Issue 4 Volume 20
Small Business Suppliers Face Dilemma Surviving Coronavirus
W. RE P SO HO CA TOS LF & ST NB OR PR IES O. VIS CO IT M
CONTENTS AND COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLISHER MIKE FRYER
This is a very difficult time for all of us, amidst the pain, hardship and grief caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus and subsequent shutdown, with repercussions surely to last for quite some time. And, especially so for the food and beverage industry, which has been one of the hardest hit, with restaurant and bar employees making up 60 percent of jobs lost in March. So in this issue we are offering some messages and advice from experts and those involved in all aspects of food and beverage, including supply, employee morale and overall survival of small businesses.
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Our cover feature, written by Mary McAuley, a small business owner, takes a look at the dilemma facing agricultural-based culinary suppliers. Read Mary’s article to also gain some insight and ideas on how you can support this segment of the industry. Our Restaurant Editor Ben Brown reports on restaurants he was able to visit before the shutdown, which brings back memories of happier times and what hopefully we will be able to look forward to in the near future. Ben fills us in on one of LA’s dynamic culinary families that reign over the LA’s Italian scene, the Drago brothers, who have created a dynasty with 11 restaurants spanning LA County; and NORMS, an iconic LA staple known for casual American fare in a laid-back 24/7 diner setting that began as a humble coffee shop on Hollywood and Vine in 1949 and now numbers 20 locations. We can always count on our Restaurant Expert David Scott Peters to offer words of wisdom; this month his timely column offers tips to see your restaurant through this crisis. Our Assistant Editor and wine columnist Alice Swift delves into the challenges facing everyone by the Covid-19 coronavirus and what businesses such as distilleries and restaurants are doing to help out and what everyone can do to help do their part. This report from the Nevada Restaurant Association provides details of the Federal Coronavirus Relief Package which applies to restaurants and other small businesses throughout the US. Read on to get info on what steps owners need to take to obtain small business loans. Lastly, we wish that all will remain safe and healthy during these difficult times and remember, we will get through this together! CHEERS! MIKE FRYER SR. EDITOR/PUBLISHER
Page 4 Hot off the Grill! Page 5 Human Resources Insights The Power of Positivity & Faith Page 6 What’s Brewing Page 7 Product Review Page 8 Foodie Biz Page 10 The Restaurant Expert Tips to See Your Restaurant Through this Crisis
Page 12 COVER FEATURE Small Business Suppliers Face Dilemma Surviving Coronavirus
Page 19 Spirits Confidential with Max Solano Twenty Years of San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Page 14 The Bottom Line Lawry’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Talks Fine Dining
Page 20 Nevada Restaurant Association Details on the Federal Coronavirus Relief Package
Page 16 Brett’s Vegas View
Page 17 Wine Talk with Alice Swift COVID-19 and Its Impact on the F&B Industry
Page 18 Twinkle Toast Seresin Estate: Achieving Natural Balance Through Biodynamics
April 2020 I The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional 3
The Socal Food & Beverage Professional 7442 Grizzly Giant Street Las Vegas, NV 89139
HOT OFF THE GRILL!
Sr. Editor/Publisher Thank you for joining us in this issue of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional. For any questions or comments please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Restaurant Editor Ben Brown enjoyed an evening with the Drago brothers, who collectively own and operate nearly a dozen of LA’s finest Italian eateries. Find out more about their dining empire in Ben’s Foodie Biz column.
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The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional
Legal Editorial Advisor Andrew Matney
Journalist What’s Brewing David Mulvihill
Accounting Manager Michelle San Juan
Journalist Brett’s Vegas View Jackie Brett Journalist
Best of the Best Shelley Stepanek
Journalist Spirits Confidential Max Solano
Journalist Dishing It Sk Delph
Journalist Front & Back of the House Gael Hees
Photographer Audrey Dempsey
Journalist Chef Talk Allen Asch
Journalist Pat Evans
Journalist The Restaurant Expert David Scott Peters
Journalist Adam Rains
Journalist Sandy Korem
Journalists Twinkle Toast Erin Cooper & Christine Vanover
Journalist Lisa Matney
Journalist HR Insights Linda Bernstein
Journalist Made from Scratch John Rockwell
4 The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional I April 2020
Human Resources Insights
By Linda Westcott-Bernstein Linda Westcott-Bernstein has provided sound human resources advice and guidance to Fortune 500 companies and others for over 25 years. Linda has recently re-published her self-help book entitled It All Comes Down to WE! This book offers guidelines for building a solid and enduring personal work ethic. You can find her book on Amazon or Google Books. Phone: 702-326-4040 Email: Vegaslinda89129@yahoo.com
The Power of Positivity & Faith Even during the darkest of times, I choose to find and hold onto a spark of hope regardless of the challenge(s). There are and will always be challenges we will face in life, and it is how we deal with them that defines who we are or who we may become. Maybe like me you are an eternal optimist and can find that there is always something to learn from every challenge and a reward in mastering every hurdle. I choose to look at the glass as half full and think “yes, there is water in that glass and I am able to drink it to sustain me.” How can we all do that—see the glass as half full? By digging down deep and finding strength in those things that are important to us and have meaning in our lives. My strength comes from my faith, family and friends. Where does your strength come from? From what do you derive your internal power of faith? It usually comes from deep inside us and is a product of how we perceive ourselves as well as what we believe our role is here. But our strength also comes from other essential parts of our being, such as the foundations of our faith, our soul (an internal component that helps us decipher between good and bad decisions) and from our unwavering faith in the power of our deity and the overall goodness of mankind. So how does one stay positive through the ups and downs and many adversities? By using those strengths that we have to their fullest. And by harnessing the power of positivity and possibilities. The most strength we’ll ever have or find comes from our faith, no matter what our beliefs are. Our faith is the foundation of who we are and what we stand for. When that faith is based in kindness, respect of others, compassion and caring, it typically results in behaviors or actions that reflect those tenets. Strength of our conviction as well as compassion are meaningful and all powerful too. My definition of conviction is that we believe in something so strongly that it impacts the decisions we make and the person we become. A solid conviction also means that we find comfort in the knowledge that we will always do things for all the right reasons and stand by our beliefs all along the way. But strength also comes from the solidarity of the family unit. A sound support system in your family circle means that most of us can count on someone that we love and loves us to be there to bolster us, to be compassionate, and to not be critical of our choices or decisions. It provides a mechanism for fears and concerns to be voiced without judgment or reprisal. But family also has the tough job of telling us when our decisions are not good ones, could have poor or dangerous outcomes, or are not ethical or legally sound ways to act or behave. Sometimes strength comes unexpectedly from a friend or by being a friend to others. This strength, I believe, comes from our very heart and soul, because it is based in our desire to help others and relieve pain, suffering or fear through our actions and even words. It is made up of some very basic precepts such as being available for others in times of need, listening well
without judgment and offering solutions and ways of looking at things to those in need without needing to get one ounce of credit for the support. This kind of strength can provide the best relief to those in need and have the most precious result for them as well—them being heard, being loved and you being present in the moment for the ones you care about. It can also provide the giver with a profound sense of pride and new found faith in our ability to give more to others than we expect to ever receive back. Finally, we should also believe in the strength that as a father, mother, sister, brother, co-worker or manager, we can provide strength and support to family, friends and others by just being there, remaining calm, being informed, offering aid or assistance, listening without judging, providing good advice and by looking for the positive in everything regardless of the situation. During your times of challenge and adversity, always remember that you are not alone and that there are family, friends and situations where faith can help you overcome any obstacle, only if you truly believe in the power of positivity and faith. Bless you!
HR Question of the month:
Please send your HR questions and concerns, or share your thoughts on your human resources challenges via email to the following address. Send input to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your comments, questions or concerns will help determine the direction for my next month’s column and earn you a copy of my book. Include your mailing address when sending your responses.
