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#foodbeast Culture FOODBEAST Opinion Restaurants The Katchup

5 New Things You’ll See At Buffets As They Re-Open

The bounty of a buffet has always been the crux of its appeal: all-you-can-eat, get your money’s worth, it’s the American way. Whether it be the high end flourish of a Las Vegas buffet or the comforts of a local Hometown Buffet or Golden Corral, folks have always used the linchpin of a seemingly unending feast to maximize their dining experience. Yet 2020’s pandemic has crippled the restaurant industry, and with the restrictive nature of the new norms, the buffet concept has fallen victim to it.

With social distancing and forcibly limited dining capacities being implemented as the U.S. slowly reopens different segments of business, the future that buffets face has been bleak. Dwindling interest among millennials pre-pandemic already had buffets trying to steer themselves into relevancy by experimenting with different models. But a covid-19 reality these days has universally constrained restaurants, forcing them to take-out and delivery options only, a pivot that doesn’t fit the model of a buffet at all, though places like Golden Corral and Old Country buffet have turned to them for their survival.

However, the challenges the pandemic has brought on buffets have been insurmountable to some, namely the company Garden Fresh Restaurants, owner of AYCE salad bar concepts Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, who recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In the latest episode of Foodbeast’s The Katchup Podcast, hosts Elie Ayrouth and Geoff Kutnick, along with myself, wax poetic and eulogize just how much Souplantation meant to them, while also exploring the immediately unfortunate prospects buffets have post-pandemic.

Though Souplantaion and Sweet Tomatoes did not decide to give it a go at pivoting to new business models to keep afloat, other buffets have turned to such alternatives, all with varying results. The following are a number of adjustments they’ve done just to survive. Which begs the question: Would Garden Fresh Restaurants have been able to stick around if they tried to maneuver with the times as well?

Cafeteria-Style

Big buffet chain, Golden Corral, has been slowly reopening locations across the country with a new cafeteria-style service model. So think restaurant employees directly serving diners menu items at what otherwise would have been various buffet stations. Also, stanchions are set up as a perimeter around buffet areas, with floor markers indicating where customers can stand safely away from one another. This model also eliminates the prospect of multiple diners touching utensils at once.

Take-Out

Take-out has been the new standard these past couple of months for restaurants to survive. A reliance on third-party delivery apps and their exorbitant fees have proved to be difficult for restaurants to deal with, yet has been enough to keep them afloat, a conundrum in itself that’s brought on separate ethical discussions on the business practices of these apps. Curbside pick-up has also been a helpful option for diners to enjoy their offerings through modified menus designed to coincide with the efficiency of the pick-up.

Family-Style

In this service model, servers treat customers to an “endless buffet” from a selection of menu items. What immediately comes to mind to compare to this would be Brazilian steakhouses, also known as churrascarrias, such as Fogo De Chao, who serve a constant of meats until the diner indicates to stop via a red coaster flipped up. Turning it over to the green side tells servers that they’re welcome to offer more meats to the customer.

Different Payment Options

Before the pandemic, Golden Corral tried to address the waning interest millenials had in buffets by dabbling with different pay systems, namely dropping the pay-one-price model. Further, it was being tested where customers pay at their table, while also being offered three buffet options: soup and salad only, a single trip to the food bar, or unlimited trips. Could experimenting with different pay systems work even better in post-pandemic dining?

Stay As-Is

Fifteen locations of Golden Corral have opted to stick with the old service model. They plan on adhering to the traditional buffet format with an implementation of rigorous cleaning standards and other precautions such as adding hand sanitizing stations and checking diners’ temperatures before being seated. It’s worth noting that 12 of the 15 locations sticking to the original buffet model are in Florida.

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Features Opinion

Our Eating Habits May Never Be The Same After The Pandemic

As self-quarantining has led many of us to do awful things to keep busy, I found myself watching TMZ the other night.

It wasn’t all bad though, as chef Giada DeLaurentiis was interviewed and gave some interesting food-based insight on the current global pandemic.

“I think our whole life is going to change. Instead of complicating food, we’re going to stick to the basics,” Giada told TMZ. “I think you’re going to start to realize that certain ingredients can be used in many many different ways.”

Which is interesting, because with the way aggressive shoppers have made certain foods scarce, those who are trying to cook at home, probably have to get creative and work with what they have available.

With groceries going like crazy, it’s a little hard to dig into a cookbook right now and try to use all of Gordon Ramsay’s 17 ingredients to cook a beef wellington.

