I recently came across a smartly written essay about food and music in the Washington Post. True, the article’s author, Chris Richards, posits and then attempts to answer a rather pointless question: Is food now more popular than rock music?
Rockin’ a Bruxie! A writer wonders whether food has replaced rock music as a major preoccupation of young people.
Yet in making his argument Richards provides an intriguing and creative array of evidence. Some of it, admittedly, is difficult to refute. Consider this data, for instance:
According to analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent consumer expenditure survey, the amount of annual income that Americans younger than 25 spent dining out increased nearly 26 percent between 2000 and 2011. For ages 25 to 34, the increase was nearly 20 percent. (That’s without adjusting for inflation.)
Today’s recording industry, on the other hand, is beleaguered:
As for the record industry, it has spent the 21st century in a protracted sequence of death spasms. In 2000, in the fleeting moments before online file sharing would run rampant, album sales stood at more than 785 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In 2012, that number had dropped to less than half at 316 million.
What rock and food have to do with each other, exactly, is anyone’s guess. To be sure, they are tenuously linked. We all have to eat, and rock music nearly always surrounds us whenever we do.
Still, Richards admits it’s tricky to draw a hard conclusion about whether one is more popular than the other. Nonetheless, he adds, “It still feels like cuisine is stealing music’s role in helping young people forge and declare an identity.” He links, conveniently enough, to Food is the New Rock, a website featuring musicians talking about food and chefs and food critics discussing music.
Richards also offers us evidence of his thesis in the form of the Fojol Bros., a Washington, D.C.-based group describing itself as a “culinary carnival,” saying its members dress like a rock band would. He also mentions a couple chefs who once played in bands.
There is a subset of young Americans who describe themselves as foodies and, in any case, a number of Millennials who simply are curious about all sorts of things, including what they eat. And where it comes from. Some display their politics via food.
Others, hopefully, are enjoying both rock music and food. And can figure out their identity by blending both.
Posted in Food, millennials, Music, politics, sales, Trends, Uncategorized
Tagged chefs, food, recording industry, restaurants, rock music
Here’s an interesting fact: Nearly one third of the units controlled by the top 200 U.S. franchisors are outside the country. That’s 33 percent jump in only 10 years, according to DLA Piper attorney Philip F. Zeidman.
The increase doesn’t surprise Zeidman, who moderated a panel on international franchising last week at the Franchise Finance & Growth Conference in Las Vegas. “It provides a new source of revenue and increases brand value,” he said, citing research from the Rosenberg International Franchise Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Franchising abroad also provides a sense of adventure. Hold onto that thought for a minute
Yet the panelists — Which Wich founder and CEO Jeff Sinelli (pictured above) and Senior Vice President Stephen Dunn of Denny’s — cautioned against an over-eagerness to expand. Sinelli, for instance, said his company receives many calls from wealthy foreigner investors who want to “break” a country.
“They have so much money that it’s tempting,” he declared. “But I’m in this for the long haul and I want to pick the right [franchisee]. If you do that, there are no headaches.”
Sinelli said he expected to be franchising globally ten years after opening the first Which Wich in 2003. After seven years he assembled a management team to get ready and three years later began opening the first international units. Which Wich will debut in Panama, Mexico, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates later this year. Sinelli predicted in five years Which Will will boast more international units that domestic.
Denny’s has been franchising internationally for many years, giving the well-traveled Dunn a unique perspective. For example, he wouldn’t hire an international executive without examining his or her passport for country stamps. It should be brimming with them, he maintained; otherwise he couldn’t be sure the person could withstand the rigors of frequent long trips.
Zeidman asked the panelists where international franchisors are going today. Dunn replied where the middle-class is growing. He liked Jakarta, for example, recalling the “nicest malls” he’d ever seen. ”The power of spending there is energizing,” he added.
Sinelli appeared prompted, in part, by a sense of adventure. “I like the challenge of India,” he declared. “It’s the closest we have to Mars on Earth.”