April 2020 I The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional 5
By David Mulvihill David Mulvihill strives to experience and write about the ever-evolving face of SoCal craft beer. He also covers Orange County for Celebrator Beer News and provides business and compliance support to SoCal breweries. Contact him at email@example.com.
BREWING On Sunday, March 15, California’s Governor Newsom held a press conference focused on managing COVID-19, the virus that has affected how we are currently living our lives. The following statement made during the conference was especially pertinent to multitudes. Governor Newsom: “We are directing that all bars, nightclubs, wineries, brewpubs and the like be closed in the State of California. We believe that this is a non-essential function in our state and we believe that it is appropriate under the circumstances to move in that direction.” After watching and listening to the entire press conference, realizing that the above directive would affect so many people in an industry that I have grown very close to, I was seriously concerned. The unfolding threat of COVID-19 was relatively new to us all at the time and the directive gave rise to strong questions. Were basic rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness being challenged? While it’s obvious (to most) that alcoholic beverages aren’t by themselves life-sustaining, didn’t the powers-that-be understand people’s jobs and small businesses are? On the surface this statement inferred that thousands of small businesses and thousands of jobs Californians perform for a living are non-essential functions. Livelihoods depend on these “nonessential functions” as does California’s economy. Following, are a few statistics on just one of these non-essential segments (from the CA Craft Brewers Association). The Craft Brewing Industry supports more than 61,335 jobs across our state. As of October, 2019 there were 1,039 craft breweries in CA. They contributed over $9.01 billion to the state’s economy in 2018.
In the days that followed it became more apparent that increased distancing and isolation would be necessary by every individual and business in order to kick virus butt. Restaurants that, for a few days, were allowed to remain open in most locales, were also required to close. To-go sales would now be the only option for restaurants, pubs, breweries and bars. Note that the California ABC also stepped up on March 19, in light of the crisis and in favor of the businesses it licenses, by instituting Regulatory Relief from restrictions on things like off-site sales and deliveries by on-site licensees. Given this column’s focus on beer, let’s return to the breweries and brewpubs and their ongoing efforts to stay in business, one growler, crowler, six-pack or four-pack at a time. Local breweries and brewpubs quickly rallied to change the way they conducted their daily business. Social media presence was increased to communicate and promote sales for offsite consumption, including home deliveries. Package deals and quantity discounts have also been offered by many brewers as further incentive for increased sales. Many brewers enhanced pre-order ability through partnering with ordering apps and websites (toasttab.com; Toast TakeOut app, etc.). Loyal customers and patrons began individual efforts and quests to support their local breweries. Purchases and spreading of the word commenced. The necessary closing of taprooms and restaurants meant key staff was laid off or furloughed. I stopped by Artifex (San Clemente) on March 17 for a crowler fill and found owners Nick Cordato and Johnny Johur toasting and bidding a hopefully short farewell to their sales and tasting room staff members. A few days later, when picking up some preordered crowlers, I witnessed a strangely different sort of deja vu that brought me back to the time period when Nick and Johnny were running the brewery sans employees in the early days of Artifex. They, like most owners and brewers across California, the U.S. and the world are looking to do whatever they can to weather this storm and come out the other side intact.
Joining the Efforts:
Please do whatever you can to assist in the efforts to support our local 6 The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional I April 2020
photo credit: David Mulvihill
Beware the Ides of March
Just a few of the numerous options available from your local breweries for at-home enjoyment.
breweries and businesses. In addition to ordering beer for pickup, consider purchasing gift cards and merchandise. Any financial help brewers receive today will aid in their continuance after this mess is behind us. And, every little bit does help. The Brown Family of San Diego’s Savagewood Brewing recently reported the following. “We did the math. [The sale of] Just 40 cans a day will keep the lights on and beer flowing. So please tell your friends!” El Segundo Brewing experienced such an overwhelming response in beer orders that it had to adjust its same-day order pickup to next-day pickup. Breweries have also rallied efforts to raise funds for their laid off employees. Below, are just a couple of examples of the efforts in play by many breweries. San Diego County’s Culture Brewing, with three tasting rooms, has started a GoFundMe campaign in an effort to raise funds for its absent “faces behind the bar.” www.gofundme.com/f/culture-brewing-co-covid-staff-support San Juan Capistrano’s Docent Brewing has a similar fundraiser in process to “ease the burden on an exceptional group of people who make Docent so very special.” www.gofundme.com/f/docent-staff-relief-fund. Distilleries and breweries across the nation are also cooperating in a temporary shift to manufacture hand sanitizer. One example: Blinking Owl Distillery in Santa Ana has contacted and placed social media calls out to local brewers for mash and/or batches of beer that could be distilled for making hand sanitizer: “Local BREWERIES, come partner! We need mashes faster than we can make them for hand sanitizer. Let’s Talk! If you have any bad batches, we can distill it immediately for hand sanitizer and keep your breweries producing! Let’s make this a community effort to meet the insane demand.” Many uncertainties still exist at the time of this writing on March 21, six days that have seemed like an eternity. There’s comfort in knowing that we, as family, friends, neighbors, associates and citizens are here to provide whatever help and support we can to assure a fruitful tomorrow.
I had to chuckle when seeing a recent post from a friend that contained a photo of a card Molson Coors representatives presently carry in conducting their daily work: “I am an employee of Molson Coors Beverage Company. We provide multiple “Essential Businesses” including grocery stores, convenient stores and restaurants with supplies necessary for their operation. As a result, we are an “Essential Business” and I am allowed to travel to and from work under the existing public health order.” www.socalfnbpro.com
Product Review By Bob Barnes
Sierra Nevada Strainge Beast Everyone knows Sierra Nevada as a pioneer of US craft brewing, which has produced nearly every beer style in the past 40 years, but this drink marks its first foray into hard kombucha. Created by the Chico Fermentation Project, a newly formed innovation offshoot of Sierra Nevada, the first flavor released is its Ginger, Lemon & Hibiscus, an unpasteurized tart, 7.0% ABV, bubbling blend of USDA Certified organic black and green tea with organic lemon, ginger and hibiscus and live cultures. Two additional flavors will follow later—Blueberry, Acai & Sweet Basil—and Passion Fruit, Hops & Blood Orange. Sierra Nevada Founder and President Ken Grossman said, “I’ve been drinking kombucha for some time, and the team has done a fantastic job of coming up with really nice flavor and balance. Like beer, kombucha allows you to become an alchemist, morphing natural, raw ingredients into something amazing to drink.” Look for Strainge Beast in select markets and eventual release nationwide later this year. www.straingebeast.com
Zodiak Black Cherry This limited release from Zodiak Spirits is a 35% ABV gluten-free, potato-based vodka infused with natural black cherry extract and finished in American oak barrels. While most vodkas aren’t made in one place, this one is: from start to finish in a quiet town along the majestic banks of the Snake River in eastern Idaho using 100% local ingredients including water from the Snake River Aquifer. The resting process allows the spirit to acquire the taste similar to smooth and mellow whiskey with soft cherry and spice overtones. It’s also made with all-natural ingredients with no high fructose corn sugar added. It’s suggested to be enjoyed mixed with your favorite cocktail or straight, which is my preferred way to drink this fine sipper, to appreciate all the soft flavors of the cherry and slight alcohol burn in the finish. www.zodiacspirits.com
Vibrant P’Ocean Two iconic breweries, one American and one Belgian, have come together to create a beer masterpiece that matches the almost 25-year-old Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery with the nearly 200-year-old Roeselare, Belgium-based Brouwerij RODENBACH. The 4.7% ABV blended sour ale combines two unique base beers—one developed by RODENBACH, a two-year, foeder-aged sour from its legendary, standing oak casks—and the other by Dogfish Head, a kettle sour brewed with pilsner malt, malted wheat, elderberry, elderflower, sliced lemons and Belgian fleur-de-sel. The resulting blend presents flavors of jammy berries and floral lemon with just the right amount of tartness that will not be enough to put off those that don’t prefer an in-your-face mouth-puckering taste experience. www.dogfish.com
Long Drink This citrus soda with gin has roots that trace back to Finland, where the country’s national drink is a top-selling category of alcohol. The drink originated in 1952 when the government needed to come up with a new beverage that was able to be served quickly to the many visitors during the Summer Olympic games hosted in Helsinki. It’s now available in the US and comes in four flavors: Traditional (5.5% ABV, natural grapefruit and juniper flavors), Cranberry (5.5% ABV), Zero (5% ABV, 0 sugar, 0 carbs and 99 calories) and Strong (8.5% ABV). I found the flavors of all four to be delightful to the point of becoming my new favorite drink and is a unique drink unlike other flavored hard beverages. Long Drink is available in NY, CT, NJ, MA, GA, PA, NV, TX, OH and will be in more markets soon. www.thelongdrink.com
Laws Whiskey House The Denver, CO-based Laws Whiskey House proudly proclaims to make its whiskey using no shortcuts, as each batch is milled, cooked, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled onsite, and is making use of its own “terroir,” as it is utilizing grain from nearby farms. I had the pleasure to sample the limited release 100 proof San Luis Valley Straight Rye Whiskey, which happens to be the first to be bottled-in-bond in Colorado history (which requires the whiskey be a product of grain grown in a single season, made by a single distiller and aged at least four years in a federal government-bonded warehouse). It has a mash bill of 95% heirloom rye and 5% heirloom barley and is aged in new 53 gallon charred oak barrels for sixplus years. The aroma is sweet grass with honey and tasting notes include flavors of wild mint, fennel, sea salt, tea and brown sugar with a finish of tobacco and a rich, buttery mouthfeel. lawswhiskeyhouse.com
April 2020 I The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional 7
| Foodie Biz | Photo Credit: Ben Brown and The Plot
By Ben Brown Benjamin Brown, MBA is Restaurant Editor of The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional. A seasoned writer and consultant, Ben works with Fortune 500 companies and mom & pop shops alike in Marketing, Analytics, Consumer Insights, PR and Business Development. Contact Ben at Ben@socalfnbpro.com or follow him @Foodie_Biz.