With that in mind, DeLaurentiis has even simplified her own recipes for the public. Fully knowing that ingredients are a luxury at the moment, she said on Instagram Tuesday:

“Adapted a lot of my recipes on @thegiadzy to use pantry ingredients & omit ingredients that are hard to find in grocery stores right now. I hope it’s helpful for everyone staying in & cooking at home.”

We’ve already seen this unfold, as people have been using what they have or what they can snag at the store, leading to things such as makeshift French onion soup ramen, low effort banana bread, and microwave risotto.


While off-the-cuff recipes are being done out of necessity of the moment, it’s fair to predict that home cooking could be the new norm, as the way we eat out will be changed.

The combination of both restaurant closures and budgeted spending from consumers after extended work stoppages could very well mean that eating out will become a luxury.

Jonathan Maze, Editor-in-Chief at Restaurant Business Magazine pointed out some of the post-quarantine struggles saying:

“Once this things clears up, we’re probably going to be in an economic recession, and it’s going to be a while before the economy recovers from that. Then you get into a situation where people are really cutting back.”

Record-setting claims for unemployment have been filing in, as business closures have forced a lot of layoffs.

In the restaurant industry alone, the current business shutdown regulations could affect an estimated 5 to 7 million employees over a three month span, according to the National Restaurant Association.

And even as restaurants try to rebuild in the aftermath, Maze added that they will now have to worry about rehiring its employees, assuming they haven’t found a job somewhere else. On top of that, bringing customers back and letting them know they are open again will be a process that could add another couple months as they try to get back in the flow of things.

We can only hope our favorite restaurants can get through this, and as much as we might want to keep patronizing them, our own personal financial situations will ultimately dictate that. So there’s a chance you’ll want to get used to cooking at home, and getting creative, as that could be the new norm.

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Restaurants Sustainability

Is Food Delivery Sustainable During A Recession?

Everyone’s home. Everyone’s either cooking or ordering takeout. This is the reality we’re living in thanks to the infectious disease known as the coronavirus.

In a recent episode of the Foodbeast Katchup podcast, host Geoffrey Kutnick and Foodbeast managing editor, Reach Guinto, had a conversation with the editor-in-chief of Restaurant Business Magazine Jonathan Maze about the state of food and restaurants during the time of Covid-19.

With people essentially ordered to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus, Kutnick posed the question, “What is the value of these delivery apps?”

“Delivery is a lot of what restaurants have,” Maze said speaking to the current state of restaurants during this “stay at home” mandate. “They don’t have anything besides delivery and take-out. So they’re going to have to survive on it. For delivery apps, this is their time to shine — their ability to continue to serve a lot more customers to get a much greater share. To get consumers onto their platform, it’s going to be really important for them.”

Maze, however, voiced a concern for delivery services in the months and even years ahead.

“I tend to have a longterm concern with delivery apps overall, simply because I think it’s expensive,” he said. “When I’ve gone to delivery and I’ve compared to what it would cost if I just went and ordered at the restaurant directly rather than through one of the third-party apps, especially if you’re not a jerk and you tip them.”

You’re going to spend a 70-75% premium on that order, if not more. That’s expensive.

Maze says when everything clears up, we’re going to be in a recession, and it’s going to be a while before the economy recovers from that.

“You get into a situation where people are really cutting back. Are they going to spend that kind of premium when they’re cutting back and everything? That’s a legitimate question down the line.”

Maze isn’t alone in this belief. Trevor Broomstra, director of AlixPartners restaurants and hospitality services told CNBC that restaurants should be wary of leaning too heavily on delivery sales. The December 2019 article hauntingly mentions that if the economy were to slow down, consumers would have less disposable income to spend on delivery fees.

In the short term, however, Maze says it’s a certainly benefit. Delivery apps will definitely play a role and restaurants need them. Especially in the immediate weeks to come.

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The Katchup

Nipsey Hussle Elevated Mr. Fries Man From ‘French Fry Dealer’ to LA Legend

Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast: “#111: Hip Hop’s French Fry Dealer w/Mr. Fries Man,” out now on Spotify, the Apple Podcasts App, and all major platforms where podcasts are heard.

While French fries can often be an afterthought, or just a complementary side, this man has made them the main course, with the help of the hip-hop community.

Craig Batiste, founder of Mr. Fries Man in Gardena, California has a unique come-up story, going from low key selling his fully-loaded fries in random parking lots, to getting a brick-and-mortar open.

How exactly do you sell surf and turf garlic fries in a parking lot? Well, Batiste steadily posted on his Instagram account, not knowing if anyone would actually see his photos. To his surprise, people were intrigued enough to try his fries, called into the Google number he had listed, and put in orders.

Turns out, when Batiste gave his customers an address, a lot thought they were being directed to a restaurant.

