Café Henrie Launches Dinner


LES lunchtime favorite Cafe Henrie launched dinner service this week, with a beautiful menu of brightly colored, vegetable-heavy dishes like the Gypsy Salad (vegetables, chickpeas and beet tahini) and the tiger bowl (tuna, avocado and black sesame). The new menu is by Camille Becerra (formerly of Navy). Cafe Henrie is riding the wave of the (highly photographable) healthy-food-that-isn’t-health-food trend, as seen in spots like Dimes and El Rey. Their lunchtime success has allowed them to expand service to dinner.

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The Unexpected Problem With Tablet Ordering

Okay, we admit it, this may not seem like a problem to guests ordering food at a fast casual chain; but to restaurant owners who are considering switching from human servers to tablet ordering (that is, placing tablets at tables or the front of the dining area where guests can click through their order rather than speaking to a server), there’s new evidence to consider. According to a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research, guests are actually less likely to indulge in decadent food and treats when they order from a tablet instead of a person. And while this could be good news for restaurants gearing toward the health conscious (like Sweetgreen, which already handles the majority of it’s ordering through a mobile app rather than face-to-face sales), it bodes less well for establishments like bakeries, pizza places or fast food chains.

The findings are interesting because they contradict an assumption many have, that guests are more likely to indulge if they don’t feel they can be judged by a server. Instead, the research suggests guests don’t feel judged at all – they feel encouraged to treat themselves, and are less likely to control ordering impulses when speaking than clicking a button.

There are certainly other reasons to shy away from tablet ordering, especially when hospitality is the backbone of your business. But for those considering the benefits, this research is one more factor to weigh in.

To read more, click here.

Seamless Now Has Its Own Delivery Drivers in NYC

GettyImages-464182497.0.jpgSince 2014, Seamless has been quietly testing its “turnkey delivery service” – drivers and bikers whom restaurants without their own in-house delivery team can use to deliver food through the app. We say “quietly” because it’s impossible to tell through the Grubhub/Seamless interface which restaurants are using these delivery people, and which are using their own, and the company has declined to say just how many restaurants are using the service.

In the last few months, they’ve rolled out the delivery service in Brooklyn and Queens, mentioning popular spots like Mighty Quinn’ and No. 7 North as early adopters. It’s an attempt to compete in a crowded marketplace with companies like UberEats, Postmates and DoorDash, while still giving flexibility to restaurants that would like to continue using their own delivery teams. The pricing structure is similarly flexible – delivery is an added service, with an added commission charge of about 14%. Add that to their flat commission fee of around 15%, and the margins shrink fairly rapidly – although other delivery services top out at 30% already.

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Waitlisting App Nowait Introduces Bill Pay Feature

The App Nowait, which allows guests to add their name to digital waitlists at restaurants that do not take traditional reservations, is now leveraging those partnerships to introduce a mobile payment option as well. Nowait has been steadily growing for the past few years to incorporate a suite of software for restaurants and guests, including tools to manage seating and server rotation as well as reservations and waitlists. They already have  close to 4,000 restaurants on the platform, running the gamut from Chili’s to the Clinton St. Baking Company here in New York. Nowait has been downloaded by diners over 3 million times.

With the new mobile payment option (currently being tested in the company’s hometown of Pittsburg), guests can quickly pay their check at the end of the meal without flagging down a server. The app works with three of the largest POS systems (Micros, NCR, POSitouch), which covers around 85% of their targeted fast-casual market. Nowait claims that there are benefits all around – restaurants are seeing faster turnaround, and servers have seen higher tips. The latter may be due to the apps customizable suggested tip amount, which is now standard in POS systems like Square.

As more aspects of the dining experience go digital (and mobile), this market will get more crowded. Nowait has partnerships on it’s side, but they’ll have to make the experience seamless as well.

To read more, click here.

New York Approves $15 Minimum Wage

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo followed closely on the heels of California yesterday, announcing an agreement with Albany lawmakers to raise the NY State minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next few years. The increase will begin with for workers in New York City employed by large businesses (those with at least 11 employees), who will have a minimum wage of $11 at the end of 2016, and an additional $2 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2018.

The national labor rights movement has been fighting for $15 since 2012, and roughly half of the 50 states have increased their minimums somewhat (although the Federal minimum is still set at $7.25 due to congressional opposition). The final legislation in NY has not been approved, so it’s unclear how it will affect tipped workers. The tipped minimum in New York increased recently to $7.50, precipitating some of the gratuity-free movement. Additional increases would almost certainly prompt more NYC restaurants to raise prices and eliminate tipping altogether.

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The Yelp Underpaid-Employee Saga Continues

140245452.jpgThis weekend a (now former) Yelp employee, Talia Jane, wrote an open letter to her employers revealing the financial struggles brought on by her low paycheck, and criticizing the irony of the company spending millions on a food delivery app while employees “can’t afford to buy food.” The post was widely shared, and Jane was subsequently let go – a move which, predictably, Yelp Human Resources claims was not caused by the letter but which Jane herself says was a direct result.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has since taken to Twitter to acknowledge Jane’s point that the cost of living in San Francisco is much to high, but skirt around her direct attacks. Both Stoppelman and other spokespeople have mentioned expanded entry level employment in areas where the cost of living is cheaper.

It’s likely that this event will blow over without too great of an effect on Yelp’s sales or stocks. But the viral nature of the original post reveals a distrust for the large companies like Yelp and Seamless which increasingly act as middlemen between restaurants and their guests.

To read more, click here.

Danny Meyer’s War on Airplane Food

18DELTA1-master675.jpgAlthough it seems unlikely that airline food will overcome it’s reputation any time soon, the partnership between Delta and Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group has at least shifted the conversation. In 2013, Delta began serving food from USHG’s Blue Smoke on a select few flights, and although there were a few hurdles along the way the feedback was mostly positive. Beginning March 1st, all customers on international flights in the Delta One cabin will now be able to enjoy an updated menu from Carmen Quagliata, which tosses out some of the airline food standbys like reheated, textureless pasta and instead aims to work within the limitations imposed by small spaces and packaging. This means no more chunky soups or fried garnishes, but plenty of purees and roasted vegetables.

John Harenda, the VP of operations for USGH, has set a lofty goal for this new menu. “We want passengers to say, ‘This is great food’ — not, ‘This is great food for an airline,’ ” he tells the New York Times. Of course, the real news will be when these dishes are available in coach as well – for now, economy passengers will have to settle for smelling Quagliata’s food from the Delta One cabin.

To read more, click here.


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