Drago Brothers Celebrate Continued Reign Over LA’s Italian Food Scene Celestino, Tanino, Calogero and Giacomino Drago have owned and operated some of Los Angeles’ most acclaimed Italian restaurants for more than 30 years. Hailing from Messina, Sicily, the Dragos have transplanted their roots across 11 restaurants spanning LA County. Specializing in high-end Italian dining, Drago Hospitality Group includes famed establishments such as Beverly Hills’ Il Pastaio and Via Alloro, as well as Pasadena’s Celestino. Unsurprisingly, pasta is among the Drago Brothers’ claims to fame. Handcranked fettuccine, housemade ravioli and melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi are just a few favorites from a near-endless list of family creations. This is a combination of timeless classics with just enough modern twists to keep things interesting and appeal to a broad spectrum of ‘the LA crowd.’ Fresh-baked breads and pizzas are equally ubiquitous, incorporating novel combinations of fine ingredients such as rich prosciutto, fresh burrata and seasonal vegetables. It’s not uncommon to see one of the Dragos or their associates having fun in the process, flipping pizza dough over their heads like a Harlem Globetrotter would with a basketball. They get quite the kick out of playing with fire as well, sautéing premium seafood and cooking up fine cuts of veal with flames rising to eye-catching levels over the stove. It’s that same lightheartedness that the Dragos exude in their heavyhanded hospitality. Whether you’re at Celestino in quaint South Pasadena or Drago Ristorante in the Petersen Automotive Museum, in the thick of hip mid-city LA, you’re going to get the same warm greetings and boisterous energy. It’s as if you’re getting a glimpse at their childhood, running around a crowded Sicilian home, food lining the table and conversation filling the room. The bond that seals these four brothers together seems to have only gotten stronger over time, because seeing them interact with one another, where hand movements and jovial Italian simply can’t get out fast enough, is an experience in and of itself. Flash forward to the end of the evening, when the party has died down and those remaining get to relax and put their feet up, perhaps savoring the last few bites of a rich panna cotta or an ever-so-delightful caramel budino. The Dragos are still smiling, tending to this and that and taking time to sit down and sip some wine when they get the chance. It’s been another day catering to some of LA’s finest. For more information, visit DragoRistorante.com. 8 The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional I April 2020
NORMS Is Seeing Fastest Growth in Its 70-year History What began as a humble Hollywood coffee shop on the corner of Sunset and Vine in 1949 has evolved into an LA staple that keeps gaining speed. NORMS, now known for casual American fare in an equally laid-back 24/7 diner setting, recently opened its 20th location with five more expected in 2020. Rich history, strategic locations and value-driven dining are among the top factors that have inevitably sustained demand and justified growth for NORMS. A brand that’s comfortable in its own skin, knows its target audience and keeps to its values will inevitably last as NORMS has, modernizing itself just enough over the years without reaching for any short-lived restaurant trends that would otherwise lead to longterm setbacks. Now a historic and cultural monument, the original NORMS La Cienega won the National Restaurant Association’s design award in 1957. This came at the peak of the ‘Googie’ architecture trend, which focused on new materials, open spaces, imagery and landscaping. Founder Norm Roybark envisioned NORMS as a chain from the very beginning, and amidst his other accomplishments, such as helping invent the patty melt, ultimately commanded the restaurant’s scalable design that continues to this day. Touting slogans such as ‘We Never Close’ and ‘Where Life Happens,’ NORMS sticks to its guns in offering simple, hearty and fresh-made American classics in high-traffic locations. The brand also shatters industry standards as far as sales from limited-time offers. Sales for $6.99 breakfasts, $9.99 steak dinners and $10.99 4-course meals bring in guests by the truckload. Even with the restaurants’ extra large dining rooms and counters, eye-popping wait times exist even for a mid-day, mid-week meal. For the regulars who have since embraced the waiting room experience, 5 new restaurants in 2020 look to create a win-win for all parties involved. NORMS’ menu is certainly as timeless as the restaurant itself. Navigating through their encyclopedia of a menu may be a refreshing challenge, but classic comfort and sizeable portions resonate throughout. From the deep dish double loaded hash browns and eggs skillet to the cowboy bacon cheeseburger and the classic sirloin steak trio with fried shrimp and chicken tenders to boot, the experience takes you back to simpler times where fresh-made dishes didn’t have to be touted as a luxury. And on that note of fresh-made, NORMS has accumulated quite a list of ‘fun facts’ over the decades: • More than 1 billion eggs cracked • More than 120 million bowls of scratch-made soups served • More than 100 million strips of bacon and 75 million sausage links served • Enough coffee poured to fill more than 30 Olympic swimming pools • Enough hotcakes served to cover 5,000 football fields Find out more at Norms.com. www.socalfnbpro.com
April 2020 I The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional 9
The RESTAURANT EXPERT Tips to See Your Restaurant Through this Crisis
This pandemic, COVID-19 virus, is crippling our industry. My heart goes out to you as you worry about your employees, your vendors, your family and your community. I know one of the biggest questions you have is will your restaurant survive this crisis. What I have to tell you here should help you make some clear decisions. Before you get too far into this, let me first be clear that the advice I’m offering here is for the week of March 16, with many cities and states shutting down eat-in options for restaurants and putting curfews in place. The advice you’re getting here right now could change drastically as new guidelines and/or city/state mandates are rolled out. First things first. If you’ve been resisting or avoiding delivery apps like Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates, etc., you can’t fight them anymore. You need them because you’re not in a position to hire delivery drivers. As you bite the bullet or look at how to expand your reach, be sure to sign up for all four of the top delivery services in your marketplace. Looking at it nationwide, the top services are Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats and Postmates. You need all four because every customer is not on all four. Preferences vary for your guests. If you use all four of them, you’ll reach more guests. The nice part is they are reacting to our industry. As of March 17, Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats had all waived their fees.