Nope.

Instead, Batiste would pull up to a donut shop parking lot with homemade fries, ready for the exchange. As you can imagine, this looked sketchy as hell, and the donut shop asked him to put an end to his fry dealing.

That forced Batiste to look for other parking lots to continue serving his fans, and making his deliveries.

As word of mouth spread and his clientele grew, Batiste’s life changed once the west coast hip-hop community started hearing of his underground fry sales.

 

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It started with longtime west coast hip-hop legend, The Game.

“My boy Lil E called me… he hit me up and said, ‘Look, bro. The game wants some fries,'” Batiste recalled on the Foodbeast Katchup Podcast. “I’m like, ‘You playin’ bro.'”

While Batiste thought it was a joke, the rapper himself gave him a call, and personally requested that he deliver some fries to The Game’s recording studio.

That was Mr. Fries Man’s first big customer, as word continued to spread about his famous lemon garlic-topped fries.

The next big rap name really helped Batiste take off, as the late, great Nipsey Hussle wanted in on these parking lot fries.

As Hussle himself put in the call, Batiste again thought he was being pranked.

“I was like, why’s somebody on the phone? Somebody named Nipsey?” Batiste said.

It really was the Crenshaw rapper, as fellow west coast emcee Jay Rock made the pick up of the fries for him.

That’s when Batiste’s life really changed. Hussle showed support in one of the most meaningful ways possible by posting a photo of his French fry dinner to his Instagram account, and giving credit to the man who made them.

When a celebrity genuinely posts about your business, things change.

Batiste got a 3 a.m. call after Hussle posted his late-night foodie adventure, and Mr. Fries Man’s following grew tenfold.

That is when he had to start creating appointment spots for his fry deliveries, and eventually sharing a building space to sell out of.

 

In 2017, Batiste fully took over that shop, and Mr. Fries Man has had a legitimate restaurant location for almost three years now.

Gone are the days of sneaking around from parking lot to parking lot, spending endless hours in his home kitchen, and struggling to pay those monthly bills. For Batiste, becoming official tastes just as good as fries.

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Hit-Or-Miss

The Sugary Prison Pie That Inmates Make Behind Bars

Photo by Peter Pham/Foodbeast

Quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast, now on Spotify and the Apple Podcasts App.

A pie that’s completely made with snacks, may or may not sound like the most appealing dessert, and definitely won’t be served at any 5-star restaurant, but we have been told that “Peckerwood Pies” are all the rage — at least in prison.

The term “peckerwood” was once used as a slur for white people, as the Anti-Defamation League explained the term originated with Southern blacks, covertly using it to describe rural southern white folks. It eventually became a term that was primarily used in prisons, which explains why you’ll hear it casually thrown around in prison-based shows or movies.

 

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Entrepreneur and ex-con Andrew Medal, whose “Don’t Drop the Soap,” book is filled with insights on life behind bars, brought the vulgar word to our attention through something called a “Peckerwood Pie.”

Yes, that’s what the recipe is actually called, and it is actually revered, according to Medal.

Further expanding on these prison terms, Medal jumped on the Foodbeast Katchup podcast, sharing his story as an entrepreneur-turned-ex-con-turned-entrepreneur again.

His comments on prison diets and recipes were pretty mind-blowing, and he expanded on the popularity of the “Peckerwood Pie,” in particular.

While the pie’s origins aren’t exactly something you can just find at your local library, we can imagine it was started by the prison-based gang of the same name.

Medal described “Peckerwoods” as a prison-based gang, originally formed as a subset of the Aryan Brotherhood, which is already terrifying in itself.

Maybe just as terrifying, is the amount of sugary foods that go into making this thing.

Either way, the pie has become a staple for inmates, and doesn’t seem to be exclusive to any one prison demographic, at least according to Medal (who also explained that he never cliqued up with any gangs while behind bars).

We’d like to think there might be some pushback on the name’s usage, but these are Medal’s truths and personal experience.

“Peckerwood Pie… from county to prison, everyone loves this recipe,” Medal explained. “You go bananas for Peckerwood Pie.”

Medal continued on how he basically lived off food from the commissary, which was like a prison Walmart for those who could afford it. For the commissary, money is put on an inmates name by friends and family, and they are allowed to use that money to purchase food, clothes, and everyday items.

“State inmates are allowed to put what’s called ‘Money on their books.” He continued, “… usually once a week, inmates are allowed to order commissary.”

Through snacks in the commissary, the “Peckerwood Pie” is produced within cells across the US, as well as other recipes that Medal provides in his book.

