Food Drama

  • Why I’m Deleting Delivery Apps From My Phone
    by Amanda Kludt on September 23, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Photo via Grubhub From the Editor: Everything you missed in food news last week Hey everyone, In May, Google launched a feature allowing customers to order food directly from a Google search with an “Order Online” button. Instead of sending you to a restaurant’s in-house delivery platform (if they have one), it sends you to partners like DoorDash, Postmates, and ChowNow, all of which take a cut of your order from the restaurant. Getting the button removed from a restaurant’s Google results is maddeningly difficult. This is frustrating to many restaurateurs. It’s also one of the many ways big tech companies and venture capital-backed startups and industry “disruptors” are cutting into the notoriously slim profit margins of restaurants. Delivery platform Grubhub and its subsidiary Seamless take large commissions on all delivery orders placed through their systems. The higher the commission you pay to Seamless/Grubhub, the easier it is for customers to find your restaurant. Grubhub sets up new phone numbers for restaurants that use its services, and if you use that number to call the restaurant and place an order, they take a cut. Even if the phone call doesn’t result in an order, the restaurant could get charged. To make matters worse, Yelp includes those Grubhub phone numbers on its own listings and takes its own little piece of the action. Another tactic from Grubhub: buying up tens of thousands of domain names that are similar to restaurant websites as a way to siphon customers away from the owned-and-operated pages and toward the ordering pages where the commission will be made. They put the original restaurant’s menu and photo on their fake site, but when a potential customer clicks “order now,” they are directed to the Grubhub/Seamless page. If you order from that page via these “marketing” efforts, the commission paid to Grubhub is even higher. (The company defended itself in July by saying they did it on the restaurants’ behalf but discontinued this “service.”) Of course there are more bad actors. It took months of driver complaints and multiple exposés for delivery platform DoorDash to actually pay drivers and couriers the tips meant for them. UberEats and Deliveroo are so focused on rampant growth they let vendors trade on their platforms without proper food safety certification. Scores of workers injured on the job and family members of workers killed while delivering in Mexico are pushing Uber Eats to take responsibility for the safety of couriers. And just as a general matter: These companies, taken together, are using investor money to create a business where there isn’t one. Delivery shouldn’t be this cheap or free. But now we as consumers are trained to think it should be, because these companies are willing to eat the losses to create a market. Restaurants that want to remain competitive feel pressured to offer delivery, no matter the commission. I’m sure these companies have changed many restaurant businesses for the better and exposed a whole world of restaurants to customers who wouldn’t have otherwise known about them. But I’d just rather not partake in this system anymore. So I’m going to take Seamless off my phone, call restaurants directly (making sure to cross-reference the number), and use delivery platforms owned and operated by restaurants when available. And from now on I only tip in cash. On Eater Gary He/Eater NY Intel: Iconic London restaurant St. John will open its first U.S. location in a yuppie mall in Los Angeles; New York’s Hometown BBQ opened in Miami; Rockefeller Center is kicking everyone out and courting hot new operators; Miami’s Employees Only re-opened as Swizzle Rum Bar & Drinkery and it looks intensely weird; the pastry chef of lauded North Carolina restaurant Kindred opened a Southern-meets-French bakery called “Bonjour Y’all”; the team behind BadMaash in LA is opening a burger spot; Sean Brock’s new Appalachian-focused Nashville restaurants will be called Audrey and Red Bird; Chicago lawmakers are debating abolishing the tip credit (which allows restaurants to pay employees less than minimum wage so long as tips make up the difference); Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg has a new wine and pasta bar; Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo will open a restaurant called Anton’s with chef Nick Anderer in their Frankies 570 space in NY; London has a cool new Filipino bakery; LA’s failed 3 a.m. last-call bill would have changed the city’s nightlife; and award-winning and currently burned-down B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue opened a branch in an Atlanta Kroger. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem on the first year of owning a Miami restaurant. How to make a TikTok recipe video. If you, like me, want to know the deal with Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest book about not eating animals without actually reading it, just read his interview with Jenny instead! The sharing economy has led to a rise in libraries that loan out baking pans. I’m going to set up an iced coffee bar for dessert at my next dinner party. An excerpt from an upcoming book about Windows on the World, which touches upon how Joe Baum created the most spectacular restaurant in the world. Review: one star for NYC’s Red Paper Clip. Watch: How two master chefs are redefining omakase by only using American fish. This week on the podcast This week on Eater’s Digest, Daniel and I talk about the evolution of food in movie theaters and this week’s biggest stories. Off Eater Apparently almost half of customers confronted with iPad touch screens asking them to tip for counter service do. [NYT] The Wing’s Audrey Gelman became the first visibly pregnant CEO on the cover of a business magazine this week. [@audreygelman] I might need your help figuring out what I’ll do for work in Vermont when I buy this farmhouse and leave Brooklyn forever. [Curbed] Bill Addison wrote a beautiful review of one of my favorite LA restaurants, Republique. [LAT] Very amused by this sexy Beyond Burger Halloween costume. [@chrisgayomali] All hail Cindy Adams’s insane-looking apartment. [NYMag

  • Storm’s Coming. Send Out the Invites.