By David Scott Peters David Scott Peters is a restaurant coach and speaker who teaches restaurant operators how to cut costs and increase profits with his trademark Restaurant Prosperity Formula. Known as the expert in the restaurant industry, he uses a no-BS style to teach and motivate restaurant owners to take control of their businesses and finally realize their full potential. Thousands of restaurants have used his formula to transform their businesses. To learn more about David Scott Peters and his formula, visit www.davidscottpeters.com.
Next, you have to make it easy for your guests to order, to run in to pick it up and get out of there. Something that will help is to get your online ordering up and running if you haven’t already. Call your POS dealer and ask what application/service they recommend. You want something that integrates with your POS system and simply kicks out a ticket so you know it’s going to be pickup and it’s done. The other benefit is online ordering requires payment up front, so you’re not exchanging cash and guests aren’t touching keypads. This creates a little more safety for your guests and employees. Hot Tip: If you’re going to have guests pick things up, make sure you’ve got somebody visibly washing door handles on a routine basis and sanitizing hard surfaces. I don’t care if that person for eight hours in a day is standing there and all they do is continually wipe down surfaces. You want to keep your employees safe and you want to show your guests that you take this seriously. The next piece is marketing what you’re doing. In a good economy, in a good situation, telling your guests that you have curbside pickup or delivery, or anything, is hard enough. But today you must reach out, which means you have to bombard them on a daily basis—preferably multiple times per day on all your social media platforms. Let them know, “Hey, we’re here. We’re open. We’ve got curbside. We’ve got pickup. We’ve got delivery through these
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apps.” Ask your employees to share the posts and ask guests to share the posts. For those of you who have been collecting emails over the years, that’s your best path for reaching your guests. Blast messages to your guests through an email or loyalty service. One of those messages should be what you’re doing to keep you and your employees safe: handwashing protocols, cleaning services, adding labor to just sanitize, whatever you’re doing. An email list is also a fast-track to finding your guests on Facebook and Instagram, and any other key platforms for your guests, with ads that say the same things. People are stressed. They don’t know they need to know, you need to tell them. If you’re not sure how to do any of this and no one on your team can help you in a pinch, I regularly recommend the following companies, none of which I get any kind of commission or kickback from. • Repeat Returns • Moving Targets • GoDaddy Social The next thing to look at is proper packaging. If you’re new to delivery and pickup, you have to have the right packaging. I can tell you when I was a franchisor for a 30-unit restaurant and sports bar, we had the most amazing hand-cut French fries and pastrami sandwiches. They www.socalfnbpro.com
were perfect for dining in. But because we used Styrofoam containers for takeout, if somebody took it home, it was like a rainforest inside by the time they got home. The fries were soggy, the bread was soggy and it was disgusting. It wasn’t the same incredible product we put out in a basket. So, look at your packaging. It doesn’t matter how good it is in the restaurant, if it sucks when it arrives at the guest’s door. That still represents you and your restaurant. Also, when it comes to packaging, think about your demographic. If you have an environmentally-conscious customer base, order biodegradable containers and paper straws and such. The next important topic is your menu. If it were me, I’d be reducing my menu down to 10, 15, 20 items max. These items should be things that you know your guests want, things you can make over and over again. It allows you to reduce the amount of inventory you have on your shelves because you’re shrinking what you need to have on hand to fulfill the limited menu. This reduced inventory also saves you money because you won’t have food spoiling on your shelves. If you can get your inventory down and order on a more routine basis, when the product goes out it’s fresh. You’re throwing away less product and whatever you put out is excellent. Another idea is meal replacement options. Create and sell complete meals for a family of four or so and make it available for pickup to cook or warm at home. It’s also known as catering to go. Could you offer something like a lasagna and a Caesar salad that feeds four and has all the things necessary to put the meal on the table? Or a brisket with rolls and cole slaw and beans for four? What are some shelf-stable things that don’t have to sell in one day? Another business stream is drop-off catering. There are businesses that are still operating that still have employees in their building. Can you provide them with some catering options, such as boxed lunches or a buffet with aluminum chafing dishes? Could you offer packages that www.socalfnbpro.com
allow them to quickly throw together a meal for a good number of people? If the minimum group remains numbered at 10, think about how you could break it up for 10 at a time. Next on the list is budgets, and probably most important. I know it’s a scary time and the last thing you want to think about is creating a budget. But the truth of the matter is how do you know whether you can weather this storm, whether you should stay open or not, that this isn’t going to literally be the last day you operate if you don’t have a budget? Right now you need a 12-week budget. Forget about the year. You must lay out the next 12 weeks. Set it up with your new reality including sales from this week, minimum staffing and anything that is a fixed expense. What your costs of goods sold was running last week is not what you’ll see this week or the weeks ahead. All of a sudden your sales have dramatically tanked. You have fewer categories to manage and still have a lot of labor. Even if you make huge cuts now, you’re going to have to make some adjustments and decisions. When is rent due? When are utilities due? How much do you owe the distributors? How much do you owe for payroll? Put it all in your budget and then create scenarios. If you remain open and your sales are X, what does it look like if you remain open and your sales are even lower? What does it look like if you close your doors? Even temporarily? When do you start deferring bills? Can your CPA help you decide if there are taxes you can defer? Employer portion of payroll taxes, sales tax? Is your state offering deferment options? You may work something out with your landlord for rent, assuming you’re not behind already. Ask yourself if you can dig yourself out if you make adjustments or if you’re in a bigger hole than you can handle. I’m hoping for you that there’s a chance to restart and that this is an opportunity to put systems in place. I hope it’s an opportunity to cut the dead weight and look at everything you do in your business. I also
hope the government comes through for you. When I wrote this article, I went on online and saw that there are talks of a $1 trillion package for the hospitality industry. I’ve got to believe in my heart of hearts for the first time I’ve ever seen, that the government will help the hospitality industry, the number-one employer in the United States. We may actually get a bailout. But you can’t count on that. When it comes to borrowing money, whether it’s a no-interest loan through the Small Business Administration, or some other resource, ask yourself if that will really make it any better. The only way to know is to plug it into your budget based on your current reality. I hope you are able to weather this. I hope you and your families are safe. I hope that you can keep as many employees employed as possible. I hope the economy jumps back in place. In the meantime, I’ll keep producing resources to help you.