“We’re one of the few industries that really cares about the totality of the bill.” – Angelo Amador, NRA vice president of labor and workforce policy
That’s the National Restaurant Association, in case you were wondering. The bill in question is Senate Bill 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.” And the NRA is a big supporter.
Yet some would suggest that support is misplaced because it could hurt American workers.
Restaurant operators agree, in general, with the Senate bill that reforms immigration policy in the U.S. in significant ways. Photo courtesy The Politic.
Meanwhile, the association praises the bi-partisan support that helped create the 844-page document, which contains three items important to restaurant employers:
– A pathway for undocumented workers and their families.
– A verification system—known as E-Verify—that provides employers with certainty regarding their legal obligations.
– Improved border security to prevent illegal border crossing.
The right-leaning trade group, along with the Republican party, has long insisted that improved border security — i.e., the U.S. – Mexican border — must be a part of reform legislation. Senate Bill 744 includes $4.5 billion for increased border security.
A vote in the Senate is likely in early summer.
Nonetheless, the once porous line has been a source of cheap (and illegal) labor for U.S. businesses, including restaurants, for the last 30 years. It should be said that operators (most, anyway) didn’t purposely hire undocumented workers who snuck into the country. That’s against the law. Instead, restaurants relied on easily altered paper documents for proof workers had entered the country legally.
Today, the Obama administration claims the border is mostly secure, citing the billions spent on border defenses and steep declines of migrant arrests. “There are 18,500 U.S. Border Patrol agents on the U.S.-Mexico border now, compared with 3,222 in 1986. Barriers have been built along nearly 700 miles. In 1986, most of the frontier was wide open,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
The immigration focus, according to some experts, should now be on the workplace — or, more accurately, the workers themselves. That’s because the reform measure provides the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants work authorization.
There’s the rub for American workers.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, about three-fourths of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. have no education beyond high school. As of the first quarter of 2013, nearly 30 percent of U.S. citizens with the same level of education or less were unemployed.
So how could giving more less-educated workers permission for legal employment help, the policy group wonders.
“Looking at the jobless numbers for the first three months of this year, it’s hard to exaggerate the disconnect between Washington politicians and the realities of the country outside the Beltway,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “With so many American citizens looking for work or dropping out of the labor market altogether, the Senate immigration bill seems to come from a different time and place altogether.”
Indeed. Restaurants may be eager to tap this newly legal labor force for dish-washing and cooking duties should reform legislation pass. But they should keep in mind they may be doing so at the expense of U.S. citizens.
Frandata CEO Darrell Johnson told a gathering of franchisors and lenders this week in Las Vegas that comparatively high franchise fees correlated with comparatively high average unit volumes among franchisees.
Johnson, however, was not prepared to make the same claim for franchisors who required comparatively lower royalties, though the data suggested as much.
Frandata’s Darrell Johnson
He discovered the higher-fee correlation after looking at bank credit documents for 100 randomly selected franchisor brands. Johnson stressed he measured revenues, not earnings or profits.
“One might infer these franchisors prepared their franchisees better, and charged for it. Maybe it was the amount of training offered But franchisors that were charging more fees had faster growth.”
Johnson was speaking at the Franchise Finance and Growth Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel this week. The two-day meeting is hosted by Franchise Times and attended by lenders, franchisors and franchisees.
Another surprising fact: Franchise fees vary significantly. Johnson conceded he thought the fees would more closely align because of “market forces.” He added that upfront costs for franchisors were largely gobbled up by development while a relativity small amount can be attributed training or site development.
These data should matter to those who lend to franchisees, Johnson maintained.
“As a lender, I care that I will get my money back. Lenders from your standpoint, then, a higher fee and higher investment level out door at day one may not be a bad deal.”
Johnson believes lower royalties lead to better franchisee performance with a caveat.
“The causal effect is less clear because it is less easily measured. Consequently, I can’t say with certainty that it equates with better performance. It’s interesting, however, to think about.”
I am curious and hopeful about tomorrow’s announcement of a new restaurant association: the National Restaurant Industry Roundtable. Members of the group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (or ROC United) are behind the new group, billing it as “an alternative” to the National Restaurant Association.