    by Hannah C. Griggs on September 23, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    As storms become more powerful, is there still room for the traditional gathering of friends, family, and alcohol known as the hurricane party? Before Hurricane Isidore made landfall in 2002, the New Orleans Journal asked New Orleans residents how they were preparing for the incoming storm. One woman replied by checking off her grocery list: “apple-turnovers, pound cake, pecan bread, banana bread, beer, tuna salad, ham salad… and beer. Lots of beer. Did I forget that?” In his account of hurricane preparation, New Orleans journalist Chris Rose reminisced to NPR that during Hurricane Georges in 1998, he and his neighbors emptied their refrigerators of perishables for a two-day neighborhood cookout, stopping intermittently to go hit golf balls into the gale-force winds at the nearby golf course. “A hurricane party,” said Rose, “[is] a community affair.” Hurricane parties are a staple of hurricane season in Miami, New Orleans, and throughout the Gulf and Atlantic South. Family, friends, and neighbors provision beer and groceries and huddle underneath the safest roof to ride out the storm (each hurricane season, alcohol sales at grocery and liquor stores spike when news of an impending storm hits the airwaves). Bars shutter their windows but refuse to close their doors. Hurricane parties have been reported as far north as New England, and before Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast in 2011, the New York Post observed masses of New Yorkers stocking their liquor cabinets “in hopes of getting blotto.” Those living far from shores pelted annually by Atlantic cyclones often only see the aftermath of storms: images of devastation, death tolls, headlines that deliberately misinform or fear-monger. Hurricane parties, then, may seem like the indulgent whims of hedonistic coastal residents choosing to ignore the advice of the weatherman and FEMA. They have certainly baffled researchers and anthropologists (one particularly feisty scholar called them “reckless” and “a dramatic excuse” to throw a party). Year after year they frustrate state emergency officials, who issue warnings against excessive drinking during dangerous storms. Yet calling them “parties” does not encapsulate their complexity. In places where hurricanes are simply part of life, hurricane parties can be a deeply communal ritual inextricably bound with storm preparation. They’re seasonal fetes that are less about getting drunk and more about camaraderie, food pooling, and safety in numbers. “Nobody keeps count of how many residents participate in such events,” quipped Rose, “but safe to say, it’s a lot of us, maybe even most of us who are left after you subtract the evacuees.” Of course, not all coastal residents are in favor of such levity. Recently, for example, Publix created cookie cakes in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian, much to the chagrin of some customers, who accused the grocery chain of insensitivity. In response to the cakes, one person tweeted, “We need to move away from hurricane parties, toward go-bag-water-flashlights-and-shutters checklists.” But for others, this light-heartedness is part and parcel of storm preparation. Several Charleston bars remained open to throw hurricane parties before Dorian, and communities in Savannah threw parties during the storm, as well. Earlier this year, when Tropical Storm Barry unexpectedly formed off of Louisiana, NOLA.com reported that various New Orleans residents were throwing hurricane parties in preparation for the storm. As Barry approached landfall, “Hurricane party” was trending on Twitter. The hurricane party isn’t a 21st-century phenomenon. Its origins can be traced to just before World War II, when the rise of hurricane-resistant infrastructure and meteorological advances allowed for more accurate storm predictions. With no modern interstate system, many residents in the path of a hurricane lacked the ability to quickly and effectively evacuate, and so they stayed put. After Prohibition laws were repealed in 1933, the 1930s and ’40s saw a “normalization” of various drinking and recreational cultures, including the at-home cocktail party, the neighborhood bar, and the three-martini lunch. Denizens of the Gulf Coast could now hunker down safely in a storm-resistant structure, with as much legal alcohol as they wanted. With better weather forecasting, safer houses, and drinking as an acceptable social behavior, the hurricane party began to thrive. Around the mid-1930s, hurricanes were colloquially labeled as one-quart, two-quart, or three-quart storms, depending on how many bottles of liquor a household could consume while riding out the tempest. Newspapers flooded with reports from South Florida about residents taking advantage of the newly repealed 18th Amendment during hurricane season. Upon hearing the news of a cyclone over the broadcast, the Columbia Record reported in 1935 that locals “lock themselves in a safe place and get ‘blind’ until it is over.” It wasn’t until the postwar era that printed tales of debaucherous and wild hurricane parties really proliferated. There’s a huge increase in archival newspaper reports starting around 1950. “During a hurricane,” suggested one Miamian to the the Baltimore Sun in 1952, “have a party!” The Times-Picayune declared that “there’s no better show than a rootin’, tootin’ hurricane and no more fun-filled experience than a hurricane party.” These affairs weren’t just happening at home, either. Luxury hotels and resorts also hosted hurricane parties. In that same year, an upscale Miami hotel offered free fare to its guests when a hurricane rolled unexpectedly through the city, and management threw a hurricane party, offering food, drinks, and entertainment to all the visitors at no charge. Early reports of hurricane parties are often characterized by a pervasive sense of apathy regarding the severity of the weather. When Tropical Storm Item was set to roll over Miami in 1951, a conference of 50,000 American Legionnaires decided to cancel their events and throw a hurricane party instead. Said one Legionnaire, “People in Miami don’t worry about a hurricane, so the Legion won’t worry about it.” Many even took place outdoors, on the beach. At Miami Beach during 1965’s Hurricane Betsy, parties rumbled across the sand where “people tried to fortify themselves against fear with booze.” Across the Gulf, New Orleans received the brunt of Betsy: It was the worst storm the city had seen, and the damage it wrought was not surpassed until Katrina. But hurricane parties weren’t accessible only to wealthy tourists and middle-class suburbanites. Historically, people from all walks of life have taken part in hurricane parties, and the locations run the gamut: cafes, bars, military bases, oil rigs, dorm rooms. Some writers have framed the hurricane party as a kind of egalitarian space. In 1981 Lionel Mitchell, reporting for the New York Amsterdam News, one of the oldest African-American newspapers in the United States, reminisced about his experience at a 1962 hurricane party: “It was the first time students, liberals, faculty couples, bohemians, musicians, creative people could get together under cover of the 100 mile-an-hour winds on an interracial basis with no fear of police raids or reprisals of any sort.” “There’s no better show than a rootin’, tootin’ hurricane and no more fun-filled experience than a hurricane party.” That isn’t to say that hurricane parties are utopian spaces, or that everyone in a storm’s path sees it as an opportunity for festivity. Those who suffer most from powerful cyclones are often low-income and communities of color. In 1969 the Philadelphia Tribune reported that Hurricane Camille destroyed the homes of many poor African-American residents on the Mississippi Coast. “Negroes in Mississippi do not have ‘hurricane parties’ when such storms come through their communities,” wrote the Tribune, “Such ‘parties’ are for wealthy white folk.” Instead, black residents of this region have “praying parties.” Residents of Pass Christian, many of whom had retreated inland to ride out Hurricane Camille, returned to their property in ruins. When it comes to hurricanes, the ability to be vulnerable and emerge unscathed is an immense privilege. Twenty years later, history’s most famous hurricane party supposedly exemplified the dangers of ignoring storm warnings. It happened during Hurricane Camille in 1969 — or didn’t. According to legend, residents in recently constructed Richelieu Manor Apartments in Pass Christian, Mississippi, decided to stay in their homes together, despite repeated warnings to evacuate. The party’s sole survivor, Mary Ann Gerlach, claimed she saved herself by clinging to a sofa cushion after the storm surge pushed her out of the building’s second-story window. Though the veracity of Gerlach’s story has since been questioned, media outlets and local governments took the tale and turned it into a cautionary one. With a “real” hurricane party disaster to point to, municipal governments cited the Richelieu as a reason to heed all official storm warnings. The hurricane party of the 21st century might not look materially different than ones thrown 50 or 60 years ago, but environmental circumstances have drastically changed. Climate scientists have reported a “detectable” increase in Atlantic hurricane activity over the last century, and evidence suggests that hurricanes have become more potent since the 1950s and 1960s. In Southeast Texas, which suffered major flooding last week from 43 inches of rain dumped by Tropical Storm Imelda, climate change is responsible for increasing “extreme rainfall” events; climate change also increased the destructive power of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston in 2017 and resulted in more than 75 deaths. As one teenage climate change protestor noted at Houston’s City Hall last week, a business-as-usual approach no longer works: “Our so-called natural disasters are no longer entirely natural… this is what being on the front lines of climate change looks like.” But despite the risks and the potential of more powerful storms, hurricane parties might still persist as a cultural practice because of the communities they foster in the face of fear. Google “hurricane party” and you’ll find countless guides, recipes, and op-eds, all claiming to have the best ways to ride out a storm. Before Hurricane Harvey, some Texans took to social media to boast of early-morning beer and supply runs. Said one Twitter user, “I got beer, wine, rum, peanut butter & crackers. We may be floating on a mattress with squirrels, but at least it’ll be fun!” In 2012, the Miami New Times kicked off that year’s hurricane season writing, “Frankly, there’s no better time to booze it up and bond with friends than during a disaster when no one has to work and the Internet is down.” Residents across Florida threw hurricane parties during 2012’s Hurricane Isaac and 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. During 2017’s hyperactive hurricane season, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Nate all saw reports of parties (as well as official warnings not to throw them). Although they don’t all devolve into bacchanalian madness, hurricane parties often involve a collision between survival and leisure. “Hurricane parties are meant to ease the stress,” writes one Texan, “by inviting family or friends to your boarded up or shuttered home.” While they certainly aren’t a solution to problems caused by climate change, hurricane parties are a momentary means to cope with the hopelessness this crisis can bring. They’re a blip of joy, perhaps, amid anxiety and chaos. When the New Orleans Journal surveyed residents before Hurricane Isidore in 2002, the last respondent brightened: “My grandfather loved hurricanes.” He invited everyone he knew to their home, and threw a big party where they cheered behind plywood-covered windows. And his grandfather would say to guests, “Enjoy the wind, enjoy the wind.” Hannah C. Griggs is a writer, researcher, and critic from New Orleans. Carolyn Figel is a freelance artist living in Brooklyn.