April 2020 I The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional 11
Small Business Suppliers Face Dilemma Surviving Coronavirus Founder & Owner of Craft Winery Spotlights the Livelihood of Small Agricultural-Based Culinary Suppliers, and Their Survival Rate, Post-Pandemic By Mary McAuley
People drink wine in times of joy and in times of stress (hello, quarantine) and although we’ve seen a lot of coverage online and social media highlighting the libations people are stocking up on, the smaller, craft, high-quality wineries, distilleries and breweries you don’t find in massive retail chains, are screwed. Really screwed. Boutique wine brands are what the alcoholic beverage industry calls “on-premise brands,” meaning the majority of what we produce is consumed on the premises it is purchased (i.e. a restaurant). I am the owner and founder of Ripe Life Wines, AKA one of those wineries. So while the sales of alcohol through retail has been quite bountiful (Shanken News Daily reported some retailers were up as much as 400%), we small guys who don’t have the brand recognition or the merchandising dollars to be in the type of retailers that are being flooded right now, are feeling the total opposite. And while I do have a number of small wine shops and gourmet markets that carry our wine (whom I love dearly) they are far and few on a national basis and that sort of retail doesn’t do the volume that restaurants do. To give you an idea, my customers are basically split 50:50 between boutique retailers and restaurants, but 85%+ of my total revenue comes from the restaurant accounts alone. Adding insult to injury, that other 15% from my retailers is largely from loyal catering partners purchasing alcohol for their events who now have nothing on the books for months. So on an average day, not when a caterer goes in and does a massive order for a party, a boutique wine shop will sell
0-3 bottles of my wine, whereas a boutique restaurant pouring me by the glass will sell a few cases on a regular old Thursday night. And we, artisanal beverage suppliers, are not alone. Firstly, I must clearly state that I am thrilled by the newsletters and content that fills my feeds daily with suggestions on ways to support the hospitality industry such as virtual tip jars, gift card promotions, and restaurant donation funds. Restaurants need to be supported, full stop. All suppliers in the food and beverage industry need restaurants to reopen on the other side of this pandemic to survive in the long run. The media is doing a great job highlighting the restaurant and hospitality industry crisis as it pertains to the impact of losing consumer dollars. But the conversation and outpour seems to have stopped there, and it is critical we take it one step further up the food chain- literally... It does appear there is a very understandable assumption out there that while grocery stores, take-out, and drop-shipping services still exist, food and beverage suppliers can do a temporary 180 to reach consumers. And while that is the case for many, it is very much not the case for many boutique artisans and farmers due to their small size, regulatory rigmarole, and/or the perishability of their commodity. We need to get included in the conversation too so consumers can modify their current purchasing behaviors and where applicable, gratuitous government limitations on points-of-sale are temporarily lifted until restaurants return to normal service
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as they are the businesses that keep us small suppliers afloat. The only retailers who could post restaurants numbers for any sort of consumable, not just wine, are big chain retailers and that isn’t the playing field for a small, craft-winery (or anything small and craft, really). You have to be mass-produced to even attend tryouts and if you make the team, you have to pay (a lot) to play. As a consumer you see it and don’t always realize it, but in a major retail setting you are being overloaded with options by huge brands that pay for merchandizing tactics to get you to buy their products; being at the end of an aisle aka “getting an end-cap,” being on a middle shelf, or, for white wine and rosé, placement in the refrigerator-- ideally middle shelf, slightly to the right or left depending on which direction the door opens—all these things are negotiated with the retailers who do big numbers, so that is why small producers of artisanal products rely on independent restaurants who don’t play that way yet still do big volume. Restaurant buyers tend to be a lot more concerned with quality because they’re doing the picking for the consumer so it looks bad on them if something doesn’t taste great. They also don’t put competing items on the same menu. If a patron at a restaurant that pours my wine asks for a “light, non-oaky chardonnay,” mine is the one they are getting. But at least my product can last in its packaging for several years without spoiling. As I started to sweat about restaurants closing, I www.socalfnbpro.com
began thinking about all of the other boutique-y and non-manufacture-y supplier friends I have made along the way at the countless fancy food shows and wine and food festivals I’ve spent the last six years attending. I started thinking about my buddies whose products have littleto-no shelf life; cheese mongers, butter-makers, caviar farmers, and so many others with incredible products predominantly sold through restaurants, but also don’t have shelf life so their goods aren’t on the minds of panicked people right now. And then I began thinking about the very delicacies that inspired my first wine, The Clambake Chardonnay; bivalves. And then I thought: f*ck. I immediately texted two of my favorite local oyster farmers – founders of Barnegat Oyster Collective -- to let them know how sorry I was and that I had a garage full of wine they could help themselves to at any point. In addition to them growing some of the most beautiful oysters I’ve ever had in my life, the impact of losing them would, from an environmental standpoint, be horrible for the Barnegat Bay (where I grew up and currently live on) and I realized we really truly need to start turning more attention to the small business supply side of restaurants immediately. We are slipping through the cracks right now and the outcome could be irreparable. “For the oyster industry, I fear the implications of this pandemic are grave. Farmers can’t just hit the ‘pause’ button on a growing crop. We need to continue to work. Farms require maintenance and maintenance requires laborers. Oysters also don’t necessarily fit the category of ‘staple food items’ and they’re a poor candidate for ‘take out’. Us oyster farmers need to come to terms with the likelihood that for a little while we’ll be without income and that many of the restaurants we rely on may not see the other side of this thing” says a friend Matt Gregg, the co-founder of the Barnegat Oyster Collective and owner of Forty North Oyster Farms in Barnegat Light, NJ. Gregg’s partner and co-founder, Scott Lennox, echo’s the same sentiment and adds, “This is a really important aspect that people need to be talking about. We, through the Collective, directly distribute and market the oysters of thirteen independent oyster farms. We are all scrambling to find creative ways to get through this.” The point is us small suppliers like us out there need to find a way into the conversations and homes of consumers while restaurants are closed because losing restaurants and not having a way to sell our product will have catastrophic impacts. Taking this one level further, something to keep in mind: anything that you eat or drink is always tied to agriculture. I repeat: anything you eat or drink ties back to a piece of land and us small producers are sourcing from small farms (either that we own or contract) for our base ingredients and if we don’t have the money to pay for crop, they don’t have the reserve money like factory farms do to care for the farm and harvest said crop and that is when real hell breaks lose. The takeaway here? Please continue to support restaurants through gift cards and donations and take-out! But also, please get the conversation started about small businesses on the supply side. Safely seek out the artisanal and small grocery stores and markets that are still open and buy from boutique suppliers like myself. www.socalfnbpro.com
Or go directly to small suppliers (like us) yourself. Google around and ask a local cheese maker, butter maker, oyster farm, scallop farm, clam farm, winery, craft brewery, distillery, etc., if they can do a curb side pick up or ask them if they can deliver to you. Anything that you’d find in a restaurant, and not a normal chain supermarket, try and have it delivered by calling up or ordering online if they have it set up. Maybe consider paying for future goods if delivery isn’t an option. At least wine lasts in its bottle, but my heart goes out to those who farm or produce a product with a short shelf life and necessitates relentless maintenance. Every penny helps. We aren’t using this scare trying to save our business right now, that will be completely dependent on restaurants opening back… what we are trying to do is have money to feed our families and pay our employees something and pay our growers for more crop. At the very least, just help get this conversation
started about the suppliers most vulnerable from the restaurant shutdown. As a nation who just got a crash course in microbiology and epidemiology, I’ll break this down very simply: if the food and beverage producers who work with (or own) the farms that grow our ingredients go out of business, many small farmers will be without customers and will have to lay off labor and perhaps abandon their land altogether. When crops are planted (or animals are bred) for food and no one is there to care for things or harvest the bounty, crop rots and when crops rot, they attract pests. And when we get an unnatural influx of pests we also get…new diseases amongst humans. If you’d like to purchase from a small supplier in this article, visit ripelifewines.com/wines for wine and barnegatoyster.com/store/oyster-party for oysters, which includes tutorial on how to SYOO–shuck your own oysters!
April 2020 I The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional 13
The Bottom Line Lawry’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Talks Fine Dining
By Ben Brown Benjamin Brown, MBA is Restaurant Editor of The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional. A seasoned
writer and consultant, Ben works with Fortune 500
companies and mom & pop shops alike in Marketing, Analytics, Consumer Insights, PR and Business
Development. Contact Ben at Ben@lvfnb.com or
Photo credit: Lawry’s
follow him @Foodie_Biz.
Ryan Wilson is a fourth-generation Lawry’s executive, leading the brand’s marketing, strategy, finance and operational growth. Beginning his career as an entry-level cook, Wilson has risen up the ranks through his decades with the company. Now, the Stanford grad is looking to continue expanding his family’s illustrious dining empire with the same attention to detail, care for the customer and devotion to the legacy of the Lawry’s dining experience that’s been the lifeblood of the brand for nearly a century. But don’t think for a second that Wilson simply walked into success at the family business. His journey to the top and strategic outlook on fine dining sheds insight on the passion and innovation needed to command success in hospitality.