Medal said there are several iterations of the pie, but the general idea of it is simple: build a carb foundation, typically with Honey Buns, then stack it with even more snacks.

His official recipe consists of 2 large cookies, 2 glazed Honey Buns, 1 brownie, 1 Butterfinger bar, 1 chocolate pudding pouch, 1 pouch of peanut butter and jelly, and a bag of peanuts. During the podcast he added that he likes to mix in Oreos and Pop-Tarts, as well.

From there, Medal would use the Honey Buns as the bottom base, and sandwich the brownie between the two cookies, just before smashing everything together and getting it as flat as you can. He’d then add the creamier elements such as the pudding and peanut butter and jelly. The last step is just sprinkling pieces of crushed Butterfinger and peanuts atop for an extra layer of crunch.

Video proof that we’re not making this stuff up.

Medal went on to say that these pies are generally constructed on a cell’s floors, with brown paper bags serving as a makeshift table.

In his book, he adds that it is common for the Peckerwood Pie to be enjoyed on birthdays and to celebrate release dates, because prisoners are still human and not just trying to kill each other all the time like we see on TV.

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a prison recipe for yourself, it doesn’t get much easier than the Peckerwood Pie. It has the perfect balance of sketchy origins, and childish exuberance of smashing together a bunch of snacks.

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News The Katchup

Foodbeast CEO Boycotts Food Delivery Apps Amid Controversies

 

Quotes used in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast episode “#87: Snoop Dogg Headlining A Noodle Festival.”

After a heated podcast discussion involving food delivery apps, and their continuous questionable practices over the years, Foodbeast CEO and The Katchup co-host Geoffrey Kutnick vowed to boycott all food delivery apps.

A lot of the conversation was centered around the recent news of food delivery apps such as Door Dash using its driver’s tips to cover a promised base pay, instead of adding on top of it, as most tipping systems usually do.

“I’m not going to use delivery service apps,” Kutnick proclaimed. “I’ll take a stand right here. I do not like what’s happening. And the only way I can contribute to ‘I don’t like that,’ is ‘Cool, I won’t use it.'”

While DoorDash CEO Tony Xu promised to make changes to its pay model, the controversy might still haunt them for a little while, as a class action lawsuit has been filed against DoorDash, with it reading:

“DoorDash financed its growth by taking tips paid by its users and meant for hard-working delivery workers. Mr. Arkin and all other class members that used DoorDash should recover, at a minimum, all tips that were never paid to the delivery workers.”

While DoorDash has been the company under fire of late, the other digital food delivery services don’t exactly get a pass, as the podcast episode also delved into a past lawsuit accusing Postmates’ delivering In-N-Out without the restaurant’s consent, Grubhub’s alleged tactic of creating tens of thousands of restaurant websites without consent, and how all these apps prey on cash-strapped people with promises of high payouts.

Only time will tell where the future of these delivery services goes from here. From the possibility of self-driving cars taking over to threats of workers unionizing, it’s an interesting wrinkle in the industry that is having its bumps at the moment.

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Hit-Or-Miss

Coolhaus Ice Cream Plans To Release A Chocolate Taquito

“We’re working on re-inventing the Choco Taco — as a taquito.”

Once those very words were said by Coolhaus Ice Cream co-founder and CEO Natasha Case while on the latest The Katchup podcast, they became a magnet for intrigue, as evidenced by co-host Geoffrey Kutnick’s half incredulous, half excited tone when he asked, “When is the choco-taquito coming out?”

“2021,” replied Case. “We already have our innovation launching for 2020. So we have to work so far in advance of timelines because of grocery stores.”

It’s a wild concept to envision, really, reimagining a Mexican favorite as a chocolatey ice cream concoction. However that may turn out on Coolhaus’ end once the product releases remains to be seen. But that doesn’t stop us from dreaming about it until then. In fact, below is our own Foodbeast interpretation of what we think this Coolhaus chocolate taquito ice cream could be.

CoolHaus Ice Cream_Chocolate Taquito_render

Art: Sam Brosnan

As you can see in the artist rendering above, we envision a waffle cone shell rolled, filled with ice cream, and finished with a healthy layer of chocolate. Coolhaus’ version may very well be something that looks nothing like this. But one thing we are confident in is their ability to innovate well.

“So you’re just trying to reinvent the ice cream category,” observed co-host Elie Ayrouth.

“Yes, yes, yes… I want to reinvent — especially novelties, there’s so much to do. We’re gonna just grow this brand to be the household brand of our generation.”

Such dedication to product innovation and the confidence to execute it, along with a unique vision that Natasha Case encapsulated on The Katchup podcast episode, makes us look forward even more to the final result of the Coolhaus choco-taquito.