The formal announcement takes place at in Room 340 of the Cannon House Office Building, in Washington, D.C., at roughly the same time members of the NRA lobby Congress during the original association’s annual Public Affairs Conference.
Hopeful: I don’t have a problem with ROC United, which behaves like a union but so far has gained little industry traction. (Only 100 “business owners,” a press release noted, are members of NRIR.
Protesters gather to support wage gains for restaurant workers.
In fact, I rather like the idea of an association that claims to support employees instead of management. To be sure, the NRA has nothing against hourly workers. In fact, it offers them training programs and education opportunities, though via their employers.
Still, the group has always stood firmly against minimum wage hikes, which Congress inevitably passes (though not as often as liberals would like). Such staunch opposition has always struck me as unnecessary and a bit stingy.
For the record, here’s the NRA’s argument for keeping wages as low as legally possible for hourly employees:
Restaurants are a labor-intensive industry. Labor costs account for about a third of restaurant sales, pretax profit margins are around 3 to 5 percent, and profits per employee are low. Additional labor costs immediately affect an employer’s ability to maintain current jobs and hire new employees. Most employees in the restaurant industry earn in excess of the minimum wage.
The accuracy of those statements is debatable. As is the following argument (published recently in the Washington Post), which purports to debunk several minimum wage “myths.”
Think only teenagers earn the minimum wage? Analysis of minimum-wage workers shows that, at most, 20 percent are teenagers, about 50 percent are full-time employees and about 60 percent are women. The vast majority have household earnings below the median, which was$50,054 in 2011. Those working full-time for minimum wage earn about $15,000 per year.
Curious: I’m betting that ROC United won’t find the middle ground on the wage issue, either. My evidence? Pick up Co-Director Saru Jayaraman’s book Behind the Kitchen Door, or watch her on this clip slam management in an interview with Bill Maher. She gives no ground as she ticks off the industry’s sins.
Perhaps the most telling evidence, however, is what happens after the aforementioned announcement; Jayaraman and others ROC United officials plan to meet with Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Donna F. Edwards (D-MD). The representatives are the sponsors, respectively, of the recently introduced Fair Minimum Wage Act and WAGES Act.
Come on, folks. At least attempt to convince legislators who don’t currently support your cause to think about joining you. That’s called traction.
Posted in Conferences, economy, Employees, employment, hourly workers, labor, National Restaurant Association, ROC United, unemployment, unions, wages
RTS Partners Dee Pettit, Andy Simpson and Chef Andrew Sullivan recently undertook a pilot project for client Fox & Hounds Bar and Grill, an 80-unit casual-dining chain headquartered in Wichita, Ks. The target market was suburban Chicago, where the company operates four units.
So far, results look good. (View a slide show of the redesign here.) A restaurant reviewer for a suburban newspaper, for instance, praised the Arlington Ill., restaurant she visited for its redesigned bar area, which encouraged mingling and customer activity.
“The bar area at the Arlington Heights location, 910 W. Dundee Road, features banks of huge TVs and a mix of booths and long communal tables. A pool area has more TVs and walls lined with sports photos along with a Golden Tee machine and oversized Jenga and Connect Four games.”
Part of their project was to offer guests a more sensory experience. The restaurant’s layout, comprised of several rooms, allowed the to do that effectively. By adding large scale games, for example, guests who didn’t want to remain in the bar could gravitate to other rooms to socialize.
Speaking of the bar, Pettit and Simpson’s assessment revealed that it needed updating. “The company hadn’t evolved its bar scene in awhile,” says Dee, a veteran restaurant designer. “It was all about guys, without a place to socialize.” No longer.
“New menus and décor have already launched in Schaumburg, Bloomingdale and Arlington Heights, focusing on fresh foods, local beers and entertainment meant to make it a place anyone can hang out.”
But perhaps most importantly the menu was revised — again, to boost the sensory elements. RTS Partner Andrew Sullivan improved flavor and texture, of course, but he also carefully ramped up food presentation. Not surprisingly, it caught the eye of the reviewer.
