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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What Happens When The Disruptors Get Disrupted?

What Happens When The Disruptors Get Disrupted?

I previously wrote about this in May 2018 (Sh*t Just Got Real. Tech Bubble In Meltdown). It’s worth a re-read because it’s doubly true now.

Over the course of the last year, there have been an inordinate number of half-baked startups being launched or preparing to IPO. Notables include WeWork, Uber, Wag, Peloton, Blue Apron, and e-scooter companies Lime and Bird.

What has become abundantly clear is that while having the right technology is an important part of the equation, it’s not enough on its own.

And that’s especially true for on-demand services where reliable, trustworthy people are crucial for success. What many startups are discovering is that finding those people in a gig economy (that they’ve helped to create) is nigh impossible.

What’s also clear is that many startups have not made one red cent and are nowhere near being profitable. It hasn’t been a priority – and why should it be when no matter how much money you lose, more money gets tossed your way?

Too many consumer-tech companies nearing their public offerings are selling magic shows at a science fair.

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

The startup business model is no longer about bootstrapping. It’s all about creating high-level hype around a disruptive idea. And if a charismatic founder is involved, all the better. It makes raising stupid amounts of VC money easy as pie.

Surprisingly, it’s only been twelve years since this craziness started.

I date it to the iPhone launch in 2007 when apps first became a thing.

Two years later, in 2009, Uber’s app-based, on-demand service launched and we were off to the races. After that, every startup wanted to be the Uber of this, or the Uber of that.

Gradually, the disappointments started to pile up.

Over the last two years, Silicon Valley and its unicorns started to feel toxic, especially post-election. They have yet to recover.

So here we are in 2019 and it’s fair to say “the bloom is off the rose” and “the chickens are coming home to roost.”

Read on below for the two biggest challenges facing tech startups today.
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“Country” In The Spotlight. What Will It Influence Next?

“Country” In The Spotlight. What Will It Influence Next?

Country is having a major moment. I’m going out on a limb here but I predict we’ll see “Country” influences showing up over the next year in everything from fashion to entertainment to art, and even travel with more of us plotting our itineraries to follow the Ken Burns’ “Country Music” trail.

I’m a firm believer in the Rule of Three when it comes to declaring something an emerging trend. In this instance, I have at least five strong examples that indicate “country” will be inspiring designers and lifestyle brands for the next year or two.

Rule of Five:
  • Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary series on PBS. It’s been a knockout success. A sure-fire sign of its impact, a huge uptick on Amazon and iTunes of decades-old albums by artists featured on the show. Likewise, the photo archives from the series will, I predict, show up on many designers’ mood boards.
  • Oklahoma on Broadway,reimagined for the 21st Century,” is breathtakingly beautiful and unbelievably sexy. I finally saw it this past week (thank you Rob and Shawn) and all I can say is WOW! Daniel Fish, the director, is a genius. Best revival ever. And jeans, western shirts, buckles, and cowboy hats have never looked hotter. You MUST watch this 2-minute video of my favorite song from the show.
  • Kanye West recently bought a $14MM ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming. He also held the listening party for his new album there.
  • Rappers are getting into Country. Lil Nas X broke Billboard records with his hit “Old Town.” He even signed a deal with Wrangler. Meanwhile, Post Malone headlined 2019’s Bonnaroo Festival rocking an outfit inspired by Dolly Parton. (Pics below)
  • NYC fashionistas are sporting Western Wear. This weekend, I ran into a gorgeous Brit (pic above) wearing a cowboy hat which he tells me is all the rage in London. Who knew? But he looks amazing. Randomly, this same weekend, I saw an old-timer from the Lower East Side, wearing his cowboy hat at Whole Foods (very prescient with his style choices, see pic below). Stores like Filson are increasingly sought out for their western fashions and home goods. This summer in Denver I also discovered Rockmount Ranch Wear which carries authentic Western Wear (I bought a gorgeous belt there!). It’s a shopping destination for many performers and celebrities including Brandi Carlile. It’s also where everyda Coloradans shop. During my visit, a group of teens was trying on cowboy shirts. I realize now they may have been inspired by Lil Nas X.
Scroll down for photos. It’s Worth it, I promise.
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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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Kate Wore A Coat 4 Times And It’s News? What Happened To Sustainability?

Kate Wore A Coat 4 Times And It’s News? What Happened To Sustainability?

Anybody else find it peculiar that the media calls out celebrities each time they re-wear an item? Like it’s a bad thing. I detect some sort of unspoken pact between celebs and the paparazzi that they must feed them newness at all times.

The Kate Effect” Vs. “Markle Sparkle

This has been especially true for the young royals who are doing their part to keep the economy humming when it comes to fashion.

Per WWD, the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister-in-law the Duchess of Sussex set trends and send web sites crashing with their fashion choices.

According to SEMrush, a data provider who has analyzed the duchesses’ influence on retail:

  • Markle is searched 35% more than Middleton.
  • Top searches for Markle’s style include sunglasses, which are searched six times more than Middleton
  • Jeans, searched 58% more.
  • Markle’s lipstick choices are searched 190% more than her sister-in-law’s.
  • Sadly, Middleton is winning only in the hat department, with searches 30% higher.

Other differences in Meghan’s influence versus Kate’s include:

  • Meghan has a strain of cannabis named for her. “Markle Sparkle” was named in her honor by a grower in Oregon! And Snoop Dogg has bought some and let it be known he’d like to smoke some weed with the duchess.
  • Pinterest searches for Meghan bring up 57MM results whereas Kate only gets 33MM.
  • Kate is clearly being groomed to be queen so she is photographed more often looking “royal,” i.e., a bit frumpy. However, when she’s out and about being more casual, I prefer her style to Markle’s.

Meghan Markle is a bit Kardashian-like. Always a tad flashy. However, she does have a more contemporary style which makes her more popular and relevant than poor Kate in those long dresses and horrid hats.

Let’s face it, Meghan Markle is the poster child for Fast Fashion. Kate, on the other hand, doesn’t feel the need to wear something new every time she steps out in public. And that is a big plus and should be roundly applauded.

Scroll down for pics of the duchesses based on recent searches and pins.
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Get Your Flu Shot! It’s Forecast To Be A Horrid Season.

Get Your Flu Shot! It’s Forecast To Be A Horrid Season.

Australia, often a precursor for what kind of flu season we’ll get in America, just reported the highest number of confirmed cases in the country’s history – more than 270,000, compared to 60,000 in 2018.

This is my loving annual PSA begging everyone I know to get their flu shot – and to do it NOW. This weekend!

Most of my friends do not bother and it drives me crazy. As I’ve previously written, I had a nasty experience with the flu on a business trip with a slew of major presentations scheduled. All canceled and me stuck in a hotel for over a week. I have been a firm believer in flu shots ever since. And I have not come down with the flu since I started getting vaccinated. I still get bad colds but never the flu.

Another sign that this will be a bad flu season:

Earlier this month, a four-year-old boy in Riverside County, California died from the flu. Public-health officials announced the case as the county’s first pediatric flu-related death of the 2019-2020 flu season and worry that a death so early in the season is a harbinger of a particularly bad flu season to come.

So do not delay one moment more.

Get that flu shot – it takes about two weeks to kick in and the flu season typically runs October through February.

Carry on.

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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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