Farmers Are Essential Workers, Too

          farmworkers

         When asked, most people think of essential workers as the “frontline heroes”. The doctors, the nurses and the first responders. Delivery drivers may fall into that category from time to time. But the range of people who are taking care of us during this pandemic is much broader than that. “The reality is that essential workers in the midst of the coronavirus crisis are fast food workers, social workers, cleaners, retail associates, transit workers, home health aides, and even those who provide support for victims of domestic violence” (Vox). They are taking care of us 24/7 while we comfortably shelter at home, looking for new cooking recipes and going for walks.

          Some of these essential workers are lucky enough to work in companies that do prioritize their health and safety. For example, Trader Joe’s has increased their employees’ benefits during this pandemic. The company is providing “two weeks of additional paid sick time, a $2/hour additional wage for every hour worked, limiting the number of people in stores, installing plexiglass barriers, and providing face masks” (Trader Joe’s). But not everyone is that fortunate. 

          Farm workers are among the biggest group of workers that are not given protection gear, health benefits, safety guidelines, and added wage benefits by their employers. Because 50 – 70 percent are undocumented, they are excluded from the coronavirus relief bill even when they are still paying taxes. They are facing huge economic burdens. The majority of farm worker families have both the mother and father working in the field. Thus, if they cannot leave their children with a family member they need to pay for childcare. Farm workers are also facing extra transportation costs according to United Farm Workers. Some companies do not let them carpool, and some workers “desperately want social distance vs. being in an enclosed and crowded car or bus” (UFW). In addition, some agree that even if they feel sick, they continue to go to work because they do not have any sick leave and thus need the money. “Lack of enforceable rules regarding social distancing, protective face masks, access to soap and water, and to environmental cleaning allow conditions to continue in which the virus can spread easily and quickly” (Eater). 

          It is ridiculous that the people who grow the food put on our tables cannot afford to buy those same food products. They put themselves and their families at risk every day, yet are not properly paid. “The irony: they’re essential, but they do not have essential rights” (CBS News). Even if they are now seen as “essential” by the federal government, they will always be a step away from detention and deportation. The worst part is that these “essential workers” do not feel essential at all – rather disposable and victims of the crisis. “To call them heroes is to justify their exploitation. By praising the blue-collar worker’s public service, the progressive consumer is assuaged of her cognitive dissonance. When the world isn’t falling apart, we know the view of us is usually as faceless, throwaway citizens. The wealthy CEO telling his thousands of employees that they are vital, brave, and noble is a manipulative strategy to keep them churning out profits” (The Atlantic). We know that all of them – cashiers, janitors, farmers, delivery-truck drivers – would trade places with any of us in the blink of an eye. 

          The COVID-19 crisis has exposed multiple faults in our systems – politics, healthcare, food, and society. On the other hand, by exposing these faults it has given us the opportunity to revise the systems and make them better, more efficient and more resilient. We are finally recognizing the hard work the essential workers do everyday. It is why there needs to be an increase in political pressure to offer larger benefits to them. Greater social protection, paid leave and higher minimum wages are needed; not just for farm workers, but for all other essential workers such as meatpackers, grocery-store cashiers, warehouse clerks, janitors, and delivery drivers. They deserve our gratitude for taking care of us. Not only during this pandemic, but every day after it ends.  

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References:

 

 

The Top 2 Tips to Engage Employees during COVID19

As most companies have adopted a culture of working from home, a new development in employee engagement methods has raised the HR bar. The Willis Tower Watson research “found that 90% of companies believe their culture has improved, 83% believe their employee experience is better, and 84% believe employee engagement has gone up.” 

It makes sense that with organizations on WFH status, employees need engagement more than ever. So what methods are companies reporting an engagement upswing deploying?  

#1  Hosting Online Team Building Activities

Hosting virtual happenings for your employees to come together can boost morale and gives the team an opportunity to do something fun and productive together! 