  • Burger King’s New Advertising Tactic Is Photographing You While You Sleep
    by Jaya Saxena on September 23, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Burger King Is no place sacred for a public nap? There is little more tempting than a post-meal nap, especially after eating fast food. Think of it—you’re sitting in a wide, comfy booth, your belly is full of fries and bread, and since you have not a want in the world, you let your eyelids get a little heavy as the fat and salt course through your digestive system. Sure, usually you’d rally and continue going about your day, or at least keep yourself awake long enough to go home and sleep in your own bed, but shit happens, and perhaps today is the day you find yourself dozing off in public. Just be careful about doing so in a Burger King, because your slack, drooling visage may just turn into the new face of their latest ad campaign. According to AdWeek, Burger King Mexico and ad agency We Believers teamed up for a campaign that honors the “food coma” by showcasing allegedly real Burger King diners who have fallen asleep in their restaurants, especially those who have fallen asleep after large meals. To promote their “King’s Collection” of large burgers, they say they hired a photographer to photograph sleeping patrons, with the tagline “They’re That Big,” suggesting the burgers are so big you’ll…want to fall asleep in their stores and become their new mascots? The ads feature the location and time each shot was taken, because BK keeps receipts, and they’ve also licensed the ads to run across the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. All the subjects gave Burger King permission to use these photos in their ads. “As soon as they woke up, the photographer approached them to tell them about the project and offer them to sign [a release]—the same thing you usually do when you capture people with a hidden camera for a case study,” Gustavo Lauria, co-founder of We Believers, told AdAge, though AdAge did not specify whether or not the unwitting models were compensated for their “work.” But it still feels weird, and not just because I’d want compensation if my gaping maw was used to hawk burgers. Fast food restaurants are the closest thing we have to a worldwide living room, where you can get a cheap meal, use WiFi, and generally hang until late at night as long as you’re not bothering anyone. So if you want to eat a BBQ Bacon Whopper and grab a five minute nap because this is your lunch break, dammit, and you’ll do what you want, you should be able to do so in peace! Of course, maybe they weren’t really sleeping, and these were just serendipitous images of people blinking or looking at their phones under their tables. Either way, watch your back in a Burger King. Or maybe it’s just time to campaign for restaurant nap pods. Burger King Caught Customers Napping for Ads About How Filling Its Sandwiches Are [AdWeek] All Burger King coverage [E

  • My First F-Up: Charging Customers for Chips and Salsa
    by Rebecca Flint Marx on September 23, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    With a bit of customer education, Eater Young Gun Christine Rivera convinced San Diego that chips and salsa are worth paying for My First F-Up is a series in which we ask Eater Young Guns and industry talent to recall their first — or most notable — on-the-job failure. Before she became the chef de cuisine at Galaxy Taco, a modern Mexican restaurant in San Diego, Eater Young Gun Christine Rivera (’16) had been a line cook, and before that, a dishwasher. Galaxy, which opened in 2015, was the first restaurant that Rivera had been in charge of, which meant that it was also where she experienced a lot of firsts. One of those challenges was creating a menu, which set the stage for a memorable, if ultimately enlightening, lesson. “In San Diego, 95 percent of Mexican restaurants don’t charge for chips and salsa. And we did. We make everything in-house — the chips and the salsa — whereas every other restaurant buys their chips. So we charged two bucks, and thought, ‘It’s just two bucks, people aren’t going to say anything.’ “Boy, were we wrong. In the first few months, people would sit down and we’d ask, ‘Oh, would you like our chips and salsa?’ and they’d get it and see the bill and be like, ‘What the heck?’ For almost the first year [after we opened], every single Yelp review, and every single complaint on a card, was, ‘Why are you charging for chips and salsa?’ And from that, you get other reviews like, ‘Why are we paying five bucks for a taco?’ So all of the hype we got when we opened went down because of the chips and salsa comments. “I think that the big mistake was me not knowing how to fix that, or know how to put a menu together. It hurt us for a while, until we could educate our guests and tell them why [we charged]. We felt passionate about making our masa and salsa daily; it was all fresh, and there were no canned products. So we never stopped charging. And sooner or later, people stopped complaining. But to this day, I think that some of those people who we did piss off probably never came back. So it’s been a huge hurdle since day one. “Now it’s very, very rare [that people complain]; they’ve already done their research and know what we’re about. What I did learn is that if you’re really passionate about [something] and think it’s the right thing to do, then don’t back down and just got for it. And eventually you’ll find out if it’s the right move. For us, it definitely was; we just celebrated our four-year anniversary.” Rebecca Flint Marx is a James Beard Award-winning food writer based in Brooklyn.

  • How Do I Know If I’m Getting a Good Cookbook Deal?
