Restaurant Letter Grade System Reform

As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is looking to eliminate letter grades for public schools, the NYC Hospitality Alliance  believed it is a good opportunity to urge City Hall to focus on the letter-grade system in restaurants. The reasoning behind removing the letter grades in public schools was that it affected reputations and could feel punitive, which is the same case for restaurants. Letter grades can be misleading for diners as they only reflect a restaurant’s sanitary condition in the period of time that they were inspected.

The point allocation is also something that the NYC Hospitality Alliance believes should be rethought so that the point values fairly reflect their impact on food safety. Another suggested reform is to eliminate points for non-food-safety-related violations as well as seeing the adjudication process  through to the end before scheduling a second inspection. Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, fully believes that the restaurant industry believes in high food-safety standards and would do a better job of upholding these standards if they were not being slapped with fines and punitive letters from a letter grade system that is in need of a reform.

To read more about how the restaurant grading system currently works and what could improve the current system, click here

NYC Restaurant Openings & Closings

New York City hasn’t seen this many restaurant openings since 2007, however, it also has had double the amount of restaurant closings compared to last year. There were 160 New York restaurant openings in 2014, and 82 closings compared to 42 last year. Tim Zagat, co-founder of the Zagat Survey explains his take on why some restaurants are failing and others are spreading, “The discrepancy between openings and closings is the largest since 2005…there are a lot of rent-caused closings that are maybe driving up the number. And that will affect in the industry in the coming years.”

Zagat goes on to explain that rents will always go up in New York City and if a restaurant has been open 10 years (it is common  there will be a large increase, which is what is happening all across the city and explains so many restaurants going out of business.  When restaurants have 10 year leases, which is fairly common, at the end of that lease landlords tend to increase the rent up to ‘market rates,’ which usually are just not feasible for the restaurant forcing them to close.

A few notable restaurants which are experiencing this phenomenon include Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe and WD-50 on the Lower East Side. Meyer comment in his New York Times Op-Ed, “It’s hard to come to grips with the notion that our success has, in part, contributed to our inability to remain in our neighborhood.” WD-50 will close end of this month to make way for a new building. To read more about the openings and closings of NYC restaurants, click here

Taste NY Expands To Promote NY State Artisan Foods

Taste NY was launched by the state of New York three years ago and aimed to market the state’s artisan food and agricultural businesses. Governor Andrew Cuomo is announcing plans to expand the program to help producers triple their sales. Deb Morris, co-founder of Barkeater (handmade gourmet chocolate company) says, “We like the trend we are seeing, we like the efforts launched by the Department of Agriculture and Markets. We haven’t seen that kind of effort before and it’s gaining a lot of momentum.”

New York-based companies are seeing the benefits from being a part of Taste NY. For example, Bobby Sue’s Nuts began as a company that aimed to raise funds for a local cause in Westchester. Founder Barb Kobren joined Taste NY and now has her snacks as one of the many in-state products for sale at Taste NY shops opened last year at LaGuardia and JFK airports. While a lot of the focus has been placed on prepared-food ventures such as chocolates and snacks, Taste NY is also focusing on fresh produce and partnering with farmers, farmer’s markets and other retails to promote the state’s fresh fruit and vegetable growers.

New York’s economic development agency recently launched a new grant program to encourage beginning farmers to get started and be successful. Grants will be issued from $15,000-$50,0000 under the New York State New Farmers Grant Fund. Morris says,“There are always certain ingredients we would love to source locally, there are some we do have here like maple and apples. And obviously there are some things that are naturally here that we would love to get at a lower price. If the farmers are getting some kind of cost benefit, that means we will too.”

To read more about the expansion of Taste NY and the benefits for New-York based farmers and companies, click here

NYC Food Film Festival

The Food Film Festival began in Brooklyn back in 2007 thanks to Festival Director and Travel Channel host George Motz. Motz is a documentary filmmaker who produced Hamburger America (film and book) with co-creator Harry Hawk. The festival will be showcasing the best documentaries, features and short films with the world’s favorite foods. The most exciting part of the film festival is that Motz and Hawk have arranged to serve the guests the food that is on the screen!