Here are some suggestions and resources:

cooking class– Virtual live cooking classes from FoodtoEat feature vendors. Miss your FoodtoEat team meals?  How about learning to cook some of your favorite recipes from our top chefs. Over 70% of the chefs on our platform are women, immigrant, and/or minority; participating in a cooking class is a great way to keep up diversity and inclusion initiatives 

 

Asian woman doing yoga at home– Virtual Yoga and Meditation. These are anxious times, and boosting the mental and physical health of remote employees should be a top priority. Jaimie Adkins, our very own Director of Business Development and a certified yoga instructor, has teamed up with master yoga and meditation instructor, Dorota Ellington, an owner of Yoga Youniverse, to design together virtual workplace yoga classes. Team classes can be scheduled by reaching Jaimie at jaimie@foodtoeat.com.  Learn more about virtual yoga and meditation programs at yogayouniverse.

 

#2 Providing Coaching and Leadership Resiliency Training

Many companies are having to pivot rather than pause through this new normal and that means leaders need to be agents of change. Working from home may be here to stay for many and it has come with a new set of management and collaboration practices. Companies are also leading with empathy to provide assistance and resources to furloughed employees. 

GoCoach, a female-founded and operated company, is providing a number of services to help workers navigate the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce, such as Virtual Management Training and Free Career Coaching for Displaced Workers

While this “new normal” may be here to stay, there’s great opportunity for companies to lead with more empathy and for their teams to find new and enjoyable ways to engage. Perhaps we may all find a little silver lining. 
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Resources:

COVID-19 May Be the Best thing that ever happened to Employee Engagement

Team Building Activities for Employees

5 Tips for Practicing Employee Engagement

Willis Watson Tower Study

 

The Spread of COVID-19 Impacts the Restaurant Industry

The hit to New York’s restaurant industry from the novel coronavirus has been fast and devastating. It has brought all of us to a grinding halt. With number of cases continuing to grow exponentially, schools, events, and conferences have shutdown and corporate offices have everyone working from home. Because so many restaurants rely on catering, this situation has dramatically impacted their bottom lines. Thus, thousands across the country have permanently closed their doors and layed off their employees. Only a few are still open for delivery.

The outbreak of coronavirus disease has led many to stress and panic – taking serious measures for their well-being. Social-distancing and minimum bare contact with surfaces are some. Fear of coming in contact with strangers has raised concerns about whether or not it is safe to order delivery from restaurants, for example. But during an interview, Marta Hugas (EFSA’s chief scientist) explained: “Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.” The most common transmission method is a “droplet infection”, where coronaviruses are emitted by humans or animals into the air via droplets and then inhaled. No cases of humans being infected through the consumption of food has been released. This can be attributed to restaurants following the precautionary recommendations including washing hands before/after food handling and preparation, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods. Moreover, “as the viruses are sensitive to heat, the risk of infection can also be further reduced by heating foods” – German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

The food industry plays a critical role in national and international economies, and is the one feeling the greatest impact of all industries. “From sourcing and supply chain to staffing and sanitation, forced closures and social distancing” ( Life & Thyme ). As one coffee shop owner in North Idaho explained: “We don’t know what to do. If things don’t get better in the next few days, we’re screwed. Gone. Out of business. 12 years of being known as the community’s favorite quirky coffee shop down the tubes because of a pandemic”. Unfortunately, the spread of the virus has led to constitute the “largest disruption the hospitality industry has faced since major events like the September 11 terrorist attacks, the 2008 financial crisis, and Hurricane Sandy”. All of these small restaurants do not have the resources to endure this economic crisis, that has yet to ease its grip, by themselves…

Restaurants, now more than ever, need support at any level. The mayor of New York mentioned “new no-interest loans for small businesses that experience a 25 percent decline or more due to new coronavirus”, the U.S. Small Business Administration is planning to offer small business owners across the U.S. “as much as $50 billion in loans to stay afloat”, Grubhub and other delivery companies have suspended most of their fees, and advocate groups are donating either through organizations or by purchasing gift-cards. These shutdowns have definitely been an unprecedented decision for cities like New York that depend on its restaurant community for daily nourishments, celebrations, entertainments and excitements.

