Annual Financial Budgeting (Budget, Don’t Fudge It)

The end of the year is always a great chance to look back and reflect on what had happened—and also look ahead to the New Year.  Budgeting is a significant, but often over-looked, step in managing a business.  We’ve assembled the following framework to assist operators with the budgeting process.  The framework consists of three components: reviewing, forecasting, and implementing.


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Bottle & Bine Opens in Midtown

Atlantic Halibut 2-1.jpgThe much-anticipated New American restaurant Bottle & Bine opened last week on second avenue, and so far the reviews have been positive – lauding the female trio responsible for their original menu and strong craft beer and wine lists.

That trio includes chef Angie Berry, formerly of Asiate at The Mandarin Oriental, sommelier Gina Goyette (The Mark Restaurant by Jean Georges) and beer director Carolyn Pincus (Stag’s Head). Berry’s menu ranges from traditional French to southern, with dishes like Game Bird Terrine with foie gras and quince and Wagyu steak with sunchoke, coffee and mushrooms. Goyette’s wine list emphasizes local wine producers over traditional European selections, and there is a rotating selection of craft beers on 16 taps selected by Pincus. As indicated by the restaurant’s name (bine refers to a creeping plant like hops), both Goyette and Pincus get equal billing next to Berry’s dishes, and both bars in the multi-level space are sure to get plenty of use.

To read more, click here.

Eat Less “Healthy” Food in 2016

As the last days of December wind to a close, many people will be finalizing their lists of new year’s resolutions. And while it is always a good idea to renew your commitment to your health, family, friends and environment, you might want to rethink any resolutions to “eat healthy.”

Researchers from he University of Texas recently published an article in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Affairs asserting that when foods are labeled “healthy,” people tend to perceive them as less filling, and eat more as a result. Of course, eating a large volume of kale and quinoa salad is certainly better than eating a large volume of sugary treats, and the researchers don’t recommend ignoring nutritional information. The danger is that many foods can be marketed as healthy in ways that fool the brain into thinking we should eat more than necessary. Labeling like “all natural” and “low fat” are common examples. So this new year, remember to take health claims with a grain of salt – especially when you’re browsing the “low sodium” section.

To read more, click here.

Whole Foods Agrees to Pay $500,000 Settlement

Whole Foods recently agreed to pay $500,000 to settle allegations that they have been routinely overcharging customers by mislabeling the weight of food sold. The suit, brought by the city of New York, originally sought $1.5 million in damages, but Whole Foods refused this amount outright. According to spokesman Michael Silverman, they eventually agreed to pay 1/3 of that in order to “put this issue behind us.”

Whole Foods’ CEOs John Mackey and Walter Robb claim that their weighing system is no different from any other super markets, and that the mislabeled foods represent a tiny fraction of overall sales. But the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs called it one of the “worst cases they have seen,” and some of the products sampled were overpriced by as much as $15.

The final price tag for the settlement might seem expensive, but the standard fine for falsely labeling a package is as much as $950 for the first violation and up to $1,700 for a subsequent violation. Given that their violations seem to number in the thousands, it appears Whole Foods got off lightly.

To read more, click here.

New Year’s in Times Square Can Cost You $1,700


All over the city, “open bar” is the name of the game on New Year’s Eve. It makes sense: on the biggest party night of the year, bars and restaurants want you to commit to staying there. And since many people will overestimate their alcohol tolerance and underestimate the lines (or forget that tips are not included), an open bar can feel like a great deal.

There are certainly some reasonably priced covers scattered around the city, but you would be hard pressed to find them near Times Square this year. There, major chains are getting in on the action by charging triple figure covers for an all inclusive night with dinner, drinks and a (usually obscured) view of the ball drop. Olive Garden’s New Year’s dinner buffet and bar will cost you $400 a head, Bubba Gump Shrimp is $799, and Ruby Tuesday goes up to $1699 for the exclusive “couple’s table.” Maybe people got word that the recession is over – Bubba Gump Shrimp has sold out at least, according to their website.

To read more, click here.

Partying like it’s Against the Law


We may have finally hit peak-trend with ’20s era speakeasy bars and secret watering holes, now that the relatively well known (if still ostensibly “secret”) bar Angel’s Share has it’s own secret offshoot. But the fun of places like these, which reward a little internet research or in-crowd know-how with great drinks and exclusivity, is undeniable. We may not see as many pop up in 2016, but it doesn’t seem like they’ll be disappearing too quickly either.

The question is, with all these prohibition era bars around offering nightlife Gatsby would approve of, what do you do for the biggest party night of the year? Many of these bars simply do what they do best on New Years Eve: offer great cocktails and an opulent setting, and wait for those in-the-know to show up (and avoid the $100+ cover at many other places). Some offer even grander celebrations, like the Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel (which you may know of as the setting of the nightlife experience that is Sleep No More). They’ll be hosting a Winter Masquerade this year with a  number of ticket options for those looking to go all in. Sleep No More‘s sister performance, the incredibly opulent Queen of the Night, likewise has a special New Year’s party which promises to (somehow) be even bigger than their usual performances. Excess is what these options offer, and they aren’t for the faint of heart. But is there any better holiday to really gild the lily?

For a list of more ’20s-themed New Years celebrations, click here.

