Categories
Restaurants

Chuck E. Cheese Files For Bankruptcy In Hopes To Survive The Pandemic

After early reports from the Wall Street Journal that Chuck E. Cheese was looking to file for bankruptcy, the entertainment and restaurant chain has officially done so.

Photo: Mike Mozart on Flickr

A press release from CEC Entertainment, Inc., the parent company to the beloved chain, announced the entry into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. It hopes that in doing so, the company can restructure itself to survive the economic hit that the pandemic has levied.

Chuck E. Cheese had been doing okay before the pandemic, as AP reports that store sales went up 3% during 2019. However, the strain of staying closed during the pandemic was a tough pill to swallow for both Chuck E. Cheese and the restaurant industry in general.

Chuck E. Cheese had begun to reopen locations that were closed due to coronavirus, with 266 currently open and more to follow in the coming weeks. It’s hoped that these locations, plus the others Chuck E. Cheese plans to reopen, will stay that way throughout the bankruptcy process.

Franchised locations of Chuck E. Cheese aren’t affected by the bankruptcy filing.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows Chuck E. Cheese to keep running operations while restructuring its organization and financial model to get back on its feet. However, part of the bankruptcy plan, which is approved by a court, may include liquidating some of the company’s assets. This may mean that stores will close in the future, but it’s possible that won’t be the case.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chuck E. Cheese was looking for up to $200 million in loans to stay afloat earlier in the month, which may be enough to restructure and prevent store closures. We won’t know if that’s the case for sure, however, until the bankruptcy court approves a final plan that allows Chuck E. Cheese to emerge from bankruptcy.

The hope is, though, that Chuck E. Cheese won’t have to go the way of Souplantation, who closed all of their locations and began liquidating all of their assets earlier this year.

Categories
Health News Restaurants

Amazon Studios Donates $1 Million to Jon & Vinny’s to Help Feed Those in Need

Photo Provided By: Omari Allen

As COVID’s curve on the world gradually flattens out, we’re seeing slow beginnings towards normalcy. Maybe a different normality than we’re accustomed to, but living life again nevertheless. It’s part of the human spirit; rather than simply conform, we’ve chosen to confront. This strength has manifested in a multitude of ways, from the courage of essential workers, to local farms helping to distribute food, even the spike in video chat apps is an indicator of how we come together in challenging times. 

Joining the fray, Amazon Studios has announced that it will be donating $1 Million to the award-winning Los Angeles-based restaurant group, Jon & Vinny’s. Existing well beyond their two brick & mortar locations in Brentwood & Fairfax, Jon & Vinny’s Joint Venture Restaurant Group also encompasses Caramelized Productions, their full-service catering company, as well as a slew of popular LA staples. Suffice to say, with Amazon Studios’ donation, Jon & Vinny’s is certainly capable of making a positive impact. 

Additionally, donations will be made to other local restaurants. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to work with local businesses in preparing and delivering meals to No Kid Hungry, Off Their Plate, the Los Angeles Mission and the Motion Picture & Television Fund. Through this social outreach, those in need will receive fresh meals prepared by talented chefs and contributing local restaurants will have financial support to continue serving the community. With over 10 farms and nearly 10 more businesses contributing to this initiative, everyone involved stands to feel real support during this time.  

jon & vinny's

“This unprecedented crisis has impacted all of us in immeasurable ways, and it’s more important than ever that we all do our part to give back at every level — and particularly to our own community,” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. “At Amazon Studios and Prime Video, we’re truly honored to be able to show our support to the community that has always supported us, and to team up with Jon and Vinny’s to provide food to those who so desperately need it along with a lifeline to local businesses.” 

To further reinforce its support, Amazon Studios has converted its “For Your Consideration” billboards into “For Your Community,” with each highlighting COVID-related non-profit organizations.  These billboards are now live across Los Angeles. To learn more about Amazon’s efforts to support communities and non-profits, click here.