This is to say that food-lovers should do their part immediately to help support these businesses – order delivery as its still considered safe, tip generously, buy gift cards, and reschedule rather than cancel prepaid reservations. At FoodtoEat, we have created two funding initiatives (GoFundMe and IFundWomen) to help our restaurant partners stay afloat during these hard times. Corporate companies and individual can invest their dollars to buy meals through us that will later be donated to shelters/schools/food banks. As important it is to understand how we can all protect ourselves, we must feel empathy for those who have been seriously impacted. This is not something restaurant owners will bounce back from easily, especially without adequate support. The world needs to truly understand the fragility of the restaurant ecosystem, and take action to help mitigate that. As a concierge catering service that partners with women, immigrant, and minority owned food vendors, it is time to play our strengths – and our strength is feeding people.

 

Bibliography

Ferrari, Stef. “Coronavirus: Perspective on a Pandemic.” Life & Thyme, 16 Mar. 2020, lifeandthyme.com/commentary/coronavirus-perspectives-on-a-pandemic/?mc_cid=8febf1b04f&mc_eid=225802534c.

Sutton, Ryan. “Cuomo Announces Tri-State Restaurant and Bar Shutdown Starting Monday Night.” Eater NY, Eater NY, 16 Mar. 2020, ny.eater.com/2020/3/15/21180713/restaurant-bar-shutdown-nyc-coronavirus.

Krietsch, Beth. “Can Coronavirus Be Transmitted Through Food? Here’s What You Should Know.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 5 Mar. 2020, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/coronavirus-food-what-to-know_l_5e600d6bc5b644545ea4913b.

Southey, Flora. “Can Coronavirus Be Transmitted via Imported Food?” Foodnavigator.com, William Reed Business Media Ltd., 5 Feb. 2020, http://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/02/05/Can-coronavirus-be-transmitted-via-imported-food.

Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-07/restaurants-clean-like-crazy-to-beat-covid-19-eat-at-home-trend.

Ria Zouroudis, Event Coordinator at BareBurger

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Some of the best food in New York City is also the simplest. Pizzas, bagels, and pretzels are no longer the sole icons. Burgers have become the standout dish at old-school pubs and diners and Brooklyn cocktail bars and pizzerias alike. Ranging from $300 burgers, to fast food chains and meatless patties, you can find any type you want in this concrete jungle! The competition to sling grilled beef around here is definitely fierce…

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Shake Shack and the other hundreds of burger chains have another contender in the burger arena. In 2009, Bareburger opened its first location in Queens, and they’ve grown to more than 30 locations nationwide. They are not only established in the U.S. but also Canada, Tokyo, Frankfurt and other. According to Ria, Bareburger‘s Event Coordinator, the chain caters to health-conscious crowds by using organic ingredients and offering a myriad of healthy and vegan choices. Bareburger recently opened their newest location in Chelsea,  with a 50% vegan/vegetarian menu. Some of their vegan options include impossible patty, beyond meat patty, a sweet potato, kale and wild rice patty or even quinoa, chia and green pea patty. Add some organic sweet fries and voila! Their recent menu upgrade to include more vegan/vegetarian options definitely showcases Bareburger‘s mission. Bareburger is definitely committed to sustainability, not only by working closely with their farmers and partners but also by building each location with reclaimed and recycled materials. “It’s “bare” in that the company pursues a no-hormone, no-additive, no-pesticide approach to ingredient sourcing. They stick to fair-trade, non-GMO stuff whenever possible”.

Besides tasteful burgers and salads, Bareburger hosts engaging events opened to the public. Ria organizes and facilitates 10+ events per month with an average attendee of 1,500+ customers – kids’ parties, salsa dancing, pop ups, and even meet ups with former Yankee greats. You name it! Ria actually started at Bareburger as a “Creative Bee intern” in 2013 and continuously climbed the ladder. Ria not only plans events, but also implemented the “marketing initiative to promote corporate catering that led to 100+ orders in 2017 alone”. With international locations, engaging events, new menu items and dedicated employees, Bareburger does not seem to be under much pressure from its competitors. Whether it’s top smoked brisket or pickled green tomatoes, the condiment and flavor combinations happening at Bareburger are a cut above. A true burger nirvana is happening.

