Celebrity chef David Chang, founder of the Momofuku restaurant empire, talks frankly about his struggles with bipolar disorder and depression in his new memoir Eat a Peach. “Bipolar has given me the very best of myself as a chef and the very worst of me as a chef,” writes Chang. Throughout the memoir, the chef details his experiences with the disorder, from manic episodes at his restaurants to depressive phases when he wasn’t cooking. “I would ride my bike all over Manhattan, weaving in and out of traffic and blowing through stoplights. There was a New Year’s Eve party that began with Valium, speed, pot, washed down with around twenty drinks, and ended with my falling through a giant glass table,” says Chang. “The ER doctors said I narrowly missed an artery.” Chang is very aware of the critical role therapy has played in his life and in his success. He met his longtime therapist, Dr. Eliot, in 2004, the same year he opened Momofuku.
McDonald’s is being sued by over 50 former Black franchise owners for steering them toward less profitable restaurants and offering fewer opportunities than white-owned franchisees. All 52 plaintiffs were forced to sell their franchise within the past 10 years, and the ex-franchisees are seeking $4 to $5 million in compensation per store. According to the suit filed in a Chicago federal court, McDonald’s directed the Black franchisees to stores in inner-city neighborhoods with low sales and higher security and insurance costs. “Revenue is determined by one thing and one thing only: location,” said James Ferraro, the Miami-based attorney representing the plaintiffs. “It’s a Big Mac. They’re the same everywhere.” .
New York City officials have extended a cap on third party delivery fees until restaurants can operate at 100% capacity. Even though there is no set date for reopening indoor dining, members of the city council voted on the 15% fee cap to ease the financial burden that is forcing thousands of restaurants to close permanently. “While restaurants are struggling to keep their doors open and continue paying their staff,” said Councilman Mark Gjonaj, “third-party delivery platforms have experienced a surge in use. Their business model continues to thrive under COVID, while restaurants continue to need help.” The current 15% fee cap will only be lifted 90 days after indoor dining resumes at 100% capacity. Food delivery companies such as DoorDash and Grubhub have been lobbying to eliminate the cap. “We continue to have concerns around a permanent cap,” said DoorDash in a statement, “which would ultimately undermine restaurants’ access to reliable delivery services that are helping them stay open and that provide economic opportunity to workers who may not have any other source of income during this prolonged economic downturn.”
The U.S. is in midst of the largest unemployment upheaval in 80 years, and yet restaurants are having trouble securing applicants for open positions. Many restaurants have even created new positions such as Sanitation Supervisor. COVID-19 has kept many potential applicants away because restaurants have been targeted erroneously as coronavirus hotspots. For some low-wage restaurant workers, unemployment stimulus checks have also boosted their weekly pay above what they were earning from their previous employers. In response, many restaurant chains have increased their pay offerings, but they’ve still had little success in attracting applicants. “This is the most dramatic shift that’s happened in the modern history of food service,” said Aaron Allen, chief strategist at restaurant consultancy Aaron Allen & Associates. “It’s the first time people have left the industry and decided not to come back.” Flynn Restaurant Group, which operates Taco Bell, Arby’s and Applebee’s locations, reports that its workers are now being paid a higher hourly wage than a year ago at its 280 Taco Bell restaurants. But higher pay may not be enough. Alonzo Rice, a former Burger King cook in Orlando, Florida, has been working odd jobs since his hours at the location disappeared due to the pandemic. “I’m not applying to any restaurant jobs,” he says, because the risk is be too high for the reward.
David Landsel, Senior Editor at Food & Wine, has compiled his list of the best BBQ joints in America. “After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like,” he says. The list includes over 100 BBQ restaurants and has been put together over the course of several years. In Texas, there’s Louie Mueller Barbecue, which Landsel describes as “a national treasure.” Among the top spots in Tennessee, Payne’s Bar-B-Q was opened in 1972 by Horton Payne and is now run by his widow Flora Payne. The Skylight Inn in North Carolina, a longtime favorite for its whole hog barbecue, easily made the list, while relative newcomer in Virginia, ZZQ, began as a backyard pop-up in 2011. Moo’s Craft Barbecue in California, serving Texas BBQ in L.A., brings in lines of people that will wait rain or shine as long as it takes for a taste. And in Chicago, Illinois, the venerable Lem’s Bar-B-Q made the list as well. “After countless dates with modern barbecue, I continue to treasure the whole of the Lem’s experience. I treasure those slabs of hickory-smoked, orange-red spare ribs, those unfussed hot links coming out of the city’s largest aquarium smoker,” Landsel says.
The pandemic has reshaped consumer behavior at restaurants with take-out, delivery, and drive-thru orders dominating the methods of purchase. According to industry analysts NPD Group, visits to restaurant drive-thrus grew 26% in April, May and June this year. Increased demand for contactless transactions and off-premise dining has caused restaurant chains like Shake Shack, Taco Bell, and Burger King to plan new formats for future stores. All three restaurant chains recently unveiled plans that feature additional drive-thru windows at new locations. Burger King’s new store format includes up to 3 drive-thru lanes per restaurant, while Shake Shack and Taco Bell feature 2 lanes. The chains also feature contactless curbside pickup areas, and Shake Shack’s contactless pickup will become a permanent feature in all stores.