Categories
Restaurants

Popular Bay Area BBQ Joint Is Serving Free BBQ To Medical and Frontline Workers

horn bbq brisket

Burgeoning underground pop-up Horn Barbecue has been making a reputation around the Bay Area. It was started in 2016 by head chef and pitmaster Matt Horn through a desire to impress his wife. Her disapproval of some ribs he cooked once inspired him to never cook another piece of bad ‘cue. Horn has since honed his skills in Central Texas-style barbecue that’s dry rubbed, smoked, and hormone-free. Now, his popular ‘cue garners queues of hundreds. And as such, the last few years have quickly made Horn BBQ one of the go-to Bay Area spots for locals. 

Another contributor to Horn BBQ’s success is it’s family owned, co-ran with his wife, Nina. As a black-owned business in a city rich with black history, Horn feels a responsibility to his community and those that came before him. Those strong community ties are present in Horn BBQ’s recently launched initiative, which was created in response to the on-going corona pandemic. The Horn Initiative is a philanthropic effort that stems from a lifelong commitment to give to those in need. Being of service was a fundamental part of Horn’s upbringing and during these dire days, he wanted to give back to the community that has given so much to him. Horn recalls a recent interaction with a police officer: 

“While hosting one of our community ‘cues, I had an officer ask why I was doing the [pop-up] cooks. I explained to him that it is my responsibility to my community to step up and be a blessing to those that need it. He asked, “Why me?” and I told him that he is a vital part of our community and through love, we can get through this together.”

Committed to serving the community, with your help, The Horn Initiative will continue into the post-covid future. To donate, Horn BBQ has created a Gofundme to cover food costs. For the moment though, as we move towards overcoming this, you can stay up to date on the next pop-up here. To bolster their efforts, they’ll also be dropping off food at homeless camps and hospitals. Meals are open to anyone in need.

 

Photos: Matt Horn/ Horn BBQ
Categories
Cravings Culture Deals Fast Food Feel Good News What's New

Checkers & Rally’s Are Giving Out Free Meals to Healthcare Workers

 

Known for their “Crazy Good Food,” Checkers & Rally’s have shifted their focus towards crazy good hospitality.

Now, at all 250 locations nationwide, first responders and medical workers can get a free small combo at the fast food chain, solely by showing up in their uniform.

Each combo includes a small order of fries, a small drink, and a choice of one of the following entrees: Big Buford (which may be the best name out there for a fast food item), Cheese Champ, Chili Dog, BBQ Bacon Roadhouse, Half-Pound Chicken Bites, Spicy Chicken Sandwich, Baconzilla, 5-piece Wings, or a Deep Sea Double. 

The restaurant’s employees will also benefit from the policy, as they’ve been deemed “essential workers,” and will get a free small meal for every shift they work.

This is in addition to the $100,000 they donated to No Kid Hungry that’s estimated to provide a million meals to children, and certainly shows a commitment to helping the communities that surround each location, which is rare for such a large chain. 

Hats off, Checkers & Rally’s.

 

Photo: Jeremy Brooks
Categories
Entrepreneurship Restaurants

Gozney Offers Free Outdoor Oven to Out of Work Pizza Chefs

Photo: Rich Webley for Gozney

Life has a tendency to queue the positive up to follow the negative. Reduced to take out and delivery, the coronavirus has dealt the restaurant industry a massive blow. The future is uncertain for small businesses and there’s industry-wide job loss. Thankfully, uncertainty breeds inventiveness and the way the world has responded to COVID-19 has been nothing short of inventive. 

In such an example, UK-based oven maker Gozney, known for the Gozney Roccbox outdoor portable pizza oven, has just announced that they will be offering free ovens to out-of-work chefs.

Launched in 2016, the Gozney Rocbox is widely recognized as the #1 outdoor portable pizza oven. Using the same professional design and materials, it’s the world’s first restaurant-grade outdoor oven, reaching temperatures of a fiery 950°F/500°C. With just the Gozney Roccbox, a smartphone, and social media, you’ll essentially be able to transform your home into the neighborhood’s new go-to pizza spot. 