    by Sonia Chopra on September 23, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Photo: Shutterstock Lawyer Jasmine Moy breaks down what’s really happening in a cookbook contract It can feel like everyone in the food world is writing cookbooks these days — big-name chefs, burgeoning Instagram influencers, bartenders with cult followings. They make it look easy, but in truth, the world of cookbooks isn’t as glamorous as it seems, and it’s more important than ever for authors to understand the process and protect themselves before and while writing one. Eater turned to lawyer Jasmine Moy to learn more about how cookbook deals come together. Disclaimer: The materials available in this post are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Q: What should I look for when signing my first cookbook deal? A: Short answer: A good advisor, realistic budgets, and the expectation of questionable financial rewards. Cookbook deals typically come about in two different ways: either an agent or publisher comes knocking on the door of a buzzy chef who has achieved some notoriety, or a chef has an idea for a cookbook, puts a proposal together, and proactively shops it around. In both cases, a proposal is the first step, and authors — for our purposes, the chef (or mixologist, baker, or butcher — basically the “talent”) will be referred to as the “author” here — will need to put one together before their project can sell. There are several main documents that authors will have to sign as they journey through this process: The contract with a literary agency, perhaps a contract with a co-writer, one with a photographer, and lastly the agreement with a publisher if the proposal is sold. (Note: Some authors also hire a recipe tester or developer, or even an outside publicist.) While I’ve reviewed many of the two former sets of agreements, the latter two are often in the hands of the literary agents. So I’ve turned to Sarah Smith, at David Black Agency, for some assistance filling in the gaps. To begin, it’s worth noting that it’s very difficult to get a cookbook deal without an agent. I’m not saying this to score points with Smith — hire whomever you wish! — but not a single client of mine has gotten a book deal without an agent, so the first thing authors should do once they are serious about their projects is find one. The value of agents For cookbooks, authors usually sign with agents based on the author’s talent and general idea, and agents are critical to the book-creating process: Agents flesh out loose ideas and give the author direction during the proposal stage, build out the project team, and are critical to the creation and completion of the project that the proposal is based upon. Most publishers will not even accept un-agented proposals (if a publisher is trying to work with you directly, that may be a red flag — more on that below). Putting a proposal together is a lot of work, and it comes with packaging the deal with a writer and photographer, honing the vision, and targeting the right audience and demographic. That’s a lot of work, and it’s exactly what agencies are for. Among their benefits, agents also: 1) have their fingers on the pulse of the market and are best able to negotiate a fair advance; 2) only make money when you make money, so they are highly incentivized to maximize your numbers; 3) lend you credibility because they wouldn’t be working with you unless they genuinely believed in you, due to how much labor goes into their work before the first dollar is exchanged; and 4) tend to have long-standing relationships with publishers who will give their (i.e. your) proposals serious consideration, which is more than they’ll give to any unsolicited submission. The cost of agents Smith always encourages authors to do their research before signing with an agent. “Authors should feel empowered to shop around and dig into any agency’s ethos and track record and not all agencies are created equal.” Agency fees are fairly standard at around 15% of the author’s share for the North American/English rights, and 20% for foreign rights. There are a few things a lawyer can negotiate within an agency agreement (and, similarly, that an agency can limit within a publishing agreement), including some bits around the edges and some limiting in the scope of representation and approval over expenses, but for the most part these are standard documents. The rest of the team: the co-author Many chefs who don’t have experience (or time) to do the writing, partner with a writer to create a proposal. The proposal is word-heavy and the writer will likely carry most of that weight and may ask for a flat fee for it (which the author often pays out of pocket, although they can reimburse themselves if the project gets sold). There are finer points to these co-author agreements — beyond what size font both of your names will be in on the cover — but none more important than how you’ll both split the royalties and advance. In many cases both the author and the writer are represented by agents who do the dirty work of negotiating terms, but by and large, the author — that is, the chef or other “talent” — will take the lion’s share (or at least a clear majority) of the advance and royalties. A lot of this comes down to who is actually doing all the heavy lifting as it relates to time-intensive recipe developing, testing, and editing, as well as how much clout each person has. While Smith has seen some full equal partnerships between co-authors of a cookbook, she says a 50/50 split is typically reserved for cases when the writer is particularly well-known in their own right. The rest of the team: the photographer It’s rare for chefs to photograph their own cookbooks, so plan to outsource this as well. In most scenarios, the author also pays for the photographer out of their advance unless it’s one of those rare 50/50 split collaborations, in which case Smith says the author and writer would typically share that cost, among other expenses. She notes that in certain circumstances, whether it’s a particular publishing house or if an author has a lot of leverage when negotiating a deal, there may be room to ask for a separate photography budget apart from the advance. The separate budget may even be non-recoupable (in that the publisher won’t insist on paying itself back for that once the book is out on shelves). But Smith also notes that photographers almost never work on a percentage basis, so you’re committed to paying them a base rate for their work, which could be as high as five figures (even up to six). Because cookbooks are so visual, the publisher will generally want the right to approve or veto the author’s choice of photographer. “This is always a compromise,” Smith says, “Some publishers have more of a decided aesthetic, and they’ll want the photography to be in line with what other books from their shop look like. Other publishers are more flexible on this.” When putting together a proposal, it can be helpful for authors to include images that convey how they imagine their books looking, but it’s also important to keep an open mind. Smith’s recommendation: “Think about what design elements are non-negotiable to you, and which ones you can be more flexible about.” The offer and the math So you’ve got your team, and you’ve put together a beautiful proposal and your agent has secured you an offer: Now what? Well, evaluate that offer. How much is the advance that’s being offered to you? Advances vary wildly and are based on levels of fame and what sort of built-in audience an author has for selling their book. Some advances are six figures, and some come in below that, in the four-figure range. Advances are usually paid in installments, so authors will see that money in segments over the lifespan of creating and publishing the book. But how do you tell if an advance is enough? Advances are usually paid in at least three installments, and up to five or six total; typically about half is paid up front, then a quarter more when the manuscript is submitted, and the rest upon publication. From the first installment, take out 15% for your agent and subtract the amount you’ve agreed to pay your writer. Then take 40% of what remains and set it aside for taxes (don’t forget the taxes!). Is the amount that’s left enough for you to hire the photographer you want AND have money left over to compensate you for your time and all the ingredients you’ll need to develop a book full of recipes? If it’s enough and then some: Congrats! If not, Smith says it’s not impossible for an author to finish the process slightly in the red (although she adds that a good agent will help you budget and source contractors within the confines of your advance so this won’t happen). If the advance negotiated falls short, then you seriously have to consider how much you want or need this book to exist. ”Most authors, of cookbooks or otherwise, are not going to get mega-rich from publishing books,” Smith says. “This particularly applies to cookbook authors, who usually have to pay all of the expenses to get their book done out of their advance. However, there can be non-monetary reasons to publish a book. It can make a statement, contribute something to the cultural conversation, and become a calling-card of sorts for the author, leading to other opportunities.” So for some, it might be worth the investment from a brand-building and reputational standpoint. How badly should you want to work with a publisher who offers you a paltry advance? Smith advises caution in evaluating offers. “Publishers should really be prepared to put their money where their mouth is — if they say they believe in an author, they should be giving that author the resources to put together the best book they can.” Royalties Royalties are the author’s cut of a cookbook’s sales. For sold cookbooks, royalties are often in the range of 8% to 10% of the cover price. The advance the publisher gave the author is an advance against future royalties, so publishers pay themselves back before authors see any money. Most authors never see royalty payments, because the books don’t sell enough for publishers to have fully recouped the advance. “If you see a royalty check one to two years from your date of publication, you’re lucky,” says Smith. And remember — even if your book does sell well enough that you start to earn royalties, those checks are cut straight to your agent, who takes their share (usually about 15%) and then distributes the remainder to you (or, if you’ve hired a writer who has negotiated to receive a share of your royalties, to you and your writer according to your negotiated split). Working directly with publishers This brings me back to the idea of working with a publisher directly. It may sound nice to cut out the middle-man, but be wary of offers like this. Some publishers will jump at the chance to work with authors directly, but may offer them a lower deal than what an agent would be able to negotiate. Publishers are also generally not in the business of packaging and focusing an author’s vision for their project, so authors risk not getting the support they need. Also, unless authors hire a lawyer to review their documents, working directly with a publisher means they’ve got no one protecting their interests in the deal — which means they could end up signing away far more rights (to this work and future work) than they intended. Copyrights At the end of the day, authors still retain ownership of their book copyright. However, how it’s used moving forward may be limited by the publisher for the term of the copyright — the author’s lifespan plus 70 years — and the agency may continue to receive royalties from subsequent deals involving works derivative of the initial book, i.e. sequels or TV shows based on the cookbook’s premise using the cookbook’s title, regardless of whether you are still with that agency or not. Also, the publisher generally has to be offered the first option to buy the new work if it’s a book. That said, publishing agreements (if you’ve negotiated them well) may have terms which provide for the reversion of the publishing rights back to you. That means that after a certain amount of time, if sales drop below a certain threshold, you can ask that the publisher revert the rights to you, and you’re free to edit, reprint, and/or reissue with a different publisher going forward. The upshot This sounds like a lot, especially considering how hard the actual work of writing a cookbook is to begin with. Of course, the returns are better if you’re a strong writer with a strong following. And it doesn’t hurt to know a writer who is also a bang-up photographer (a backdoor way of getting photography for a percentage fee). It might also make sense to call in favors and try to get a proposal done on the cheap, so you don’t have to come out-of-pocket before you know if your book will sell. Cookbooks aren’t ventures anyone should head into half-heartedly and certainly not if your end goal is seeing extra (or any!) dollars in your pocket. But if you have a passion for something that you think others need to see, or an idea for a book that you just cannot shake (and are prepared for the hundreds or thousands of hours it’ll take), there are ways to make this work for you, just make sure you’ve got people looking out for you before you put your name on that dotted line. Jasmine Moy is a business attorney whose practice focuses on chefs, restaurateurs, and hoteliers.