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Gladys Shahtou, Founder and Owner of Sambuxa NYC

Sudanese cuisine is as diverse as its geography and cultures. In Northern Africa, particularly in Sudan, samosas (also known as sambuxas) are one of the many food staples for this local cuisine. Samosas are traditionally made with a very thin pastry dough that is stuffed with sweet and savory fillings like ground beef or sweet potato. While they can be eaten at any time of the year, samosas are usually reserved for special occasions like holidays and weddings. But no matter the occasion, it is a must to gather around the communal table to prepare these lavish treats like Gladys’s family does.

samosas

Gladys is the owner of Sambuxa, a Sudanese food business in the NYC area. She was born in Sudan but moved at the age of five to Switzerland for her father’s job – a political activist. She went to college in Geneva where she studied International Relations. During this time, Gladys started preparing Sudanese dishes for her roommates which eventually led to a small catering business that helped pay for rent and other expenses. After college, Gladys started her master’s degree in International Management at the University of Bordeaux. She landed in a job in NY after, specifically at the UN, and then after a year and a half moved to D.C. She worked for the Democrats in 2017 right after the elections in the Marketing Department. But given the situation, Gladys did not have a chance in extending her contract.

After four months of sending applications but nothing in return, Gladys felt discouraged. “Even though for months is not much time, it was more of an ego thing for me. Having such an extensive resume (the UN, DMC, and others) and speaking five languages (French, German, English, Arabic and Swiss-German) I was really upset. I was between going back to Switzerland, Sudan, or looking for a different career path in NY”. After brainstorming and multiple conversations with colleagues, Gladys turned her situation into an opportunity. “I always wanted to launch a food business and this was a perfect time as I had no job and no immediate obligations. New York is also the perfect place to launch such business as so many people are willing to try different cuisines. And so I thought to myself, if I work so hard for someone else I might as well work hard for my own passion”.

sudanese sweet

Sambuxa has now been in business for almost two years. The menu offers a variety of Sudanese dishes – beef, chicken, pork, lamb, cheese, and vegetable samosas, stews, wraps, salads, lentils, sweets and more! As she thinks about the future, Gladys is going back to Sudan for the holidays to do some research for an upcoming project: her own business incubator. In Sudan, there are a lot of underprivileged people who have no education but work in any means they find. A business incubator in the capital will help combat this problem and allow people to maximize their skills – either programming, coding, design, food or any other interest. “I want to have a place where the youth can gather, exchange ideas and obtain the necessary resources to start launch their own business. It is tough but doable”. Her vision is to imitate the U.S. system of providing free business courses, events and programs that help those who want to strengthen their weaknesses. In Sudan, for example, it is very popular to drink chai tea. Nowadays it is a very simple activity where people sit on top of crates on the streets, drink their tea, and get back to their routines. “Chai vendors are the Starbucks of Sudan”. According to Gladys, it is so popular that it can be transformed into a larger concept like a cafe. But to make this happen, people need guidance and the right tools; that is why Gladys wants to create her incubator. “Concept stores are very successful in the capital so I want children from the slums to be able to tap into that market and start learning about business”.

The Sudanese people need greater business guidance, and this is what Gladys’s past work experiences helped her realize why she wants to be involved in politics. Greater programs and foreign representation for these people is needed. She figured that by doing this herself she can put the resources where she wants them to go and oversee projects she truly values. “With all these charities and donations worldwide, no one ever knows where the funds head towards. For me, it is better to do it myself and see a direct impact”.

Gladys is fortunate to represent a cuisine that speaks for itself: very flavorful and welcoming. As there are not many African vendors in New York, she is definitely opening a new market. Gladys even wants to produce a Sudanese hot sauce and freeze her samosas to ship them nationwide. Go hard or go home as she said!