“[The Ultimate Burger is] nicely presented with giant onion rings topping the knife stuck through the sandwich and a side of hot fluffy fries in a metal cup.”
Says Sullivan: “The restaurants [in the pilot] have taken bar food to a higher level.”
Once again a local government steps in to prevent free enterprise from happening (see our previous post). This time it’s Eastchester, N.Y., a small town in Westchester County. Some 32,00 people (88 percent of them white) reside in the 5 square mile area.
Not wanted in Eastchester, N.Y.
Last month, the town amended its zoning code to prevent new development of any fast-casual restaurant brand that has more than 15 units. The reason isn’t unhealthy menus; fast-casual restaurants, if not paragons of healthful eating, certainly are venues where such meals exist.
Instead, the main compliant was design: The restaurants look the same everywhere you go — as town Supervisor Anthony Colavita gripes to sympathetic hosts on a local morning TV show:
“Generally speaking, you have a corporate driven architecture, milled décor and a plastic bubble menu. It generates a lot of noise, excessive pedestrian and vehicular traffic and diminishes the character of a community.”
The show’s hosts don’t bother to wonder if such places — Panera Bread, among them — also generate taxes and jobs (though one confesses he eats at fast-food restaurants regularly).
The local newspaper, meanwhile, polled readers about the decision and discovered it was popular with a majority of Eastchester’s residents. OK . . . the amended zoning issue is democracy at work, we guess, since Colavita is likely an elected official and therefore representing constituents.
But we rather like the newspaper’s cheeky commenter who chided the Town Supervisor, declaring: ”You cannot compare Eatchester [sic] to Bronxville Scarsdale, Rye or any other town. 2 gas stations, a hundred Italian restaurants, a thousand hair salons and ten bakeries. Nice job Colavita. A McDonald’s might add some charm actually.”
We’re not sure about that. But I bet adding jobs and tax revenue would be an improvement.
Food trucks vs. restaurants. Bam! Pow! Smack!
Do I need to rehash the argument for tightly regulating food trucks in restaurant-dense areas? Or would you rather I repeat the argument that food trucks, a part of our cherished free enterprise system, should be allowed to compete for customers wherever they damn please?
The conservative-leaning Washington Examiner landed on the side of food trucks recently, hammering Washington, D.C.’s proposed rules governing where the trucks can do business. District Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration, via the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, wants to severely limit where the trucks can park using an “arbitrary lottery system” — therefore protecting brick-and-mortar operators, the paper charges.
“D.C.’s restaurant lobbyists, along with many local politicians and bureaucrats, seem to think the government’s job is to save the delis and diners, bistros and brasseries from the scourge of falafel trucks, barbecue buses and weenie wagons,” writes senior political columnist Tim Carney.
A map showing where in Washington, D.C., food trucks will be allowed to park if the city’s controversial rules are adopted later this month. Courtesy of the DC Food Truck Association.
According to Carney:
The rules would designate a few food truck parking spots around prime locations such as George Washington University, Farragut Square and the Verizon Center. These spots would be awarded by lottery once a month to a handful of trucks, and all other trucks would be prohibited from coming within 500 feet of these zones. The proposed regs would also prohibit trucks from parking anywhere that lacks 10 feet of “unobstructed sidewalk.”
Yikes, isn’t that an example of government favoring one type of competitor over another? What makes a restaurant with a dining room more important to a city (and its diners) than a food truck?
Carney also cites strong-arm tactics elsewhere:
Other cities are even more brazen in their restaurant protectionism. Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney — who owns a chain of restaurants — demanded a food truck law that “protects brick-and-mortar restaurants,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Tunney is the former chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association, which has led the fight to restrict food trucks.
For the record, Tunney operates four Ann Sather restaurants.
There is one argument favoring the clampdown on food trucks. Food trucks do not pay property taxes like bricks-and-mortar operators from whom they take business (and therefore potential tax revenue).
Arguably, that’s patently unfair.
But so is a politically driven solution that gives a few food trucks the right (by way of a lottery) to do business in lucrative areas while banishing others to less attractive venues.