  • Millennials Have Committed Another MURDER: This Time, It’s the Amtrak Dining Car
    by Jenny G. Zhang on September 23, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    An Amtrak dining car in Los Angeles. | Photo: Prayitno Photography/Flickr (edited by Eater) Plus, a car that runs on fast-food grease, and more news to start your day Millennials killed … let’s see *spins wheel* … the Amtrak dining car? Amtrak’s dining cars on long-distance trains will soon be killed, the Washington Post reports, bringing to an end a decades-old American tradition of making reservations for set mealtimes, sitting down next to fellow passengers at communal tables, and receiving white-tablecloth service and freshly prepared food made in an onboard kitchen. Instead, there will be prepackaged food options — such as chicken fettuccine and Creole shrimp — that passengers can eat in their rooms or in a new version of the dining car that still has booths, but no tablecloths. (Amtrak told the Post that it may eventually get rid of the booths altogether for a “contemporary” “lounge” setting.) Amtrak is taking a cue from Boomers and blaming millennials for the change, citing a desire to lure a younger generation of riders who just want to look at their phones in private all day. “Some people really like [the dining car] and view it as sort of a nostalgic train experience,” Peter Wilander, Amtrak’s vice president of product development and customer experience, told the Post. “Some people, especially our new millennial customers, don’t like it so much. They want more privacy, they don’t want to feel uncomfortable sitting next to people.” Conveniently, this change will also save the perennially financially beleaguered railroad an estimated $2 million a year — while food expenditures will be increasing, Amtrak told the Times Union, labor and inventory costs will both be going down. With plans to allow passengers to preorder their meals when booking tickets online, Amtrak is essentially becoming more like an airline — which makes sense, considering its CEO Richard Anderson was CEO of Delta Airlines from 2007 to 2016. These changes, euphemistically dubbed “flexible dining service,” will roll out on October 1, affecting some one-night routes east of Chicago, with other shifts slated for next year. It’s sad news for those of us with romantic notions of ornate, old-timey dining cars, sure, but if you were boarding a train with high expectations for your Orient Express murder mystery party, you probably haven’t seen what dining cars look like these days. And in other news… The Trump administration is fueling a weird backlash to healthy school lunches. [Mother Jones] Nestle is adopting its Japanese playbook for the U.K. and selling made-to-order luxury Kit-Kats for 14 pounds ($17 USD) a bar. [The Guardian] José Andrés is back in the U.S. after serving 400,000 meals in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian. [@AnnieMcP09/Twitter] Facing a world with increasing droughts and unpredictable weather, researchers are studying how to grow wine grapes in parched land. [NYT] Some teens took a wild ride from Florida to Canada in a car they retrofitted to run on used fast-food oil. [The Takeout] Could insects become a more environmentally friendly alternative to feeding factory-farmed animals soy and fish meal feed? [NYT] Another food Halloween costume for your consideration: White Claw. [Popsugar] The New Yorker goes long on Impossible Foods. [New Yorker] J. Kenji López-Alt’s first column for the Times is about boiling eggs. [NYT] This tweet really is bringing out the worst in people: One has to go. Forever. Which one do you choose? pic.twitter.com/IBFF1nuvr0— Liz Dueweke (@LizDueweke) September 21, 2019 • All AM Intel Coverage [E

  • ‘Super Size Me 2’ Overshadowed by Morgan Spurlock’s Past Sexual Misconduct
    by Greg Morabito on September 21, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! Notes on a new documentary plus a roundup of the week’s food pop culture news A version of this post originally appeared on September 20, 2019, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now. I’ve got notes on one of the most surprising documentary releases of the year, plus a roundup of the week’s food-related entertainment news. Up first, the movie: A Super Size Me sequel that probably should have stayed in the vaults The biggest surprise about Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!, a feature-length follow-up to Morgan Spurlock’s hit 2004 fast-food documentary, is that it was ever released in the first place. The movie was filmed three years ago, and premiered to mostly positive reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017. But shortly after signing a distribution deal with YouTube Red, Spurlock dropped a bombshell confession outlining his history of sexual misconduct. The statement noted a decades-old rape allegation, numerous acts of cheating on his partners, and a sexual harassment claim involving a young woman who worked for the filmmaker at his production company, Warrior Poets, that was settled out of court. Spurlock completely disappeared from the public eye after his confession, and YouTube Red dropped the movie. For over a year, Super Size Me 2 seemed all but dead until distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films made a surprise announcement over the summer that it was going to release the film. The film, released last week in select theaters and as a video-on-demand, makes no mention of Spurlock’s confession or anything that happened since its festival debut. Instead, this is the same documentary that appeared at TIFF two years ago: A lively tale of Spurlock’s attempt to raise a flock of poultry and open a tongue-in-cheek fried chicken sandwich restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. By far, the most enlightening and entertaining parts of the film are Spurlock’s meetings with various brand consultants and commercial food experts who break down the psychology of the “health halo” that all the big chains are obsessed with right now — a magic combination of trendy ingredients and packaging that make junk food appear healthy in the eyes of many consumers. Super Size Me 2 also clearly presents the issues that small chicken farmers face as a result of the “tournament system,” where poultry payouts from companies like Tyson are determined by an ever-changing ranking of chicken coops (an episode of Netflix’s excellent docuseries Rotten also explored this seemingly-corrupt system in much more vivid detail). The film culminates in the well-publicized opening of Spurlock’s fast-food restaurant, Holy Chicken, with the documentarian shaking hands, posing for photos, and ringing up customers who all seem starstruck by the filmmaker. At the end of the doc, Suplock mentions that he’s received calls from potential investors with franchise offers. But as it turns out, Holy Chicken was just a four-day pop-up, and, aside from a similarly temporary run in Manhattan this month, there have been no announcements about plans to open any future iterations of the restaurant. While promoting the new film, Spurlock has been candid about his past behavior and how his confession completely torpedoed the film’s original release (it also prompted most of the Warrior Poets staff to quit). It sounds like the filmmaker, now 600+ days sober, is trying to make amends. But there’s still something unsettling about Super Size Me 2 itself not addressing his sexual misconduct and the fallout that resulted from it, because the film itself is as much about Spurlock as it is about the poultry industry — the word “me” is even in the damn title of the movie. Everyone knows Spurlock as the guy who became famous for eating nothing but McDonald’s for a month — even the farmers who he’s trying to buy chicken from. The movie includes several scenes filmed at the Warrior Poets office, and the whole movie is framed around the idea that Spurlock