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Diverse Catering Lunches Create More Than Just Team Building

Food can be used as a great foundation to enhance your company’s culture. It can be used as an effective, yet simple, resource to build camaraderie at the office. No matter where you work, you eat at least two full meals in your office. And so does everyone around you. Eating together should be seen as a fun, engaging and enjoyable experience; not one that makes people anxious and uncomfortable. Some people do love gathering around the communal table and learning more about others. But others feel an unnecessary pressure to socialize, especially with a boss or a colleague, and think is work for them. It is important for the company to have an engaging pool between employees as it reflects well on the organization’s vision, values and goals. Consequently, great for retention and recruitment. So if you haven’t thought about using food as a tool, you should start now.

catered lunch

A catered lunch will foster collaboration, add value to the company’s benefits, its CSR and more. And I mean, who doesn’t enjoy free food!? But according to recent studies, only one in five workers get up from their desk for lunch. Yet nearly 90% of the American workers surveyed felt that team lunches/breaks “helped them feel refreshed, more engaged and ready to get back to work”. When introducing innovative catered lunches instead of boring sandwiches and salad options, companies saw significant returns on these investments. One of the most prominent returns was, in fact, team building. But why?

Food is the universal language that unites people. “Through breaking bread together, we can break down walls and boundaries that can unfortunately separate individuals, races, ethnicities and cultures”. With today’s workforce being more diverse than ever, people cherish when you provide a food option that comes from their homeland. It makes them feel welcomed and appreciated. It also creates an environment where people from other cultures want to learn more about the food and therefore, their colleague. For example, in 2018, “the highest-rated cuisines for office meals were Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Indian”. Ordering more diverse meals also widens people’s perspectives about inequality. Having an amicable relationship with a certain type of cuisine, say Indian or Mexican, creates less resentment towards individuals who are culturally from there. As you enjoy how flavorful and aromatic your Chicken Tikka Masala is, you no longer feel uncomfortable among the presence of strong Indian smells or individuals. Those of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds are seen more equal with food serving as major bond force. Even author Alice Julier expressed this ideology in her book Eating Together , promoting the “social dynamics of diverse and shared meals”.

food around world

At FoodtoEat, we are on a mission to unite people around the communal table and add diversity to the food community by championing small businesses from every neighborhood. Providing your team an assortment of delicious culinary adventures will not only surprise and delight your colleagues, but also promote inspiring conversation. We have a vast array of cuisines from all over the world such as Africa, Turkey, India, Colombia, Sudan, Japan and Cuban that will suit all your team members. By offering interesting food options like those mentioned, employees will not want to miss such opportunity. Hence, not missing the opportunity of broadening their palates and getting to know each other better. Moreover, having team/office lunches make leaders more accessible. This promotes an environment of transparency, innovation, less intimidation, and better sense of connection. This is all because the so-called “small talks” enables individuals to connect on a more meaningful level with, say, their bosses. Consequently driving employees to be more open on commenting about others’ opinions during “intense” conversations. Sharing and enjoying food together is a basic human expression of friendship, pleasure and community. That’s why people say “a full stomach equals a happy heart”, right?

Nir Kahan, Co-Owner of The ChickShop

Wouldn’t you love to be wandering Israel’s streets right now and getting lost with their delicious fresh foods? Definitely a much better plan than sitting in front of our computers all day! But we’ve got news for you, and it doesn’t require spending all of your salary in an airplane ticket. On the corner of 3rd avenue and 50th street, a small restaurant called The Chick Shop will teletransport you through their dishes. Using only the highest quality, natural ingredients available, this restaurant brings “a modern take on classic Middle Eastern street food”. Try their warm, fluffy pitas and crispy falafels and you’ll get why we write so highly of them.

Nir Kahan is the co-owner of The Chick Shop. He grew up in Israel, and mentioned how the food was always a main stage event in his daily life. As you all may know, food is extremely important in Israeli culture. Every single “chef”, from street food vendors to those in upscale restaurants, tries to offer the most high-quality, locally sourced, fresh, seasonal ingredients he/she can find. So when Nir moved to New York in 2009, he felt frustrated. Not a single Middle Eastern restaurant met his expectations, and so he decided to create it himself by opening The Chick Shop.