Gozney wanted to give out-of-work chefs the opportunity to still earn money doing what they love, while feeding a world full of hungry quarantiners. How it works is, if you’re a chef that’s interested, you can apply here. Successful submissions will receive a Gozney Roccbox free of charge, along with an affiliate link which tracks your sales. For every sale received within 60 days from visitors through your social media, you earn 10% commission. 

Ironically, yearning for some semblance of our previous normalcy has given way to what may be new norms. Delivery apps are helping restaurants from going under and us from homemade-induced cabin fever.

Maybe a few free Gozney Roccbox’s will help save a number of talented chefs. The new initiative is only available to chefs within the US & UK in limited locations.

Photo: Rich Webley for Gozney
Categories
Features Opinion Restaurants

LA Restaurant Owner Journaled Every Day of the Pandemic And It Is Eye-Opening

HomeState

Briana Valdez is a self-described disciple of the restaurant industry. Every day she lives out the crucial tenet of creating a wonderful dining experience for her customers that goes well beyond just the food. Having spent time at legendary chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Beverly Hills, CA, Valdez soaked up everything she learned on what it takes to run a restaurant  — including maintaining a solid base of integrity for not only customers, but staff as well.

Being from Texas, Valdez had her sights set all along on developing the concept that would become HomeState: a restaurant that would serve as her ode to the Lone Star state’s cuisine. First opened back in December 2013, HomeState has since carved itself into the Los Angeles dining scene by serving up distinctive and memorable Texas staples like queso, brisket sandwiches, Frito pies, and crave-worthy breakfast tacos. Her first customer was her mother. Her second? “[He] was a guy who had just moved from San Antonio a few months before. He still comes in a few times a week and has become a good friend,” recalled Valdez. She continued, “He credits HomeState with staving off homesickness and giving him community.”

Growing to three busy locations across the Los Angeles area, HomeState — and as a whole, the city’s robust dining scene — was thriving. That is, all up until just a month ago. The beginning of March was a precipice that the restaurant industry stood at before the COVID-19 pandemic shoved it into a downward spiral of survival, uncertainty, and upheaval. Restaurants have since had to maneuver through a mishmash of mandates that have forced them to either close indefinitely or turn to new business models and operations as a stopgap to the loss of revenue. What’s more, countless jobs in the industry have been lost, leading to a perplexity and lack of confidence in how the recovery will be.

In the state of California alone, the California Restaurant Association was the second largest private employer, with as much as 1.4 million individuals employed, pre-pandemic. And within that astounding number of people, small businesses and those that keep them running were dealt a piercing blow.

briana valdez homestate

For Valdez, the precarious state of the restaurant industry just as the COVID-19 crisis was hitting the U.S. became something she couldn’t ignore. She began journaling and documenting the series of events that have unfolded for her business throughout the pandemic, from pre-quarantine up until recently. Even before Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s executive order to temporarily shut down bars, nightclubs, restaurants (except takeout and delivery), entertainment venues, and other establishments on the evening of March 15th, she knew she had to take preemptive action to anticipate just how drastic the coronavirus concerns were going to affect her business.

And it was the very integrity that she learned coming up that would be her North Star to steer HomeState through the murkiness of this new reality.

What’s resulted is a staggering and intimate glimpse into how the pandemic has affected her and HomeState. And though this example may be an account through Valdez’s lens, such may be what it has been for other small restaurant owners everywhere trying to stay afloat and navigate their businesses through this health and economic crisis.

Below is Briana Valdez’s account from her journaling.


Friday 3/6/20: We received word that SXSW would be cancelled and began reaching out to local bands to play the following weekend on our patio, like a mini South By in LA. Sounded like a great idea at the time.

Saturday 3/7/20: I had family in town. We spent hours catching up on the patio at HomeState Highland Park. It was crowded and overflowing with laughter and good times. Later that night I went to another crowded fundraiser.

Sunday 3/8/20: HomeState celebrated International Women’s Day on our patio by inviting a group of 25 attendees to a panel filled with the women who run/operate HomeState. Later that day, I went to a big Sunday supper at a friend’s house, with no less than 20 people.