The festival will be in New York October 29-Nov 1, and will then be in Chicago Nov 20-22 and lastly in Charleston in the Spring. To see a full film lineup, click here. Pricing varies depending on the different events,ranging between $85-$115 for different parties. There is also an all access, all inclusive VIP pass to the entire festival available for purchase. To check pricing, click here.



Not My Day Job 2014

On Sunday October 26th the Epicurean Group is presenting Not My Day Job 2014, an event that celebrates art, talent and taste. The event will be held from 1PM-5PM in the Prince George Ballroom at 15 E 27th St in New York City.  The event gives hospitality professionals a platform to show off their talents outside of their “day jobs.” It will be an opportunity to watch some of New York City’s most notable restaurants showcase culinary skill and cocktail flare alongside side performances and artwork by talented NYC restaurant employees.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc), a nonprofit leadership organization founded in 2001 for the East 4th Street Cultural District. FABnyc drives community development and sustainability initiatives while preserving the rich historical heritage and creative vibes of the Lower East Side. A few restaurants participating in the event include: Mile End, The Wren, Scarpetta, Colicchio & Sons, Locanda Vini e Olii,Ward III, The Rum House, Yunnan Kitchen, Shake Shack, dell’anima, L’Artusi, L’Apicio, Anfora, The Gander, and more!

Tickets cost $60 plus a $4.29 processing fee. There is an industry perk, which is promo codes made available for restaurant staff. To register for the event, click here


Gourmet Food Hotspot in Sunset Park

The industrial loading docks of Sunset Park, Brooklyn are transforming into a hotspot for gourmet food producers. Li-Lac Chocolate and Blue Marble Ice-Cream are a few companies who lease kitchen and retail space in Industry City, so guests can come visit the factory, see how the products are made, and buy them fresh! As manufacturers seek out more affordable spaces for their production, Sunset Park seems to be the next place that will be undergoing a food revolution.

Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball says,“What’s great is there’s a real interest in understanding what you’re eating, where it’s made, what’s in it and watching it happen.” Industry City employs 2,400 people and are expecting that number to rise to nearly 15,000 by 2023; similar foodie patterns have been seen in Dumbo, Harlem and Greenpoint recently. Master chocolatier Jacques Torres also recently moved his factory to Sunset Park where the candy is all dipped and hand-made.

Liddabit Sweets recently opened on Industry City’s ground floor and co-owner Liz Gutman explains the appeal, ““We taught classes at ICE [Institute of Culinary Education] and Brooklyn Kitchen, but we never had enough space to teach our own.” Gutman plans to offer a Candy 101 class in December and a couples chocolate class in February for Valentine’s Day. The extra space also led Gutman to feel inspired to experiment with some savory items!

To read about more manufacturers leasing kitchen and retail space in Industry City, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, click here

Crumbs Bakery Is Back!

Crumbs filed for bankruptcy earlier this summer upsetting cupcake lovers across the nation. Come next Tuesday Crumbs will be reopening! A grand reopening celebration will be taking place at their 1385 Broadway location in the Garment District which has recently been repainted for the event. There are twenty five over locations including L.A, Chicago and Boston that will be having celebratory opening blowouts over the course of the next 20 days.

One of Crumbs Bakery’s new partners, TV host Marcus Lemonis, is eager for the relaunch to showcase his new bagel-croissant hybrid which is meant to encompass the “new, modern Crumbs experience.” This new fusion pastry coined “baissant” with be found in stores next to the “Crumbnut,” a reinterpretation of the Cronut. The idea of introducing these new pastry mash-ups was to diversify the product mix beyond just the scope of cupcakes. There will also be some new cupcake flavors though such as salted caramel and key lime. A few other new non-cupcake offerings will include frozen desserts, cookies, gluten-free options and Crumbs chocolate bars.

To read more about the reopening of Crumbs and it’s new product mix, click here


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