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Pat Cobe
PRET A MANGER PLANS TO PHASE IN REOPENINGS IN NYC

Beginning Tuesday, Pret A Manger is initiating its first wave of reopenings in New York City, continually opening more locations on a biweekly basis through May. The goal is to eventually serve the majority of Manhattan customers and neighborhoods. Pret A Manger stores have been closed in New York City since March 17.

The stores will have limited hours and focus exclusively on takeout and delivery. Operating hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for takeout and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for delivery, via a partnership with Grubhub/Seamless. In addition, new safety guidelines have been developed that each Pret location must follow upon reopening:

• No more than six customers inside the restaurant at any time. Tape will be applied outside to maintain a 6-foot distance while customers wait to enter.

• Only customers wearing face masks will be allowed to enter.

• Shields will be placed on the till counter to avoid contamination.

• All cutlery, stirrers and napkins will be stored behind the counter and passed to customers on request.

• Only contactless payment will be accepted (Pret app, Apple Pay or credit card).

• Customers will have the option to pack their own bags.

• Hand sanitizer must be available for customer use. 

Employees staffing the four locations opening this week will receive an overtime premium of 1½ times their hourly rate. 

The chain is also launching Pret Groceries, an on-demand takeout and delivery service. On offer are items such as produce, honey, breads, Pret’s signature granola, quart-sized soups, coffee, tea, milk products and packs of freshly baked cookies. New Yorkers can order groceries and have them delivered to their door within an hour, the chain said.

 

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Jonathan Maze

ZAXBY'S RELEASES SOME RESTAURANT NOISE

Enjoying your takeout but miss the restaurant? Zaxby's has a solution.
The Athens, Ga.-based chicken chain has a new SoundCloud playlist featuring music dedicated to popular dayparts, including lunch, dinner, late night and Sunday, along with ambient noise and dialogue. 
A fifth track is all ambient noise, allowing listeners to create their own dialogue. You can hear orders called out and noise from the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. 
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Peter Romeo
J. ALEXANDER'S RETURNS $15.1M IN PPP LOANS
J. Alexander's Holdings said in a securities filing that it intends to return the $15.1 million that was lent to the company's namesake casual chain and Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill sister concept through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The operator said its decision was triggered by a change in the program's lending policies. The PPP's administrator, the Small Business Administration, revealed yesterday that it would no longer extend the low-interest loans to public companies unless they can demonstrate that no other source of additional liquidity was available to them. It indicated that it may demand proof of the loans being a last resort.

The PPP is a major program for helping restaurants and other small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was provided with an additional $320 billion in funds by legislation signed into law today by President Trump.

The use of the fund by sizeable chains triggered a controversy, since program's stated target was small businesses. Such other borrowers as Ruth's Chris, Kura Sushi, Shake Shack and Sweetgreen have also returned their loans.
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Peter Romeo
HEINZ TO PROVIDE $1M IN AID FOR LOCAL DINERS
Heinz said it is providing $1 million in $2,000 increments to local diner-style restaurants that need help in paying their rents and other operating costs. The supplier is inviting consumers to nominate a favored local diner for one of the grants. The nominations site is here. The assistance is being offered through May 31.
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Heather Lalley
SWEETGREEN RETURNS ITS $10M PPP LOAN
Fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen joins a couple of other large restaurant companies in returning its PPP loan amid widespread criticism over the disbursement of the federal funds. 
Read the full story here. 
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Heather Lalley
CHIPOTLE MUST PAY $25M IN FOODBORNE ILLNESS CASE

Chipotle Mexican Grill must pay a $25 million fine in response to two misdemeanor counts of selling “adulterated food” stemming from foodborne illness outbreaks that began in 2015, according to an agreement announced between the fast-casual chain and the federal government Tuesday.

Chipotle must pay $10 million by June 1, followed by three payments of $5 million each every 30 days after that. The chain must also “enhance and maintain” its food safety program, according to the agreement.

Read our full story here. 

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Heather Lalley
WHAT WILL COVID-19 DO TO INDEPENDENT RESTAURANTS?
The third story in our five-part series on how the coronavirus will change restaurants forever examines the fate of independents. 
Read the full story here. 
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Heather Lalley
GEORGIA BECOMES 1st STATE TO REOPEN DINING ROOMS
Georgia's governor announced today that he'll allow restaurant dining rooms in the state to reopen early next week. Operators will be forced to follow strict guidelines, the details of which will be released in coming days. 
Read the full story here. 
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Peter Romeo
SHINER BOCK POURS $500K INTO TEXAS RESTAURANT RELIEF
The brewer of Shiner Bock beer has donated $500,000 to the TX Restaurant Relief Fund, a program that provides restaurants suffering from the COVID-19 crisis with $5,000 in direct relief. 

The fund is administered by the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation, the workforce development arm of the Texas Restaurant Association. The relief dollars are used to keep restaurants in operation and their staffs on payroll. 

Shiner Bock, a local brew with a cult-like following, is produced by The Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas.
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Heather Lalley
THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS WILL CHANGE DELIVERY FOREVER
This piece, about how COVID-19 will change delivery services forever, kicks off a five-part series at Restaurant Business. The stories examine how the impacts of the coronavirus will change the restaurant industry going forward. 
Check back each day to read a new portion of the series. 
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