Klemt

You’re probably being inundated with emails about Green Monday today.

Given how the meaning of the word “green” has evolved over the past couple of years, many people may think Green Monday is similar to Earth Day. In reality, it’s about the color of money.

Green Monday, a term coined by eBay, is sometimes called Cyber Monday 2. It’s the busiest online shopping day of December and second only to Cyber Monday in terms of online sales.

eBay and other retailers often promote the idea that shopping online is greener than shopping in person since people aren’t driving to and from stores. The reality is likely closer to the meaning of Black Friday—businesses are trying to boost revenue.

We’ve decided to take a different approach to Green Monday. Sustainability and responsible business practices are important to today’s consumer, including restaurant and bar guests. Significant swaths of people want to know they’re supporting businesses that share their values.

This Green Monday, take a look at the sustainability of your business. Evaluate what can be changed to make operations greener and implement those initiatives for 2021.

  1. Go local. Source produce and other ingredients from local farmers and suppliers to reduce carbon emissions.
  2. Go hyper-local. Grow produce using a restaurant garden or containers. Garnishes, items for salads, veggies for entrees… Get creative.
  3. Reduce and reuse. Inventory software can help reduce food waste by sending alerts when items are nearing their expiration dates. Reconsidering portion sizes can also help avoid food waste, as can cross-utilization: use as much of an item in as many ways as possible, such as tying food and beverage together with the same ingredients. If you can do so safely and legally in your area, donate excess food items before they expire.
  4. Recycle and compost. Getting in the habit of recycling can be as easy as placing dedicated bins in strategic locations throughout the back of house and bar. Composting can be more complicated, particularly for venues with limited space, but there are local organizations and farms that will pick up compostable items.
  5. Be efficient. The more energy-efficient pieces of equipment you can use, the better. Flow restrictors and low-flow toilets can save millions of gallons of water. Eco-friendly cleaners and sanitizers are safer for people and the environment.
  6. Audit your packaging. Are you using recyclable or compostable packaging?
  7. Audit your suppliers’ packaging. Many brands have committed to reducing packaging or opting for more sustainable materials. Speak with your suppliers and request reduced packaging.

Image: Bon Vivant on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Orange County’s #OPENSAFE Restaurant Collective Defies Governor Newsom

Orange County’s #OPENSAFE Restaurant Collective Defies Governor Newsom

by David Klemt

A group of California restaurant operators is pushing back against current restrictions in defiance of orders they feel go too far.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order mandates that restaurants remain open only for delivery and takeout. The order affects five California regions: Northern California, the Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California.

Throughout 2020, similar orders have been issued throughout the United States. They’ve included an array of restrictions, from banning indoor and outdoor dining to choking traffic by imposing significant capacity restrictions.

Allowing only delivery and takeout is not the health and safety solution lawmakers believe it to be. Third-party delivery platforms and their policies can be detrimental to operators, worsening an already bad situation.

Several operators in Orange County, located in the Southern California region, are, per an Instagram post, refusing to comply with Gov. Newsom’s order.

The statement on publicist Alexandra Taylor’s Instagram account is posted in its entirety below:

“We, as responsible small business owners and operators, do hereby declare our intention to protest the current state stay home order and to maintain our safety standards of service as set forth by country and state health guidelines.

“We cannot, in good conscience, allow our employees and their families to have their health and safety jeopardized as resources to them have been exhausted.

“We will continue and strengthen our mitigation of the potential spread of SARS-Covid19 with the highest standards of safety protocol including, but not limited to: Outdoor Dining, Socially Distanced Seating, Mask Requirements when not seated, PPE, Readily Available Sanitizer to back of house/front of house staff, immediate quarantine and isolation of potentially infected employees, Barriers to prevent close quarters transmission between guests, limited capacity, etc.

“Although eating and drinking establishments (both indoor and outdoor) have shown to increase the potential for viral transmission, current data also indicates that travel and essential shopping have as much as a 10x more likely chance of transmission than these establishments based on CDC risk assessments.

“We agree, as responsible business owners, to commit to staying open with a dedication to public health.”