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Before his restaurant, Nir worked in Finance. Even though he made more money back then than he is now, Nir has never felt happier and more motivated. This is his baby; it is an extension of himself. He knows this business has the potential to make a lot of money, just like in Finance, with hard-work, the right mindset, and the right team. Nir in fact mentioned how the team he has now is the best he’s ever had in years. They’ve become a little family and his top employees who have been with him for a while now know the operations so well that it’s allowed them to grow the business and expand the menu. Their service, along with the unique influences combined on their menu, has allowed them to differentiate themselves from their competition. For The Chick Shop, there are a lot of competitors like Toum and Taim. Funny enough, Taim is just a block away. But when asked how he felt about it, Nir responded with no worry. “It is good to have Taim just a block away for two main reasons. First, together we drive more foot traffic to our stores. And second, having Taim next to me keeps me on my toes to always be our very best at every moment. You can’t be affected or intimidated by your competition. If people like the food, they will spread the love for you!”.

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One of the most rewarding parts of the business for Nir is to see returning Israeli customers. This not only means his food is consistently delicious, but that he uses authentic and fresh ingredients like those found back home. Thanks to social media and online ordering platforms, Nir has more exposure to new clients that either order for themselves, refer his food to coworkers, or want to incorporate The Chick Shop as part of their corporate lunches. As for future business plans, franchising to reach a larger audience and have them know what a real falafel tastes like is on the top of the list. So many recurring customers have given Nir the confidence to know a second opening will definitely be a success.

Nir’s focus is continuing to provide the friendly service and high quality-food to create that long-lasting relationship from its customers. “My goal right now is to be as good as I can, on the counter or on the back-end, and bring happiness through my food”.

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Why Do American Moms Struggle The Most?

American mothers are struggling. Social, cultural, technological and economic changes have altered the clear path of motherhood in recent years. While it was common in the 70’s and 80’s to see more than half of the mothers stay at home with their kids, it is certainly not like that anymore. Nowadays both parents work in 70% of families with children for several reasons; a main one is the constant rising prices of the costs of child care, especially in NY. In New York City, for example, the cost of child care is increasing $1,612 per year, with families spending up to $16,250 per year for an infant, $11,648 for a toddler and $9,620 for a school-age child. It is no wonder moms are stressed out…

Research says U.S. mothers have it “the worst when it comes to work-life balance because they lack cultural support”. Americans have this idea that in order to be a good worker one has to devote all the time and energy to the workplace. But what about the people who have non-work responsibilities such as family? They are not excellent employees because they don’t stay after hours? American moms, according to sociologist Caitlyn Collins, do not expect to have external supports from their employers, partners or federal government. “Mothers from Sweden, Germany and Italy, on the other hand, expected this and more”. Moreover, men in these countries devote the same amount of time as their partner in taking care of the children. “It is a cultural ideal supported through their federal policies, and we lack that sort of cultural consensus here in the U.S.”. American fathers do participate in the care of the children, but research found that their leisure time actually increased after parenthood during the weekends. Men watch TV, play sports and spend time with friends while women spend their “free time” planning birthday parties, play dates, and school meetings. And even if they do have leisure time, it is often interrupted.

working mom

It is important to salute every working woman and acknowledge that their successes have required a much greater amount of effort than their male counterparts. Let’s be clear though that today’s dads are doing more at home than those in previous generations – cheers! But as mentioned before, mothers still “shoulder greater responsibilities: childcare, housekeeping duties and invisible chores like making appointments, keeping track of activities, school schedules, booking the babysitter, and many more that doesn’t get noticed”. It’s little surprise that constant juggling and multitasking at home leads to negative mental health stability like depression and anxiety. And this is not just for the mother. “Studies point out that when moms suffer, kids suffer too. When the child’s primary caregiver is stressed or mentally ill, that stress tickles down to kids with bad results”.

American moms constantly blame themselves for their own stress and think it is only up to them to help resolve that. They want to be both successful at their jobs and dedicated to their family. But in the end, they find themselves in a no-win situation. There is so much pressure for mothers to fulfill the image of “an ideal motherhood” that they don’t get to enjoy the process. They are constantly trying to find the latest hacks whether is the perfect schedule planner, waking up earlier to meditate and workout, or the typical bulk cook on Sundays. One would think social media outlets would help relieve some of this tension. But social media is pervasive, and research shows mothers who frequently compare themselves to others “feel more depressed, less competent and less positive about their co-parenting relationships”. Mom-shaming is nothing new, and it needs to stop.

