New Apple Alert: No, Not THAT Apple, The Eating Kind.

New Apple Alert: No, Not THAT Apple, The Eating Kind.

Apple growers are calling the new Cosmic Crisp a gamechanger. It’s the hottest new variety of apple to be launched in 20 years, a hybrid between the Honeycrisp and the Enterprise. It will be hitting grocery stores on December 1st.

“I’ve never seen an apple prettier in the orchard than these things are.”

Aaron Clark, Apple Grower, Yakima

It’s the largest launch of a single apple variety ever and it’s backed by a $10.5 million marketing budget. Apple growers have high hopes for it.

The Cosmic Crisp is also the first apple bred in Washington State, which is surprising since the state grows the majority of United States’ apples.

Growers are hoping the Cosmic Crisp will be as popular and generate the same kind of sales as the “Moneycrisp” (their nickname for the Honeycrisp).

Thanks to I’ve learned there’s actually a lot more to apples than meets the eye, e.g., Washington State grows 12 billion apples each Fall and growers need a license to buy the trees. They also have to pay a royalty on sales of the fruit.

Scroll down for more info on the four billion-dollar apple market.
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Are people cooking more or is the kitchen dead?

Are people cooking more or is the kitchen dead?

Two friends recently told me they were cooking more at home – primarily to eat healthier and for convenience. They suggested other people were doing the same. It made me curious.

So far, zero evidence this is the case. In fact, the exact opposite:

“Only 10% of consumers love to cook, while 45% hate it and 45% are lukewarm about it.”

Eddie Yoon, Harvard Business Review

What I did find is that people aspire to do more cooking. A small study conducted by Peapod (the online grocer) in 2018 found:

  • Three-quarters of the survey respondents prefer a home-cooked meal to going out (but doesn’t say who would cook it for them).
  • The top reason for cooking at home is to save money.
  • Wednesday is the most popular day for Peapod users to cook at home and also the most popular day to use a meal kit which I don’t consider home cooking but 60% of millennials do (vs. 30% of boomers).

Meanwhile, a study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) earlier this year found people are cooking less than ever before.

  • Millennials eat at restaurants or bars 30% more often than any other generation.
  • They also allocate less time to meal prep – only 13 minutes per day, which is an hour less per week than Gen X—and when they do head to the grocery store, they spend more on prepared foods, pasta, and sweets than any other age group.
  • Biggest finding: the very definition of home cooking has changed. If you buy a prepared meal at the supermarket, bring it home and put it on a plate, that seemingly qualifies as “home cooking.”

Based on my lifestyle and that of people around me, few of us are cooking (even when there are kids in the house). I’m seeing lots of ordering in and lots of take-out.

For me, cooking has been relegated to a rainy weekend activity. It has to be super easy with as few ingredients as possible, e.g., baked salmon with a salad – all in, can’t take more than 30 minutes. I’ve gone so far as to toss old recipes that I used to love because they are just too complicated, take too darned long and are too caloric.

I cook, at most, once a week. I am, however, at Whole Foods every other day picking up fruit, salad, yogurt, milk, etc.

Interestingly, my partner, Brad, cooks for himself almost every night when he gets home from the studio. At 10 pm he’s in the kitchen whipping up a storm making pasta, homemade sauces and most recently, pad thai. It’s all relatively simple but wow, does it ever make a mess of the kitchen.

Read on below for more on the massive growth of food delivery (WORTH A READ!)
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Dining Out? It’s All About Exceptional Full-On Fast Casual Now

Dining Out? It’s All About Exceptional Full-On Fast Casual Now

Fast-Casual is where it’s at when it comes to restaurants. Full-service’s days are numbered. Have you noticed?

It’s how Millennials want to eat – and it’s more cost-effective!

I foresee us increasingly turning to casual eateries – a trend set in motion by Millennials who have made the Sweetgreens and Ippudo Ramens of the world, their favorite restaurants. It’s also a trend that’s been driven by the growth and popularity of food halls.

The newest and trendiest fast-casual eateries make up for their limited service by offering innovative, flavorful menu concepts, reasonable prices, and hyper-stylish, Instagrammable environments.