To Pre Fixe or Not to Pre Fixe

Whether your New Year’s Eve plans are already set in stone or a little more last minute, if you’re planning on dinner out on the last night of 2015, chances are good you will be at one of the hundreds of restaurants offering a special New Year’s pre fixe menu instead of their regular options. Some of these spots even go so far as to hold limited seatings – two or three set times when guests will come in and all enjoy their appetizers, entrees and desserts at the same time. Many include an optional drink pairing list and a complimentary glass of champagne (or, more likely, sparkling wine) at midnight.

There are some obvious benefits to the restaurant in offering pre fixe menus and designated seatings on busy holidays (most often New Year’s and Valentine’s day). Since most guests will be making reservations, they can easily determine exactly how much they will make that evening, and eliminate much of the guesswork of preparing. Making 50 of the same dish is always simpler than plating orders as they come in, so an otherwise chaotic night can go as smoothly as possible. Chefs often have some license to exercise creativity and get exposure for new dishes. With set seatings, hosts and service staff can worry less about guests who might be tempted to linger until the ball drops. Finally, guests are often more comfortable paying a premium for having some stress relieved and knowing their entire experience will be taken care of – including the final glass of champagne.

In many ways, those benefits spill over to guests as well, as long as they choose their restaurant carefully and make reservations early. A quick Google search reveals plenty of lists of the best pre fixe  dinners in the city, but check menus in advance and keep in mind that everything is more expensive on New Year’s. For those not willing to pay the premium or worried about feeling rushed by the seating system, it may be more useful to check out a list of the best restaurants that are serving their regular menu (Eater also has a good one). That way you can pick and choose your favorites and go all in on an open bar later in the night instead. Ultimately, the perfect New Year’s Eve looks different for everyone. Happy New Year, and happy eating!


Dani on E. 60th – one option for those looking to avoid pre fixe pitfalls



Raising Restaurant Wages is Good for Everyone, According to Cornell

As fast food workers fight for $15 an hour and New York restaurateurs experiment with new pay models (mostly by eliminating tipping), there is more and more focus on the way we pay the people who feed us every day. The National Restaurant Association has consistently fought back against minimum wage increases, arguing that they will lead to price hikes and fewer new jobs in an industry with small profit margins for new comers. But a new study out of the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration argues otherwise.

The study looked at federal and state minimum wage increases from the past two decades to see if there was any connection with job loss or the number of new restaurants opening. As far as they could tell, the increases had no such effect, although they did improve employee retention and productivity. While one study may not be enough to predict the future of restaurant industry salaries, it is good news for owners, employees and patrons in the 20 states which will be raising their minimum wages in 2016.

To read more, click here.

What does 2016 Hold for Meal Kits?

f482d9a047cffbed4fc45904bffc824992dcbc63_christmas-4.jpgMeal kits and recipe delivery services exploded in 2015, with promises of convenience and easy access to all the joys of cooking. Services like Blue Apron, Plated and Hello Fresh (all available nationally), along with a number of more local startups, offer customers customizable subscription services to bring pre-portioned ingredients to your door, along with a (hopefully) easy to follow recipe selected from the frequently updated options on their sites. Many of these companies tailor their recipes to focus on specific health concerns or responsible ingredient sourcing, with the goal of providing subscribers with all the pride of a fully home-cooked meal. One plant-based version of the model even attracted the legendary Mark Bittman to their team.

Understandably, these companies have already seen some blowback from their surge in popularity, on both the environmental side (the extra packaging used to deliver a single meal’s worth of 5 spices may not be the best thing for mother earth) to the cultural (is some part of the joy of cooking lost for the sake of convenience?) But that hasn’t stopped the venture funding from flowing in. Even if the bubble doesn’t burst, some meal kit companies may face growing pains in the coming year, as competition increases and newcomers try to expand quickly. Good Eggs, a grocery delivery service with over $50 million in funding, recently laid off nearly half their employees and closed operations in all cities but San Francisco.

One important test will be how these companies take advantage of the holiday season, and increase their reach through either gift subscriptions or holiday offerings. Most sites already sell gift cards, and some offer holiday meal kits to make party-hosting easy. Blue Apron, for example, wants you to “Host a Blue Apron Christmas!” and Atlanta-based PeachDish sold out of their Christmas dinner for four, but are offering it for New Years as well. According to their website, “You provide the champagne and we’ll provide everything else for your New Year’s Eve party!” Of course, you could always get the champagne delivered too and call it a night.

To read more, click here.

Antibiotic Use in Livestock Linked to Obesity

According to an article published by The Atlantic this week, conscientious carnivores may have a new reason to opt for antibiotic-free meat in grocery stores and restaurants. The ubiquitous use of antibiotics on livestock, which has long been linked to poor animal health, questionable farming practices, and the rise of resistant superbugs, now seems to be responsible for at least some of the obesity epidemic as well.

The Atlantic cites a growing body of scientific research pointing to the importance of intestinal flora (the “good bacteria”) in maintaining a healthy weight. These studies suggest a two-way street: obese individuals can improve their insulin resistance and overall health by receiving a balanced dose of gut bacteria, but individuals with a lower BMI may be at risk of “contracting” obesity if their intestinal biome is disrupted. And the greatest threat to that biome, especially among those who do not take antibiotics frequently themselves, is the ever-increasing use of such drugs in our farm animals.

70% of antibiotics used in the U.S. go to farm animals, and the vast majority of those are intended either to prevent infection (rather than treat it) or increase body weight. It now looks like that increase in weight could be passed along to the consumer – unless the connection becomes common knowledge, and demand pushes more and more farmers toward antibiotic-free practices.

To read more, click here.