Tuesday-Wednesday 3/10-20, 3/11/20: Letters from other companies were pouring in via social media and email. I wasn’t sure what we could say that would be productive or meaningful. I held off on releasing anything from HomeState.

Thursday 3/12/20: With some action items in place we sent a newsletter to our guests notifying them of changes to our operation including elimination of all communal items, free delivery, and curbside pickup.

Thursday 3/12/20: Evening into night I started reading more about the rates of spread and the importance of acting quickly. I couldn’t sleep.

Friday 3/13/20, 3:00am: I couldn’t shake the urgency to do something drastic, like close our three restaurants, in order to keep our teams and community safe. It felt crazy. I came into the office at 7 am, and couldn’t get there fast enough. When our team arrived, I shared my concerns and the conviction to close the restaurants to the public. Thankfully, everyone backed the idea 100% and sprung into action. We decided to close to the public at 2pm that day. That left little time to notify guests or our team. I knew communication would be key to pulling this off quickly, orderly, and with our team’s morale intact. I had to notify our mgmt team, our 150 team members, our investors, and vendors, and most importantly, our guests.
    – 1:30 pm: We had a crowded dining room finishing their lunch. It was raining outside. We posted signs on the front windows saying “To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are serving our guests via delivery + to-go only. Thank you for understanding.” We allowed guests to finish their meals and kindly prevented additional guests from entering. As we let our team members know the plan, some were relieved, others were scared, others cried. I related to them all.
    – 2:00pm: We locked the doors at both locations and immediately pivoted to curbside pick-up and delivery only. I believe no other restaurant in LA had closed their dining rooms. 

Saturday 3/14/20: First full day with closed dining rooms. It was raining. We had team members outside wearing gloves and using walkie talkies to communicate with team members inside to avoid contact as much as possible. We were trying to figure it out but knew that we had made the right decision to close the dining rooms.

Sunday 3/15/20: Governor Newsom and Mayor Garcetti issued a mandate that all dining rooms close.

Wednesday 3/18/20, 1:00pm: Got on a conference call with fellow chefs and leaders in the hospitality industry to discuss how this impacts us, our employees, and auxiliary vendors and what we can do to mobilize in an effort of support and relief.

Thursday 3/19/20, 8:45pm-1am: Had a roundtable call with the leadership team to discuss pros/cons of keeping stores open for pickup and delivery. What were the risks and benefits to our team members? What were the risks and benefits for our community? The meeting was held on Google Hangouts so we could all see each other. We kept it brutally honest and tried to laugh here and there. Ultimately, we decided what would best serve the overall community was to radically reduce our menu and launch a General Store. This would achieve our overarching goals: 1. Keep our team employed but provide the ability to keep 6’ apart while working. 2. Continue providing food for our community in the form of tacos but ADDING much needed pantry essentials like eggs, flour, milk, butter, and products our vendors were/are still able to provide.

HomeState

Friday 3/20/20: We closed our Playa Vista location and set about planning out the General Store menu and operations. ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) announced relaxed regulations allowing us to offer cocktails, beer and wine for pickup and delivery. A big boost to our guests and our ability to generate revenue. Margaritas started flowing the next morning, much to our guests’ delight and appreciation!

Saturday 3/21/20, 8:00am: We launched the first ever HomeState General Store at our Hollywood location, shifting our entire way of doing business and interacting with each other and our guests. It was wild. It was crazy. We got lots of praise and some negative commentary when we started selling toilet paper. We wanted to fill the gap of what was most in demand for the community so we drove an hour to pick up toilet paper from our only vendor who could find any to sell us. Our cost was $2.12 plus the drive. We put it on the menu for $3 and people were outraged, one person even told us that we would “burn in hell.” We all did our best to focus on the positive while continuing the hunt for cheaper toilet paper. We could have just removed it from the offerings but we know people were desperately searching for supply. Thankfully, within a few days, we found a cheaper option and reduced the price to $1. We are learning how to be a grocer minute by minute. Grateful to have found an alternative to closing our doors and laying off our team.
We continue to work with incredible vendors who are a pipeline for much needed goods and have workers to employ as well. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Sunday 3/22/20: We strengthened the General Store model with everything we learned on Day 1. Went MUCH smoother.