“2021, it’ll come faster than you think,” assured Case.

We’re crossing our fingers in anticipation until then.

Categories
Culture Features The Katchup

Six Odd Ways Food Has Shaped The Modern NBA

“I’m always looking for a good story and am always looking for a way to build connections with readers and athletes. The culinary world and food, it’s one of the few things that makes us all human,” shared ESPN Senior NBA Writer, Baxter Holmes, on a recent visit to Foodbeast’s The Katchup podcast.

Holmes has been the writer behind some of the most intriguing stories in the NBA that just so happen to be food-related, uncovering fascinating anecdotes the likes of the NBA’s obsession with peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and even how San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich used extravagant dinners to build the team’s enviable camaraderie.

A hot-button discussion that strikes a chord with foodies and basketball fans alike, the following are a quick rundown of some of these compelling NBA food tales as told by Baxter Holmes.

 

KOBE’S BONE BROTH

According to Holmes, the very first food-related NBA story he wrote was on Kobe Bryant’s special bone broth that he would have before games in the latter stages of his legendary career. “I remember talking to [the Lakers’] strength and conditioning coach about everything it takes to get Kobe up and running, because he was older in his career and had a lot of injuries.” That coach mentioned that they made sure the Black Mamba got his soup of specially made bone broth before games, since the collagen in it was optimal for joint health. “They would contact hotels ahead of time to make sure hey had all the right ingredients, and [Kobe] liked it in different ways.” Father Time stays undefeated, folks.

 

DWIGHT HOWARD’S SUGAR ADDICTION

“He was consuming so much sugar everyday. His hands were tingling because of it and he was having a hard time catching a ball.” In 2013, Dwight Howard was dealing with a serious addiction to sugar, as Holmes revealed in one story that the big man was consuming 24 chocolate bars’ worth of sugar every day — for more than a decade. It all came to a freighting head when Howard started experiencing pre-diabetic symptoms, which thankfully was a wake up call to change his diet immediately.

 

THE LEAGUE’S ODD OBSESSION WITH PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY SANDWICHES

“I would see peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in every locker room before games and I would see them in training facilities.” This James Beard-Award winning Holmes article was a fascinating glimpse into the NBA’s secret addiction to the classic and humble sandwich. Why? Well, simply put, it’s comfort food. No hidden benefits to recovery, no special potency to aid in performance — all they wanted was a soothing memory from childhood. Kevin Garnett had to have strawberry jelly, while Damian Lillard preferred his toasted.

 

EXTRAVAGANT TEAM DINNERS THE KEY TO SAN ANTONIO SPURS’ SUCCESS

“He’s been into wine and food for a long time, like 50 years. And he’s been doing this with the Spurs for like 20 years.” One of Holmes’ more recent stories was an extensive revelation on how San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, with the help of his extensive knowledge of wine and food, used extravagant, Michelin-star caliber wining and dining to build camaraderie within the organization. The close-knit team culture created as a result of these dinners has translated to multiple championships and an organization-wide togetherness that’s become the envy of the entire sports world, and not just the NBA exclusively. Holmes explains, “The amount of people who were involved with the Spurs, still involved with the Spurs, they described these experiences as the backbone of the camaraderie that you would see on the court.”

 

STEVE KERR USED CHARCUTERIE BOARD TO HELP REVOLUTIONIZE BASKETBALL

“Using cranberries and Marcona almonds, Kerr was like ‘Here’s how we want to function.'” When Steve Kerr first came on board as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, he envisioned a potent offense, but hadn’t really constructed and schemed it out yet. At an airport bar, a bartender asked the new coach how the offense would run. Kerr, working with what was immediately available to him, used elements of the charcuterie board he had ordered to illustrate how players would function within his system. Four years and three championships later, the Golden State Warriors have cemented the capability of their high-octane offense predicated on ball and player movement and three-pointers galore — all of which have shaped how the modern NBA game is played today.

 

THE PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS COMBAT THEIR BRUTAL TRAVEL SCHEDULE BY BEING COFFEE SNOBS

I think it’s safe to say that the Portland Trailblazers are coffee snobs. Nevermind the Portlandian factor, but the team’s penchant for quality coffee was documented by Holmes as a way to keep the players fresh and alert. We’re talking the team’s training and performance staff grinding beans and brewing fancy French press coffee right before the start of the game. And with the Blazers having to travel more miles over the course of a season than any other team in American professional sports, it’s understandable that their sports performance specialists become baristas right before tip-off. “They’re traveling 250 miles a day. Imagine if every single day you flew from New York to Pittsburgh — for eight months,” illustrated Holmes.