The image of the statement is accompanied by the hashtag #OPENSAFE and American flag emoji. More than 80 Orange County establishments that support the #OPENSAFE movement were listed in the caption of the post at the time of publication. The original post states that the list of venues is growing daily.

Taylor, the founder and president of The ATEAM, included a caption that read, in part:

“RESTAURANTS. I represent them, I invest in them, I celebrate them, I support them, I am passionate beyond words for them, for the PEOPLE behind them— and I will fight for them.

“This is a declaration for not only restaurants but all SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS to commit to STAY OPEN SAFELY and RESPONSIBLY, while giving their establishments, their employees, and their families a fighting chance to survive this BS.”

State and county officials across the nation can impose a number of penalties on businesses that defy orders. Fines and temporary suspensions of business licenses appear to be the most common. In Chicago, for example, operators can face fines in excess of $10,000. One restaurant, Ann Sather, owned by Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney, violated a ban on indoor dining and ignoring Covid-19 safety rules and faces a maximum fine of $10,500.

Earlier this year, a restaurant in Monterey County, located in California’s Bar Area region, faced fines of up to $35,000 violating shelter-in-place orders.

It’s unclear at the moment if the collective of defiant Orange County operators will face consequences for their civil disobedience. Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes has stated that the department has no intention of enforcing Gov. Newsom’s order closing restaurants.

“Orange County Sheriff’s deputies will not be dispatched to, or respond to, calls for service to enforce compliance with face coverings, social gatherings, or stay-at-home orders only,” said Sheriff Barnes. “Deputies will respond to calls for potential criminal behavior and for the protection of life and property. Our actions remain consistent with the protections of constitutional rights.”

Whether operators in other counties across America coalesce around their own #OPENSAFE movements remains to be seen. The consequences must be fully understood and weighed, and law enforcement’s stance on enforcing stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders regarding bars and restaurants must also be considered.

Two things are, however, clear. One, operators have had enough. Two, government officials need to listen to restaurant and bar operators and workers about the impact of restrictions before issuing orders.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

One Fair Wage Survey Results: Foodservice Professionals on Front Lines of Infection Risk and Hostility

One Fair Wage Survey Results: Foodservice Professionals on Front Lines of Infection Risk and Hostility

by David Klemt

Over a three-week period, One Fair Wage (OFW) surveyed 1,675 foodservice workers in five states and Washington, D.C.

The survey was initially sent to more than 61,000 applicants to the One Fair Wage Emergency Fund in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and D.C. By November 9, 2,621 respondents had completed the OFW survey online. A total of 1,575 indicated they were currently employed and an additional 100 surveys were completed by phone.

One of the key takeaways of the survey is at once disturbing and unacceptable but not, infuriatingly, shocking. Not only did significant percentages of respondents report lax Covid-19 protocol training and enforcement along with increasingly hostile guests, close to half revealed “a dramatic increase in sexual harassment” since the pandemic struck.

Increased Sexual Harassment

Forty-one percent of survey respondents noted a marked shift in the frequency that guests are subjecting foodservice workers to unwanted sexualized comments. A quarter said they had personally experienced or witnessed “a significant” change in this manifestation of sexual harassment.

An analysis by OFW of the comments shared by respondents reveals the impact that this increase in sexual harassment has on the recipients. The comments have a negative effect on workers’ sense of safety in the workplace, financial security, physical health, and emotional and psychological health.

Of the 25 percent of the female respondents who had personally experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, 43 percent reported that comments were directly tied to social distancing and wearing masks, two pillars of Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

Identified by OFW as a “mild example” of the unwanted comments being made, “Take your mask off I want to see what’s underneath,” provides insight into the overall “theme” of the harassment being made. Many guests engaging in harassment appear to be sexualizing covered noses and mouths. Indeed, other comments support this analysis:

  • “Come on, sweetie. Lemme see that pretty face under there. Take it off for me, will you? Just a quick flash.”
  • “Please take the mask off, I want to see your lips.”
  • “Take off your mask so I know how much to tip you.”

When foodservice pros rebuff these unwanted advances, the responses tend toward hostility and smaller—or no—tips. In short order, these types of aggressors have found a way to weaponize the guest-server power dynamic and seemingly fetishize required Covid-19 protocols.