HomeState

Monday 3/21/20: Began writing letters to state legislators and local officials about the devastating impact on the hospitality industry at large.

Tuesday 3/24/20: We closed all stores for deep clean, allowed teams to rest while we rolled up our sleeves to get General Store #2 ready in the Highland Park location.

Wednesday 3/25/20: We launched the General Store at Highland Park, offering products like olive oil, whole chickens, ground beef and… MARGARITAS. Can’t make margaritas fast enough. I feel like it’s medicine for the city, helping us all cope.

Friday 3/27/20: Watching live coverage of LA CITY council as they hear from fellow operators. Decisions will be made in the next few days that will have lasting effects on HomeState plus the restaurant industry as a whole, including many of our dear friends. Only time will tell. Now we wait, and keep fighting as hard as we can to survive.

 

Feature Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash
Categories
News Restaurants What's New

Panda Express Introduces ‘Best Sellers Only’ Menu in Effort to Support Store Associates

Photo: Panda Express

Businesses aren’t pulling any stops in their efforts to adjust to a post-coronavirus world. While most are observing stay-at-home orders, service workers and others on the front line are doing what they can to keep economies from falling into a state of total chaos. This includes restaurants, grocery stores, post offices and public transportation. Despite the clear risk involved, if there’s a positive take away from all of this, it’s that the corona pandemic is bringing humanity together. 

For well known eatery Panda Express, that togetherness comes in the form of a truncated menu which consists only of their bestsellers. The goal is to lower the risk of spreading the virus to employees and customers by limiting the number of options offered.

Food preparation plays a large role in Panda Express’ decision and with a rise in take-out orders, a simpler menu will help employees working long hours. The temporary menu change will look something like this:

  • Original Orange Chicken® 
  • Broccoli Beef 
  • Grilled Teriyaki Chicken 
  • Kung Pao Chicken 
  • Mushroom Chicken 
  • Honey Walnut Shrimp 
  • Sweetfire Chicken Breast 
  • Firecracker Shrimp  
  • New Black Pepper Angus Steak 

These changes went into effect on Monday, April 6th at all nationwide locations and remain in effect until further notice. To further increase the safety of Panda Express employees and customers, contactless service will be rolled out at all locations. Each Panda Express will have designated areas for walk-up ordering and separate designated areas for pick-up.

As we collectively push through this trying time, it’s not only important to maintain a healthy outlook, but also a healthy appetite. You can order Panda Express’ famous orange chicken here.

Categories
Celebrity Grub Culture Feel Good News

Celebrity Chef Jose Andrés Says Doctors And Nurses Will Eat Free At His Restaurants For A Year

Chef Jose Andres is no stranger to philanthropic efforts centered around his love for food and community through his charity World Central Kitchen, as evidenced by the massive contributions he’s made during this COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it be turning the Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium into a community kitchen to feed thousands or jumping on board the quarantined Grand Princess cruise ship to feed its guests and crew, Andres has been an active force of good that’s become a regular highlight during the coronavirus news cycle.

In his on-going efforts of doing good through food, Andres has promised in a recent tweet that doctors and nurses will eat for free at his restaurants for the rest of the year.

My mom and dad, and uncle, and godmother were nurses, doctors, pharmacist! When I reopen my restaurants, I hope I will, every active Doctor and Nurse will eat for free for the rest of the year!

We’re all just as grateful for the work that medical workers and other frontline staff have been putting in during this turbulent pandemic, and for Andres to show his gratitude in such a way is to be commended — especially since most of his restaurants are high-ticket, fine dining, one-of-a-kind gastronomic experiences.

This gesture is but another in a long line of positivity and service that the lauded celebrity chef has displayed in his career, and we’re sure that Jose Andres’ generosity will continue on.

Feature photo: Geoff Livingston