Your great grandfather, Lawrence L. Frank, founded Lawry’s. You stated in previous interviews that you weren’t pressured into joining the family business, so what inspired you towards culinary arts and eventually led you to join Lawry’s? I grew up in Northern California and would brush up against the restaurants 2-3 times a year, unlike my cousins, who grew up in Pasadena and would go all the time. My mom was an amazing cook and would spend a tremendous amount of time cooking dinners from scratch, and yet I was a very picky eater. I stuck to ‘shades of beige’ until I was in college. But every Saturday morning, I would wake up and watch cooking shows instead of cartoons. I loved the chemistry of food
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and what made a dish taste great. I love the cultural influence that makes a cuisine resonate with any given population. When I was 10 years old, I would make vinaigrettes but wouldn’t eat the salad. I’d grill fish but wouldn’t eat the fish. I went to a liberal arts college in California. My junior year, I had to cook for myself while studying abroad in Australia. That’s when things clicked. I began actually eating the food I cooked and the floodgates opened. When I returned to college in the US, I remember making simple vinaigrettes in a Dixie cup in the dining hall. After college, I began to pursue professional cooking. I spent time at the Five Crowns as an entry prep cook. I made the decision to leave, though, because I knew I needed to learn the craft outside of the family business. I spent time working in Michelin 3-star restaurants, then came back to [Lawry’s] to learn the trade, as well as spend time with my grandparents. I saw the opportunity to get to know them better as people and as friends… that’s a time in my life I look back on and truly cherish. I returned as the culinary development chef, where I got to develop new concepts and do two openings, in Asia. I went on to become Executive Chef, then Director of Operations, and then VP. Then, in 2016, as I was looking at my future and the trajectory of the company, my wife told me this was the time to take a break and go back to business school. I spent a year earning my MBA at Stanford, then returned as Chief Marketing Officer, and now I lead operations, finance and strategy as well. You manage multiple different concepts as well as overseas locations. Talk about how you differentiate these experiences, as well as ensure consistency internationally. It's not an easy task. Domestically, the markets are different across each of the cities we serve. We rely on our general managers to give us insight on what each market demands. We’re always looking for information on the best beverages and menu items to offer. All of our brands are legacy brands. From a marketing perspective, we’re always having a conversation about the right way to drive traffic through loyalty and repeat business vs. new customers. There’s certainly not a playbook on how to do this. You have to market in a much more dynamic fashion than you’ve ever done before. Our restaurants abroad are all licensed, so we don’t operate them. Depending on the market overseas, part of what that guest wants is some Americana. They want the www.socalfnbpro.com
tradition, the heritage of the meal, they want to feel that legacy we’ve built over 81 years. It’s about staying true to that dining experience and hospitality. The feel of the restaurant carries the brand there. Many of your restaurants provide an iconic fine dining experience that’s not as prevalent as it used to be. Do you see the pendulum swinging and more restaurants moving back to the type of ambiance and service you create, or will the trends go in a different direction? I believe confidently that timeless hospitality is always going to be that: timeless. People are always going to want to walk into a place like ours. I want to give guests great memories and a great time at the table. Our restaurants break out of the ubiquitous, jeanwearing server at just another gastropub. The prevalence of gastropubs grew out of the chaos of the recession, with people pushing back on the cost of fine dining. But I feel like guests are starting to experience a bit of fatigue around that kind of menu and experience. Operators are starting to see a challenge in small plates as well, which involve a lot more labor to reach the same average check as you’d get with far fewer dishes at a traditional restaurant. As a chef by training, I also think there’s only so much international flare that the broader population can consume before it just starts to get confusing. Too many menus are pulling from so many cultures and cuisines that there isn’t any authenticity to it. When you have Vietnamese spring rolls next to ricotta ravioli with egg yolk on top, there’s just too
much dissonance at that point. Also, all this look at restaurants at a nightclub model, ‘stunt food’ has reached a peak. What else where you operate for 3-5 years and then get can you even put on a hamburger? Can you out. Or, you could look into building a legacy that operates for decades. This means taking even eat it now? your time to make strategic decisions when I know that pendulum is swinging, but not opening a new place, and spending money on sure where it’s swinging to. I don’t think it’s going to go back to classic fine dining details that the 3-5 year operator wouldn’t like we had in the 90s, but it’ll probably be choose to do. Everything from upholstery something in between what we had and what and wall coverings to making sure that your glasses are polished. It’s the little things we have now. that people notice and remember, and what Talk about some of the new items you’ve ultimately helps build a legacy. added to your menus? How do you test these The tradeoff to that is that we’re a fully items and what do you feel gives them the owned and operated family business. That ‘modern touch’ you’re looking for? can pose budgetary restraints to growing We’ve conducted what we call the the business in the way we’d otherwise want. ‘revitalization of the Lawry’s the Prime Rib’ Additionally, the whole leadership team has brand, and that’s taken about 5 years. The either grown up with the company or been brand hadn’t been given any attention in with it for such a long time that sometimes we about 30 years before that. We did a ton of needed a third party to shed new light. work with focus groups, staff and our VIPs. Where do you see Lawry’s 10 years from now? We asked them about what we’re doing well I see Lawry’s The Prime Rib continuing and what we could do better. This gave us to grow domestically and internationally. great perspective on how to shape our menus We’ve had to pause on international and ambiance. growth for a bit because we’re focusing on We went about improving the Beverly Hills revitalizing our brands here in the US, but location, shaping what we see as the template since the revitalization we’ve placed greater for our locations moving forward. We focus on finding new markets to expand to worked with The Culinary Edge, who helped internationally, as well as domestically. I’d us shape Lawry’s Carvery in 2002, to create love to see our restaurants on the east coast. new menu items and experiential elements Beyond that, I want to get to the point of being for us. able to create new concepts. Possibly casual, What are the advantages to Lawry’s being maybe more fine dining. I also want to build a family-owned company? Conversely, are a concept that doesn’t revolve around red there scenarios where this makes business meat. There’s tremendous potential in that more difficult? space, and it’s an opportunity we should We look at restaurants differently. You can capitalize on.