is such a charismatic showman that he’s going to shake up the fast-food industry with yet another clever stunt. It’s clear, while watching the movie, that Spurlock is operating from a position of power. But as we know, behind the scenes, he was abusing that power. For this reason, it’s particularly unnerving to hear Spurlock tell the camera early in the film, “Now, if I’ve learned anything out of making a career out of questionable life choices, it’s that sometimes the only way to find the truth and solve a problem is to become a part of that problem.” During an interview with Business Insider this month, Spurlock said that it was “impossible” to edit himself out of the documentary because, “You’re following me for the whole movie.” My hunch is that if Spurlock — an award-winning filmmaker with dozens of movie credits to his name — really wanted to, he could have at least made some changes to place more emphasis on the people who work in the chicken industry, and found some way to address the recent developments in his life. But by ignoring the controversy altogether, the documentary feels less like a food world exposé from the vaults, and more like a bizarre attempt at brand rehabilitation for Morgan Spurlock in the post-#MeToo era. Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! is now available to stream on YouTube, Amazon Prime, and iTunes. In other entertainment news… According to Netflix’s new “what to watch next month” preview, David Chang’s travel series Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner premieres on October 23. Anthony Bourdain won a posthumous Emmy for writing Parts Unknown’s Kenya episode. In other Bourdain news, some of the Kitchen Confidential author’s personal belongings are going up for auction next month. The new season of Netflix’s food corruption show Rotten premieres on October 4. Can’t get your hands on any Impossible Burgers? Perhaps try one of Stephen Colbert’s Implausible Burgers. ABC is developing a TV series about a family of Harlem restaurateurs called Rice. Marcus Samuelsson — star of Eater’s collaboration with PBS, No Passport Required — is an executive producer. The rat chefs of Muppets Take Manhattan were so ahead of their time. And finally, Jimmy Fallon and Eric Ripert prepared a three-course dinner for a bunch of college kids using dorm kitchen leftovers on the Tonight Show this week. Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for something to do with those late summer tomatoes, I highly recommend checking out this savory tart recipe from East Hampton’s most famous chef, Ina Garten.

  • Get Into the Meatless Halloween Spirit With This Sexy Beyond Burger Costume
    by Greg Morabito on September 20, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    Yandy Plus more bizarre food costumes to look out for this Halloween Yandy, an online retailer that specializes in ridiculous “sexy” Halloween costumes, has released its slate of 2019 creations, and several food-themed garments made the cut. Arguably the most notable, in terms of being trendiness and outlandishness, is the sexy Beyond Burger costume, complete with a “plant-based” flag hat and “Not Grade A Certified” stamp across the butt. Fake meat brands like Beyond and Impossible are shaking up the fast food game, and now you can turn your Halloween party on its head by dressing up as 2019’s hottest — and hottest — plant-based meat alternative sandwich. YandyCuriously, this costume uses the name of America’s most popular fake meat in its promotional copy, but the lack of a trademark suggests that it is not, in fact, a fully-authorized Beyond Burger product, so the Yandy team might have to break out the sexy lawyer costumes soon. Here’s a look at all the other new food-related Halloween costumes that are now on sale: Tater Thot YandyConsidering the wild popularity of tatchos, it’s too bad Yandy didn’t include some sort of melted cheese headgear. Let the Fun Be-Gin YandyMove over DuffMan, there’s a new anthropomorphized booze bottle who’s soaking up all the shine this Halloween. Guacward Avocado YandyJust half an avocado out here looking to have some fun with a friendly toast slice (and maybe a frisky wedge of lemon). Eggplant Emoji YandyRumor has it Prince used to wear something like this to basketball practice. Once in a Melon YandyIn case you’re wondering what Rory Gilmore is up to these days, the answer is, apparently, modeling watermelon costumes. Pumpkin Spice Onesie Yandy$47.95 seems like a lot for these orange rompers, but at least they can also be trotted out for the next Gathering of the Juggalos. Cauliflower Pizza YandyNice try, Yandy, but 2019 is actually the year of cauliflower gnocchi. Please do some research at Trader Joe’s before drawing up new costume ideas next year. And in case Yandy really wants to sell some cheap nylon to food-lovers out there, here are a few of our own suggestions for possible costumes: Sexy Popeyes Fried Chicken Sandwich, Sexy Restaurant Critic Visiting the Olive Garden, Sexy Takedown of Orange Wine, Sexy Electric Pressure Cooker, Sexy “Sense of Place,” Sexy Personal Essay About How Dining Alone Is Good, Sexy Pizza Scissors, Sexy Listeria Recall. • Yandy [Officia

  • How Movie Theaters Became Restaurants
    by Martha Daniel on September 20, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    Photo: Scott Olson/GettyImages From popcorn to craft cocktails, what we eat in front of the big screen is changing — Eater’s Digest finds out why. It used to be that “dinner and a movie” happened in two different places. But over the last few years, the explosion in popularity of dine-in movie theaters has changed the nature of that classic date structure. Now, you can watch your movie and have dinner during it, too. While the standard fare like popcorn, nachos and candy are still very much available, indie and legacy theaters alike are investing heavily in more robust dine-in options to lure moviegoers to the big screen in the era of endless at-home streaming. On this episode of Eater’s Digest, hosts Daniel Geneen and Amanda Kludt take a look back at the history of food at the movies with Professor Jonathan Kuntz from UCLA’s School of Theater Film and Television, then head to Nitehawk Theater in Williamsburg to experience it themselves. How did we get here — and what food actually makes sense in theaters? The Birth of the Concession Stand When the Great Depression hit, movie theaters were some of the first businesses to go into bankruptcy. So in the early 1930s, theaters tried everything they could to lure movie goers back in front of the screen, including half price showings and double features, but food sales especially provided lucrative profit margins. In those early days, movie goers would hit the drugstores and food carts in the entertainment districts where theaters were often located before heading inside to watch a flick. By bringing the concession stand into the theater, they managed to stay afloat. Why Popcorn? Popcorn and popcorn poppers were already around in America at the turn of the nineteenth century, but it wasn’t until the resurgence of movies in the thirties that popcorn enjoyed worldwide fame. Theater managers could produce and package popcorn for pennies a bag, mark it up, and sell it for a dime. An added bonus, says Professor Kuntz, was the aroma. The smell of fresh popcorn billowing out of theater doors proved to be a powerful magnet for movie goers. Popcorn at the movies became so popular, Professor Kuntz says, that the farm acreage dedicated to corn in the United States exploded as movie attendance resurged. What About Booze? It used to be that alcohol was prohibited from theaters for fear of rowdiness, Professor Kuntz explains. In an effort to attract middle class families, early theaters were dry zones. The owner of Nitehawk Theaters in Brooklyn, a small chain of theaters showing first-run movies as well as retro classics, ran into an old holdover from this era when