Increased Hostility

Whereas close to half of OFW survey respondents reported increased sexual harassment, more than three-quarters reported increased hostility from guests.

A staggering 78 percent of respondents said they had experienced or witnessed increased hostility as a response to following and enforcing Covid-19 protocols. Almost 60 percent said these incidents were occurring on a weekly basis.

Again, the power dynamic comes into play. Nearly 60 percent of respondents reported hesitation in enforcing Covid-19 protocols for fear doing so would affect their tips negatively. That concern is rooted in reality: 65 percent of respondents said they were tipped less on a weekly basis after enforcing health and safety protocols.

More than 80 percent said tips have decreased since the pandemic took hold, with 65 percent reporting that decrease to be 50 percent or more.

Impact of Subminimum Wage

One Fair Wage, as their name suggests and their mission clearly states, advocates and campaigns for all employers in America to pay full minimum wage. The organization also calls for tipped workers to receive full minimum wage plus their tips.

Per OFW, service workers—including people who work in salons and airports—are twice as likely to require food stamps to get by when compared to the rest of the workforce in the United States. Foodservice workers, however, are subjected to more sexual harassment than those workers in any other industry. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency, has identified the restaurant industry as the sector with the most sexual harassment charges filed by women.

This isn’t a digression. The OFW’s mission for a full minimum plus tips for tipped workers would have a direct impact on community health and safety. Infectious disease experts have warned that Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic with which we’ll have to contend. According to a report released by the CDC in September, the risk of contracting Covid-19 doubles for adults after dining inside a restaurant.

Were all service workers working for a full, living minimum wage, they’d likely be less concerned with incurring a guest’s wrath in the form of a reduced tip or no tip at all. The OFW survey findings that foodservice pros are being harassed to remove their masks or not socially distance—risking the health and safety of themselves and guests, then of family and friends, and therefore the community—and that 58 percent are reluctant to enforce Covid-19 protocols out of concern for their tips illustrates, in part, how subminimum wage for tipped workers can impact the health and safety of communities overall.

The pandemic has made foodservice workers and others who work with the public, by default, Covid-19 protocol enforcers. Clearly, significant swaths of the public feel zero compunction when it comes to responding with hostility, threats, harassment, and refusal to comply.

It’s also clear that guests who react with hostility and intimidation when employees are enforcing officially mandated health and safety requirements lest their employer face fines, the suspension of their business and/or liquor license, or any other form of punishment that puts their employment at risk won’t hesitate to wield the guest-server power dynamic as a weapon. That weapon can ultimately endanger an entire community.

The Good News

A mere ten percent of survey respondents reported their employers instruct employees to follow all Covid-19 health and safety protocols on a consistent basis, and just 31 percent of respondents said their employer follows all such protocols.

Those are startling numbers since ten percent of respondents said they had contracted Covid-19, 88 percent said they knew someone had contracted the infection, 44 percent reported that at least one coworker had contracted Covid-19, and a depressing 42 percent of those who reported knowing someone who had contracted the illness had died from it.

However, there were some positive pieces of data shared by survey respondents:

  • 92 percent reported their employers require all workers to wear masks.
  • 86 percent reported their employers require all workers to wash hands frequently.
  • 86 percent reported their employers require tables and chairs be wiped down and sanitized between uses.
  • 78 percent reported their employers provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • 75 percent reported that a supervisor has told them they will have their back if they tell a guest or coworker to put on their mask whenever they’re within six feet of them.

In a perfect world, those percentages would all be one hundred. This isn’t a perfect world and there’s obviously major room for improvement. Management must step up in this time of crisis and uncertainty and embrace true leadership:

  • Respect the fact that employees are putting themselves at risk every shift. Put people first.
  • Avoid putting the bottom line ahead of health and safety.
  • Create and enforce a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy—for employees and guests. Support employees when they report sexual harassment.
  • Communicate clearly and consistently. Transparency and targeted training must be priorities.
  • Display integrity when making decisions and enforcing rules.

Foodservice and hospitality industry professionals are on the front lines, sacrificing their own health and safety—and that of the people inside their bubble—to keep the industry afloat. Ownership and management need to protect them.

Read the entire OFW report here.

Image: engin akyurt on Unsplash