April 2020 I The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional 15
16 The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional I April 2020
with Alice Swift
By Alice Swift Alice Swift, Assistant Editor and Journalist for The Las Vegas and SoCal F&B Professional, is passionate about hospitality/F&B, education and instructional design, with 15+ years of experience. In 2016, she moved from Las Vegas to Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, working for the UH System as a multimedia instructional designer, while maintaining her hospitality/F&B ties through writing, teaching and consulting (Swift Hospitality Consulting). email: firstname.lastname@example.org | website: www.aliceswift.com
COVID-19 and Its Impact on the F&B Industry In December of 2019, the first COVID-19 case appeared in Wuhan, China. A mere 4 months later, the severe respiratory disease caused by the virus has now traveled to the United States and at least 145 other countries/territories spanning six continents, and was declared a Pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020. This is the world we live in now. Things are now changing. At the time of this article (midMarch), a domino effect on our daily lives began to appear, causing a ripple effect across the United States. Aspects of life that we take for granted have slowly been evolving... from work, to school, to leisure time and vacations, and now to restaurants and other F&B establishments... things will never be the same again. News stations have been reporting all the devastating statistics, so there is no need to continue reiterating these facts. It’s been quite disheartening to see the extreme measures being taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 (e.g., hotel and F&B closures, corporate layoffs), but ultimately it’s for the right reasons, to try and slow the virus to a stop. Education is another majorly impacted industry. In many school districts and higher education institutions across the country, inperson courses have been transitioned to online courses. While actions like this have really resulted in the exponential need for my position as an instructional designer to support online teaching faculty, the closures to mega-tourism or urban epicenters like Las Vegas, New York, Hawaiʻi, etc. have really negatively impacted the food & beverage, hospitality, travel and tourism industries (among many, many others). Knowing all this, it becomes difficult to see the positive outlook. However, in reading through various current events across the nation, I am inspired by some of the actions being taken to try and give back during this crisis. Here are some of the stories I have been reading about in Hawaiʻi, Nevada and California; I hope that these stories will give you some hope during these tough times. Distilleries Shift from Hard Liquor to Hand Sanitizer It’s no surprise that residents globally have been hoarding items like masks and hand sanitizer, causing price hikes that result in massive shortages for those who need them www.socalfnbpro.com
the most: healthcare professionals and medical facilities. The World Health Organization (WHO) published a guide for local production: www.who.int/gpsc/5may/Guide_to_Local_ Production.pdf. Surprisingly, guess who answered the call for help? Distilleries! To help with the shortage of hand sanitizer, local distilleries from coast to coast across the country (and even internationally) have been converting their spirits distilleries to hand sanitizer production facilities. AMASS (www. amass.com), based in Los Angeles, originally produced premium botanic gin and vodka. They now make a 16-oz and 2-oz alcohol-based botanic hand wash. Even larger producers, such as Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Anheuser-Busch and Pernod Ricard SA are jumping on the bandwagon. The TTB has allowed distillation businesses to produce hand sanitizer without authorization, and many businesses in fact are donating rather than selling to those in need. Closed Restaurants Donate Perishable Foods During this COVID-19 crisis, many school districts have gone so far as to extend spring break, transition courses to online learning, or even shut down schools for the school year. However, there are many students who rely on school lunch programs for assistance, and without school, there are many who are food insecure and in need of meals. Throughout the country, there are many restaurants, businesses and other generous people who are helping support those in need. In Las Vegas, you’ve probably heard about the temporary closures of hotels up and down
the Strip, along with the growing number of reduction in workforce. This was a huge decision that had to be made for the health and safety of the people of Nevada, despite the opposing consequences. However, due to the closure of MGM Resorts properties, and the connected food venues within their portfolio of hotels, they decided to donate their food shipments to Three Square Food Bank along with other food donation facilities and community partners. Want to Help? Would you like to do your part and help others during this crisis? Check out these resources to learn more: • Donate to your local blood bank, food banks, and shelters. • Donate to the United Way COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund (https://secure.unitedway.org/j/step/ covid19-donate). • Help those in need! Why not be a good Samaritan and offer to pick up groceries for any elderly neighbors you might have on your next trip to the grocery store? • Check out this PBS article for more ways to support: How to Help Others in the COVID-19 Crisis (www.pbs.org/newshour/ health/how-to-help-others-in-the-covid-19crisis). Our world is changing, and it is up to us to make the world a better place. Despite the craziness our world is going through right now, try to see the positive in the situation. We can only hope that this crisis will begin to subside in the near future and our F&B industry can move towards recovery from this life-altering period. Until next month, Cheers~! Alice
April 2020 I The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional 17
By Erin Cooper & Christine Vanover
As the month of April brings focus to the ways in which we can nurture the planet that gives us so much, we thought it would be a good time to get better acquainted with a winery that lives in harmony with the Earth 365 days a year. We were fortunate enough to speak with Michelle Connor, General Manager, and Tamra Kelly-Washington, Chief Winemaker, of Seresin Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand to discuss biodynamics and why these practices breathe life, elegance and refinement into their wines. What inspired the creation of Seresin winery? Owner Michael Seresin’s first up close and personal look into the world of wine was in the early years of having a home in Tuscany. Wine is a part of culture in Italy and this resonated with Michael. He loved how wine, as a common interest, united people from all walks of life. How large is the Seresin Estate? Raupo Creek is just under 90 hectares in total, 52 of which are planted in vineyard. We also have established preparation plant and vegetable gardens, olive groves, pinole trees, grazing areas for our farm animals and large native plantings to encourage native birds. As biodynamic farmers, we also keep a portion of our property fallow each year. How did Michael Seresin determine which vineyard sites to produce wine from? When Michael was looking to purchase Raupo Creek, he completed some intensive soil sampling to establish a clear picture of the soil profile in order to make very informed decisions on which varietals would perform best in the different areas. Raupo Creek is a unique site in Marlborough in that it offers a number of aspects and soil types from north facing clay slops to more free draining flats. What have you found to be the most surprising thing about the wine business or winemaking process? So many things, but the one in my mind is how small a global industry it is. This is fantastic as you get the opportunity to work with people from all over the world who each bring their unique skills and experiences. It is a young industry in New Zealand and I particularly enjoy how open the New Zealand wine community is to sharing knowledge and experiences. There is a feeling of all being “in this together,” and I rarely feel any sense of competition. This in some way may also be because Seresin is such a unique producer in the New Zealand industry. What prompted the decision to have the Seresin estate farmed biodynamically? This came from Michael very early on when Seresin was being developed. Michael established wonderful connections with some
amazing producers in the Old World by spending time with them and asking questions. Michael is very curious by nature. He talks about the time he spent with Anne Claude Leflaive who said to him, “if you can grow grapes and make wine without chemicals, why wouldn’t you?” It is from this that Seresin’s biodynamic journey began. How are biodynamic farming practices different from farming organically? Are all biodynamic wines essentially organic as well? Essentially they are, yes. I often describe biodynamics as an elevation of organics. Quite simply, the big difference is that in biodynamics we produce our products to be applied for health and nutrition ourselves on the property from manure and homeopathic plants that we have grown ourselves. The concept of biodynamics is largely about farming in a sustainable way in a closed unit, so everything you need for the health of your property and crops is produced on that same piece of land. Why do you believe biodynamic farming is important as it relates to producing great wines? You only have to look at the list of who are considered to be the best premium boutique producers in the world to see there is a correlation between biodynamics and producing truly exceptional wines consistently. Biodynamics looks at the health of your property on all levels, from well below the ground surface to the atmosphere. There is no question that this holistic approach to farming builds greater resistance and encourages balance as nothing is being forced. If you could ensure that all of the vineyards in New Zealand were to implement one or two biodynamic practices, which would you choose and why? If your question was about organics, my first response would be to make the use of glyphosate illegal. In relation to biodynamics, for me it would be preparations 500 and 501. 500 is horn mature—cow manure fermented in a cow horn or porous vessel over a period of 6 months. This preparation is dynamised in water and applied to the property. It encourages root growth and humus and it also brings incredible life to the property. You can feel it and we see it in our animals who are often very playful after we have applied 500. 501 is horn silica—made from finely powdered quartz crystals and buried in cow horns or porous vessels for 6 months (spring/summer). This is applied as a foliar spray and it encourages growth. I love watching it be sprayed on the property in a super fine mist. Because the tiny particles of quartz refract light, you see rainbows everywhere. This preparation also has benefits in managing disease as 501 has drying qualities. What do you feel is the greatest differentiator between Seresin wines and others produced in the region? For me, there is an ‘Old World’ energy that runs through all of the wines. The wines feel alive, and yet are very refined and elegant. This is what defines Seresin wines and comes about partly from the way the vineyard is farmed and partly as a result of the minimalist, careful handling of the grapes and wine in the winery. The wines are not rushed and are left to achieve a natural balance on their own time schedule with a bit of love and nurturing from the team! If you had to select a grape varietal that best represents your personality, which would it be and why? Chardonnay—a variety that has great depth and structure and is not afraid to be its own self. It can show many different shades but is always a wine to inspire and create many conversations.