opening his first location in 2011, according to Jessica Giesenkirchen, Nitehawk’s operations manager. He lobbied against a law in New York that banned alcohol in motion picture theaters and successfully got it overturned. Now, Nitehawk and other dine-in theaters like are investing in dedicated cocktail programs to lure customers to the movies. Soup Is a No-Go Designing a menu for a movie theater carries its own unique challenges. One of those is showtimes. “Everybody is ordering at the same time, within 15 to 20 minutes of the movie starting,” Giesenkirchen explains. The bigger challenge? Light, or lack thereof. “Are they going to be able to eat it in the dark? Is it something they can identify in a dark theater so they know what they’re eating?” Giesenkirchen said. “Soup’s not a good idea because of the clanking the spoon makes, and the slurping. It just doesn’t work.” Subject Matters What’s on the screen has a big impact on food and drink sales, according to Giesenkirchen. Movies with subtitles and heavy subject matter tank those numbers, while fun romps lend themselves to shared plates and lots of booze (think Hustlers versus 12 Years a Slave). Listen and subscribe to Eater’s Digest on Apple Podcasts. Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Read show notes Below, a lightly edited transcript of our interviews with Professor Jonathan Kuntz, Jessica Giesenkirchen of Nitehawk Cinema, and Jennifer Douglass, the food and beverage director at AMC Theatres. Amanda Kludt: I love these movie theaters where they have restaurants. Love it. Love the ordering at your seats. Daniel Geneen: You mean the movie theaters that we’re going to spend a decent portion of today’s segment talking about? Amanda: Yeah. I just want to say that up front. Love eating popcorn out of those metal bowls, love having a cocktail in a real glass. So on board. Daniel: So we’re going to look at how we got there and- Amanda: How did we get here? Daniel: Well, we’re not going to talk about today without going into the past a little bit. Amanda: You got to go back to the past. Daniel: And to do that, we are going to talk to professor Jonathan Kuntz of UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Do you want to just give us the history of food at the movie theaters? Professor Kuntz: In the early days of movie houses, there was not a lot of food sales. People who wanted to eat from the nickelodeon days of the early 20th century into the classic silent era of the 1920s, generally, if they wanted to eat something, they would go next door to the theater, to a drug store and pick up candy bars or something to eat. In the downtown areas of most towns where entertainment districts were, there would be people with pushcarts in the streets selling food. But then the Great Depression comes along. And the first things to go into bankruptcy are going to be the theaters and the theater chains in the early 1930s. They saw it drop off at the box office. And by 1931 and 1932, you start to see movie companies slipping into bankruptcy. And that includes producers, distributors, and exhibitors. When the box office started to drop off, they found themselves in terrible trouble. And so, exhibitors came up with all kinds of strategies in the early 1930s to try and bring people back into the theater. Amanda: Oh, I see. So do you think food was one of those items to lure people back to watch movies again? Professor Kuntz: Yes. Well, it’s not just to lure people to watch a movie, it’s to increase the profits.They tried a lot of strategies like half-price nights and two-for-one movies, the double bill. That ended up being pretty successful. But the food sales proved to be the way they could really boost the money they were bringing in. So, in the early 1930s, we see them starting to bring food sales into the movie houses. What the theaters discovered right away with food sales, where there were certain things that were really, really successful. One thing was soda pop. They had been reluctant to vend drinks in glasses. But by the 1930s, they were able to mass-produce paper cups at a very cheap rate. And so they could vend sodas such as Coca-Cola. If they dropped a paper cup on the auditorium floor, it was a mess but it wasn’t broken glass. And there’s a tremendous markup in soda also. Then there’s popcorn, of course. Popcorn, I guess, was kind of a food that was around from the 19th century. There were already popcorn poppers being produced in the late 19th century. But of course, it’s the motion pictures and the movie theater that brings popcorn to world fame. Popcorn becomes the magical movie food in the 1930s. Popcorn is in so many ways the perfect movie food. And the popcorn could be put into a paper bag. They could probably pay just a few pennies for the bag and the ingredients. And they could sell that for a dime and make a huge markup. A researcher, I believe it was Douglas Gomery, a film history researcher, did some research into Department of Agriculture’s statistics on acreage of corn planted for popcorn. In the 1930s, it skyrockets in the United States because that’s when popcorn really becomes the favorite movie food. And it spreads all over the U.S. and eventually to large parts of the world. Amanda: What do you think when you go to a theater these days and you see all of the food options? Professor Kuntz: Okay. Well first off, we have to point out that the food sales in the theater, they’re dealing with a captive audience, much as at the ballpark. So you can have a tremendous markup. And I’m sure everybody has noticed that for that soda or for that tub of popcorn at the movie house, you pay a huge amount more than you would pay if you’ve made it yourself at home or bought it outside the movie theater. So the profit margins there are fabulous. It’s sad that since the 1930s, many movie houses make their profits off their candy counter. They’re happy to break even on their ticket sales if they can get access to those patrons and sell them the marked-up food products. You may think of a movie theater as a place where you go to see movies. But to the theaters themselves in many ways, they have, you might say, become kind of diversified of food sales sites, that the food sales are their primary goal here because that’s where they make their money. Daniel: So I think the biggest change in movie theater dining that we’ve all experienced in the last few years is the growing kitchen. Amanda: Oh, yeah. The dine-in. Daniel: The dine-in theater. Amanda: We’re not just talking snacks. Daniel: With a real server, with cutlery. And the first place in New York that I really saw it start to happen is that Nitehawk theater. So we went to Nitehawk to talk to their director of operations, Jessica Giesenkirchen, about how they get food from a professional kitchen into a movie theater. Jessica Giesenkirchen: Sort of every time we develop a menu, we’re talking about a lot of different factors. One of the guard rails would be the showtimes. Everybody pretty much sits down at the same time, or within 15, 20 minutes of the movie starting. So, is it going to come out hot? Is it going to stay hot before it reaches the guest? Are they going to be able to eat it in the dark? Is it something they can identify well enough in a dark theater that they know what they’re eating? So they’re like jabbing into something that they might not have ordered. It’s getting a little busy in here, so we can have a seat at the bar. Daniel: Could you run us down a little bit of the history of where we are? Jessica: So, we opened in 2011. The owner was looking for a manager and I had restaurant experience. And he had a vision of what this place would be and that we would show good movies. And have a mix of first-run and also retro programming but also the introduction of food and beverage, which in New York was not a thing. What happened is he came to New York and he discovered that it was against the law to serve alcohol at a motion