This past week in NYC, I encountered four new concepts – all within a few blocks of each other.

I do have to point out that many of these concepts will have a relatively short lifecycle (remember the Poke trend?).

This shift in the restaurant biz will be fueled by serial entrepreneurs who make it their business to stay ahead of the curve on emerging culinary and restaurant trends.

Scroll down for details on four new concepts.
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New Moxy Hotel Opens In NYC; Millennials Are Crazy About It.

New Moxy Hotel Opens In NYC; Millennials Are Crazy About It.

The Rockwell Group designed hotel (and the fab new Cathedrale restaurant) was very lively last week. The hotel was filled with millennial business travelers who seemed to be ecstatic about the place as they checked in and enjoyed Happy Hour. Kudos to all involved.

The interior design is boiler-plate millennial, i.e., eclectic vibe, art installations (by Michael Sanzone), outdoor space, lots of room for co-working and hanging out. Rooftop bar and lounge opening in 2020.

Cathedrale, the restaurant in the hotel, is spectacular. It was conceived by the Tao Group’s Chef/Partner Ralph Scamardella, in collaboration with Executive Chef Jason Hall. The food is French-Mediterranean.

Room rates at the Moxy run in the $400 range but seem to be lower on the weekends which suggests their guests will primarily be the young business travelers.

The one downside, from my perspective, are the stairs. The lobby and the restaurant are both at basement level. It feels congested getting into and out of the hotel.

Scroll down for photos.
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Flipper’s Fluffy Souffle Pancakes Are Heavenly

Flipper’s Fluffy Souffle Pancakes Are Heavenly

Flipper’s, the renowned pancake chain from Japan, just opened its first US outpost in Soho. On my second try, I got in. And not only did I taste the most divine pancakes, but I also discovered two celebs in line (one of whom Instagrammed it was the first time she had ever waited in line for anything!).

The Flipper’s menu is vast and includes regular pancakes, salads, bubble teas and so on but I came for the “miracle pancakes.” And they were miraculous indeed.

It takes them 20 minutes to make so things are a little slow-going at the moment.

On Friday, when they opened, the line was three-to-four hours long. I decided to try again on another day.

My next attempt was yesterday morning (Sunday). I arrived at 10:05 and was among the first 10 people in line.

In front of me: Daym Drops, the YouTube food reviewer with 1MM followers and Bethenny Frankel (one of the initial Real Housewives of NYC). She could not believe she was waiting in line. Truth be told, she had a guy waiting in line for her until about 10:50 at which time she rolled up with her daughter. Pics below.

A few more details on Flipper’s:
  • It’s in Soho at 377 West Broadway (corner of Grand)
  • Hours are 11am7pm.
  • It’s a 2-story restaurant with seating upstairs and take-out downstairs (although that’s not operational yet)
  • It’s a gorgeous space, beautifully designed
  • I ordered the classic souffle pancakes and they were as divine as I had imagined they would be.
  • They come three to an order which is a bit too much for one person.
  • Unfortunately, they have no take-out boxes but I was able to share them with a family at my communal table. They had just been informed there would be an hour wait for their food.
Scroll down for photos and most importantly, videos of souffle pancakes in the making.
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Why Are Restaurants So Inconsistent These Days?

Why Are Restaurants So Inconsistent These Days?

Lately, going out to eat – or recommending restaurants – has become a huge challenge. It may also explain why so many restaurants are shuttering.

The latest casualty is Delicatessen. This spot went off the rails years ago but hung in there until earlier this month when without warning, it shuttered overnight.

I believe we will see more of this.

Twice this week I’ve been to favorite restaurants only to be disappointed by the food and the service. I also had a friend tell me that several people he had sent to one of our favorite restaurants, had reported disappointing experiences.

It always comes down to service and the food – or rather the people preparing the food. Restaurants that have a hard time attracting and keeping staff are just screwed (or more to the point, we the customers are screwed).

I always check reviews on Google and specifically sort them by Newest and Lowest Rating.

The fact that a restaurant can get both a 1-star and a 5-star review a day apart suggests that there is a problem with providing consistent service and cooking.