Photo credit: Justyna Hrabska
Seresin Estate: Achieving Natural Balance Through Biodynamics
Erin Cooper and Christine Vanover have been residents of Las Vegas since 2007. Vanover is also a UNLV Alumnus. Cooper is a Territory Manager for the Resort Wine Team at Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits. Both women founded Twinkle Toast in 2017. email@example.com • www.twinkletoast.com Facebook: @TwinkleToast Twitter: TwinkleToastLV Instagram: TwinkleToastLV
18 The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional I April 2020
SPIRITS CONFIDENTIAL with Max Solano
Max Solano is a principal mixologist at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada and is considered one of the most respected and premier authorities in the West Coast on all matters whisky. He also serves as a Spirits Judge at the coveted New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, International Whisky Competition and world-renowned San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
photo credit: Max A. Solano
Twenty Years of San Francisco World Spirits Competition
By Max A. Solano
Without question, this is one of my favorite times of the year! Why? Because, for me, March usually brings many bounties that I thoroughly enjoy … The start of spring, MLB baseball pre-season, St. Patrick’s Day, NCAA March Madness, and my favorite, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The latter is a threeday spirits event (March 13-15) that usually hosts some of the brightest spirits minds and experienced palates; basically, the who’s who from our magnificent spirits industry. So, it’s no surprise why it is the most coveted, highlyrespected and largest competition of its kind in the world. And, this year, marked SFWSC’s 20th anniversary. Please understand one thing. For me, it’s a tremendous honor to be a part of this elite judging panel and completed my 8th year as a judge, so, I take this very seriously. For many of us, it’s the only time of year that these judges get to spend time with one another and thoroughly enjoy the amazing camaraderie. And, coincidentally, this all takes place in one of my most absolute favorite cities in the world. There was no question that this was going to be the biggest and best competition year, yet. Then, just like that, COVID-19 arrived! In late January, as we began receiving accounts of COVID-19 cases in different parts of the US, many planned trade events, seminars and conventions slowly began to cancel, including WSWA and the Nth Whisky events, among many, many others. I suspected that it would just be a matter of time before conversations would take place about whether this competition would be postponed or worse yet, cancelled. And, sure enough, as California began cracking down on large group gatherings, I knew it was inevitable. First, we received word that the celebrity cocktail competition taking place the day before the start of the competition was cancelled. Then, the annual judges dinner the evening of the first competition was also nixed. So, where did the actual competition stand? Just two weeks prior to the start of the competition, an email went out asking this year’s judges to decide whether we press on or cut our losses. www.socalfnbpro.com
And, of course, I began to immediately lobby to move forward with the competition with it already being so close to the date. The next day, we received the announcement that it was indeed moving forward! Then, as we were just days away, I began receiving word that some of the judges were beginning to rescind their participation per their companies’ immediate implementation of a no travel policy due to the Coronavirus. This, of course, posed a last-minute scramble to secure the judges that had been on the waiting list! So, needless to say, there were quite a few first-year stand-in judges, but even with that, many of these guys and gals were rock stars in the industry. The morning of the first day of the competition we were all gathered when we were welcomed by our long-tenured Director of Judges and good friend, Tony Abou-Ganim. However, due to precautionary measures, the founder and CEO of SFWSC, Anthony Dias Blue, was not in attendance for the first time ever so, it just did not have the same feel. As the individual judging panels were posted, I had noticed that I was chairing panel “E” for the very first time. Two thoughts came to mind: How cool is this? And, secondly, I really must be getting old! Our panel seriously lucked out as we had a great volunteer team solely dedicated to us led by Sr. Volunteer, Doug Salin. As we sat down at our table Friday morning, we were given Panel E’s flight syllabus for the first two days laying out the categories and size of the flights. Looking down, we were starting off with vodka, which was unfortunately, underwhelming, followed by gin, “flavored” gin (don’t ask what constitutes this since gin is already flavored) and mezcal. There were a couple of standouts from the gin categories, as well as the mezcals but the rest were a mixed bag, mostly of average or lesser quality. However, the next nine flights were mostly American whiskey, consisting of bourbon of different age groups, some craft distiller whiskeys and single malts. We simply lucked out! Aside from the first flight of straight bourbon, which
did not put out anything exceptional, the next few, well … EUREKA! It was one stellar flight after another. One of my closest friends and American Whiskey savant, Fred Minnick, whom was not able to attend this year, would have even been very impressed. And, I will tell you that the craft distillers’ flight was also quite impressive! Most were excellent quality distillates, although a few would definitely have benefited from additional barrel maturation time, but the future looks very bright for the state of craft spirits. As we completed our two days of tastings, we were now ready for Day 3: Sweeps! When I have written about this competition in the past, I had made it abundantly clear that this is everyone’s most exciting part of the weekend... hands down! Per usual, there were close to 100 double-gold medal recipients that made it to sweepstakes and not sure how many other double-gold medal winners that did not make it. But, as we went through each category and voted as a group, there was a consensus developing in my head. This was most likely the least memorable sweepstakes in terms of exceptional finalists I have been a part of. Do not get me wrong, there were some marvelous representations from some of the categories, such as American whiskeys, other single malt whiskies (Asian), some brandies and gins. On the other hand, there were several spirits that I pondered over how these were the best representations of their respective categories, and how they even received double-gold medals. As the old cliché goes, “It is, what it is!” Despite all the unseen obstacles and challenges that this organization faced this year, they still did an amazing job and had an unprecedented 3,000+ spirits entries! I know that six months ago, or even three months ago, this is not what they had envisioned for being such a milestone year. But, rest assured, barring any other world pandemic, they will absolutely more than make up for it in style. I look forward to being there and covering it, once again. Cheers!
April 2020 I The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional 19
Details on the Federal Coronavirus Relief Package By: National Restaurant Association
On Wednesday, March 25th, congressional leaders released the final text of their $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package. The agreement includes a dramatic expansion of unemployment insurance, a rescue fund for state and local governments, immediate cash for hospitals and a huge pool of grants and loans for small businesses. To see the National Restaurant Association's full analysis please visit www.nvrestaurants. com. Passage in both chambers is all but assured—the only question is one of timing. The Senate is on a path to pass the bill this evening. Timing of a House bill remains murky. A vote Thursday night or Friday morning is likely. President Trump is likely to sign the bill very soon thereafter. Overall the bill is very strong, with many provisions that specifically reflect the National Restaurant Association’s asks from last week. Here are the highlights of the deal: SBA Loans The measure creates a $349 billion program for the SBA to offer unique loans to small businesses (500 or fewer employees). The loan amount is based on 250% of the borrower’s average monthly payroll cost for the preceding year (provisions for seasonal employers are included), up to $10 million. Collateral requirements are waived, and the “credit elsewhere” requirements (which have slowed down the process) have been waived as well. The loan is forgiven if used for payroll costs, mortgage interest or rent/utilities. exception was made to the small business requirement for • An restaurants, food service, caterers and hotels. The 500-employee
number is based on the number of employees at each physical location. So these types of businesses with 600 employees over multiple properties would qualify for these loans. This ensures that a number of larger independent restaurants and franchise owners can participate.
small businesses that employ less than 500 employees • Only are eligible for Paycheck Protection Program and SBA Loan Forgiveness. However, restaurants, foodservice, caterers and hotels that employ not more than 500 employees per physical location of the business are also eligible to receive a single loan.
Tax Benefits The agreement offers restaurant owners relief in the form of Net Operating Loss (NOL) carrybacks, delay of payment of employer payroll taxes and an Employee Retention Tax Credit. Qualified Improvement Property At long last, restaurants can immediately write off costs associated with improving facilities. The QIP fix is complete. Next Steps Congress is likely to draft subsequent recovery bills. We are working on what industry-specific provisions should be included. Thanks to You In an era of chronic dysfunction in Washington, Congress broke modern speed records in developing comprehensive legislation to address a national pandemic that has devastated many businesses—particularly ours. Amidst the disruption of shuttered congressional offices and a cacophony of industries asking for assistance, the restaurant industry spoke with a clear, unified voice. We achieved unprecedented levels of grassroots engagement at every level of government. Once this bill has been enacted, we are planning a Virtual Town Hall to answer your questions. Call-in information and how register to follow. For questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 878-2313. 20 The SoCal Food & Beverage Professional I April 2020
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