picture theater. So he lobbied against that rule, got it overturned. And we were the first people to have a liquor license to serve alcohol in a motion picture theater in New York State, which was a big deal. Daniel: Do people expect your food to be good? Jessica: I hope so. What we try to do when we develop a menu is to really impress people. We don’t have a microwave. There is no nachos that have been sitting anywhere. Nothing’s reheated. So, what we’re trying to do is to elevate that whole food experience. Because I want people to be like, “Oh, that was better than I ever thought it could be.” Daniel: What are the main things you think about when developing an item for the menu here? Is it sound? Is it ease of eating? Jessica: It’s a lot of those things. I mean, our menu development’s pretty extensive. The kitchen and the bar will develop some ideas and we’ll do tastings. And in those tastings, we’re talking about hot food. How’s it going to be eaten in the theater and not take away from the movie experience? Soup’s not a good idea because of the clanking that the spoon makes. And the slurping, it just doesn’t work. It does not work. Daniel: Do you notice food sales change depending on the tone of the movie? Jessica: Yes. 100%. Subtitles, no food, very little drinking. You got to pay attention. You got to watch the screen so people aren’t going to reorder food. You got to concentrate a little bit more. Daniel: Interesting. Jessica: Hustlers right now. Fun movie, nothing but fun. Drink, eat, have fun. The bigger the group is they’re going to share more food. They’re going to start drinking more. They’re in for fun. Daniel: So have there been any movies that are notorious clunkers for food sales? Jessica: Anything that’s very violent. Or what was it, 12 years a Slave? Daniel: I had a feeling that that movie might not have been… Jessica: Heavy emotionally or historically is, again, it’s like the subtitles. People are paying attention more and not indulging. Daniel: Are there movies where people are just like weeping with joy and shoveling their face with tater tots? Jessica: I mean, that’s our ideal customer. I thought you were going to say sobbing their eyes out, which is another thing. Daniel: Yeah. Jessica: But that’s just movie theater, like when to pull the lights up because everybody’s crying. Daniel: Oh, do you sometimes let the lights stay down for a little bit? Jessica: Well, we’ll consider it or think about it or be aware of it. Because the servers are in the theater and their mission is to go in, clear the theater and get ready for the next round. But if they have people that are sitting and still sort of digesting what they’ve seen… Daniel: And eaten. Jessica: And eaten, then sometimes you have to give them a minute. Daniel: What are your bestsellers? Is popcorn still the number one thing that people are buying here? Jessica: Yes. By like thousands. Those people that might not order food though, they might get a soda or a popcorn. Daniel: And they expect you guys to do something interesting with it? Jessica: Yeah. Amanda: Daniel, so you can’t get soup at Nitehawk. You also can’t get soup at legacy theaters like AMC, which are also investing in a lot of dining options. Daniel: If you know of a movie theater that sells soup, please email us at digest@eater.com because we want to talk to them. Amanda: Yeah, we really want to talk to them. Jennifer Douglass: Obviously, I think you don’t want to serve soup. I think that’s probably going to end up being on my headstone when I die. Amanda: That’s Jennifer Douglass, the food and beverage director at AMC. Jennifer: I will tell you, I’ve been with AMC for 32 years. I started when I was 16 so you can do that math. And when I started out scooping popcorn and I now consider myself to be the head popcorn scooper. But no, when I started when I was 16, I just think about, we basically served popcorn and candy and drinks. And those are all fine to be serving in the theaters. But I think about… And nachos got introduced, which believe it or not, back in like 1987, that was a really big deal. We got Icees in there. Then I kind of fast-forward 32 years and it’s like, wow, we’ve come such a far way in terms of what we’re able to offer, not just in our dining theaters. And we have a good presence there with 49 of those. But it’s just a very exciting time. Amanda: Can you talk a little bit about those technology changes and how that’s allowed you to alter what you’re able to bring into theaters? Jennifer: Things like the different types of ovens that we can put in theaters and safely operate. We invested in a technology or a piece of equipment called an auto fry. So, I mean it’s completely enclosed. It has its own Ansul system inside of it but it allows you in a traditional theater to have that really high-quality fried food. Daniel: So what can someone expect going into an average AMC, in terms of food options these days? Jennifer: There is flatbreads. We have also expanded selections of pretzel bites. We have two different types of sliders, chicken and also beef sliders. We have those fabulous mini tacos and the mini mac and cheese bites. And then my favorite thing that just launched, again, about two or three weeks ago is we actually added mac and cheese bowls to our traditional theaters in that feed fair program, and let me tell you, those are quite tasty. Amanda: When you think about who you’re competing with in terms of adding food options, do you think these days you’re competing with other movie brands? Or is it the home theater and people who might just watch some Netflix and eat some popcorn on their couch? Jennifer: I think people that like to stay home and have a Netflix night and have dinner at home are also the same people that enjoy a movie night out and want the flexibility to have either enhanced food there in the theater or to have a true dining experience where you’re really getting food that’s being made from scratch. Again, I think in the last few years, you’ve really seen those types of places really step up their game in terms of what type of food is being prepared in that environment. And I think that’s good for us. Because I don’t know that people automatically associate great food and at a reasonable price in a movie theater environment. So I think the more that we build the culinary credibility and kind of those out-of-home entertainment spaces that that kind of rising tide makes it better for all the ships that are floating in that space. Amanda: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. So Daniel, what’d you learn about food at the movies? Daniel: When I don’t like someone, I’m going to call them theater soup. Amanda: Yeah, it’s a very insidery joke.

  • The Playlist That Keeps This Chocolatier Baking
    by Ellie Krupnick on September 20, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Eater Eater Young Gun Annie Kamin’s top tracks for getting shit done You don’t need science to prove that music is capable of motivating you or putting you in a very specific mood (though there is science for that). Which is why plenty of chefs are particular about the soundtracks that play while they work in the kitchen. Annie Kamin, a 2019 Eater Young Gun, says, “I curate playlists and choose songs that jive with what what I’m cooking [or] baking at home or at work.” Often, that’s chocolate: Kamin is the chief-of-staff at Dandelion Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate factory in San Francisco where she started as an assistant and ended up overseeing the company’s factories and production. As a chocolatier herself, Kamin improved production by helping the company diagnose and cure its chocolate tempering issues. Below, Kamin says, is her playlist for when “I’m tempering a huge batch of chocolate.” Annie Kamin’s Playlist To open the playlist in a new window, click here.

Be the first to comment on "Food Drama"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*