I’m not going to name names (because I haven’t given up on my current favorites and don’t want to burn bridges) but when a dish that you have ordered once a week for months, suddenly looks and tastes completely different, there is a problem in the kitchen. It’s also not good when you ask for salt and they leave you hanging for 10 minutes while your food gets cold.

It’s appalling that there is not a single restaurant in NYC that I can 100% recommend to consistently deliver great service and delicious food.

To make up for the hard stuff, i.e., reliable, quality staffing, restaurateurs are emphasizing what they can control which is the superficial.

Restaurants today are consistently designed to be beautiful and Instagrammable. However, they are inconsistent in virtually every other way. The service, the food, the overall experience varies radically from day-to-day.

At the same time, prices are rising. It’s almost impossible to have a meal out at a full-service restaurant without paying $100 per person.

Restaurants also have much shorter lifespans. I attribute some of that to our insatiable desire for novelty but a good portion of the blame belongs to the restaurants themselves and their inability to provide consistent experiences.

Bottom Line.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s not a good time to be in the restaurant biz.

For those of us who eat out a lot, it is becoming a less satisfying experience.

I may have to go back into my own kitchen and start cooking again. I’m not looking forward to that!

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Pop Up Grocer: Great For Branding And Discovery

Pop Up Grocer: Great For Branding And Discovery

Pop Up Grocer is not really for shopping (they don’t even list prices). But it is where you’ll find hordes of cool millennial influencers Instagramming the heck out of the trendiest new snack food brands.

It opened this past Friday for a 30-day run in my neighborhood (208 Bowery).

It’s the brainchild of brand marketing guru Emily Schildt, formerly of Chobani. Kudos to her for putting a very clever new spin on “discovery.”

With Pop Up Grocer she’s specifically curating emerging brands (oftentimes ones for whom she is consulting). All the brands in the store must fit the following criteria:

  • Have a brand story
  • Be creative and interesting
  • Meet specific nutritional standards: responsibly sourced, sugar-conscious, nothing artificial

Currently, there are plans for a pop-up in Los Angeles in February 2020 and two more planned in Austin and Denver for later next year.

And it is cash-free which, as you know, is a major plus when I go shopping.

Bottom Line.

I walked out of there thinking WOW! Pop Up Grocer is the love child of by CHLOE (the very popular plant-based take-out restaurant for millennials) and Story (retail superstar Rachel Schechtman’s creatively-themed store, recently acquired by Macy’s).

Scroll down for pics from opening day.

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Labor Shortages Messing Up Seamless Deliveries

Labor Shortages Messing Up Seamless Deliveries

For the first time ever, I had a Seamless order cancel on me by a restaurant. Grubhub called moments later to explain the problem: the restaurant had a shortage of delivery workers.

Made we realize how reliant we are on unskilled labor to keep things humming especially in the restaurant biz. But it also brought home how hard it must be to maintain staffing levels for service industry jobs in general.

We’re basically at full employment and the economy can’t grow without:

  • immigrants (as Lin-Manuel Miranda sings in Hamilton, “we get the job done”)
  • young people who can pass a drug test (apparently half can’t) and on top of that, most teens opt out of work these days
  • boomers postponing retirement

In digging into this further, I found that the problem is the most dire in the fast-food industry where turnover runs at 150%. Panera is considered the “gold standard” within the fast-food industry because they’ve been able to keep their turnover at just under 100%.

Per CNBC, McDonald’s is spending close to $1 billion this year on DIY ordering kiosks. The industry’s inability to keep workers, is one of the key reasons experts believe fast food will be the first job sector ruled by robots (already happening in China).

I’ve also been hearing friends in hospitality talking about apps like Pared and Instawork that were created specifically for the restaurant industry. Staffing has become such a massive problem that all the big guns including Jean Georges Management are reliant on the on-demand apps, e.g., to get Jean Georges’ newest restaurant, The Fulton, opened, they had to reach out to Pared to hire a whole team of fish preppers.

Bottom Line.

Even as the economy slows down, staffing shortages, especially in the low-and-unskilled sectors, is going to prove to be a serious drag on growth.

The apps will help but I expect to see more small restaurant owners throw in the towel.

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