Mothers need to stop feeling so much pressure and being conflicted about work and family life. They need to also stop thinking they need to become better, work harder, try harder, and find the new parenting hack. Being a mother isn’t supposed to be easy, but it certainly isn’t supposed to feel impossible. Yes, it involves sacrifices and certain levels of commitment. But it needs to be perceived as a joyful experience for both the mother and the father. With better support groups, less social media shaming, better governmental resources and more work flexibility, women will feel less anxious and more grateful. For mothers to thrive, we need to lighten their load. And together we can knock down those hurdles. Together we can create a better work-life balance.

 

 

Stop Asking Small Restaurants/Catering Services For Free Food

Stop asking us for free food. 

Size matters

Within the past month, we’ve had a couple large, Fortune 100 companies reach out to us, highlight our mission and importance in the community…and ask for free food.

So we’re trading a shout-out that we’re “sponsoring the meal”…for a hit to our bottom line.

Unfortunately, as honored as we are by their acknowledgment, goodwill and pats on the back don’t pay the bills – for us, nor the vendors we represent.

Everyone knows that small restaurants need much more than mom’s classic recipes to survive. According to a frequently cited study by Ohio State University on failed restaurants, 60% don’t make it past the first year, and 80% go under in five years. Restaurants pop up in New York like a game of whack-a-mole and they disappear just as quickly. But why? There are of course the usual suspects: crowded market, subpar food and service, bad people management, or a lack of accounting skills. 

But we tend to overlook another critical factor: a small business owner’s individual lack of negotiating power.  

Big businesses – like the ones who reached out to us – have power, and power means they’ve got leverage. They’re in a much better position to espouse the same beliefs as us, but still dictate the terms.

For small businesses, it’s much harder because they’re truly at the mercy of of consumer spending. When a large company knocks on their door looking for a favor, there’s a fear that they need to compromise in the short-term to please the customer and lock-up the business long-term. 

But it never seems to work out that way. That initial discount, that early favor, becomes a permanent part of the business, and often acts as a gateway to other favors or special requests. The big company – which may in fact believe its furthering its mission of investing in the local community – instead exerts greater leverage over the small business. Instead of trading equal value for money, each special request turns into an implicit threat – “help us, or else…” 

Don’t these small businesses deserve at least the consideration of full price, just like any other company for their services. Would you even consider asking Apple for a free laptop? Hell no! Would you ask a lawyer for a free session when you know they need to invest a good amount of their time researching and reading about a specific case? Of course not.

Then why should you ask that of someone who’s working minimum wage? The chef works just as hard as the developer making your iPhone, or the lawyer researching your case. They’ve also spent years training and perfecting their skills and techniques.

We certainly applaud the increased focus in the past 12+ months on diversity, inclusion, and corporate social responsibility. But to do proper justice to any of these efforts, companies need to focus on the “responsibility” part. It’s not just about voicing your support for various causes, or shifting budget around to still hit your CSR goal while keeping short-term profits in check.

If you want to truly want to invest in diversity, inclusion, and CSR, you need empathy. In this case, where either you’re coordinating a meal with a small local vendor or asking FoodtoEat to curate it, you need empathy for your supply chain. What truly goes into the food that I’m ordering and how does it all come together?

Empathy for the supply chain

While a couple (sizeable) requests triggered this post, far more common are the requests for severely discounted options. A typical day at FoodtoEat involves explaining that there really is no respectable way to feed 250 people at $3 per person (seriously), or that no, entrees in NYC are not typically priced at $10 all-in (including tax and tip).

On one hand, we know that sometimes budgets get set at a higher level, so that’s all you have to work with. But on the other, if your job is to source diverse, delicious food that will truly elevate the experience of you and your coworkers, your budget can’t be fitted for the traditional “salad and sandwich” combo.

In the food business, asking for a really tight budget means you’re taking money out of someone’s pocket. To get a sense of what restaurant operators go through, here’s a list of the myriad costs they’re juggling. This is the full supply chain of your catering order: 

  • Rent: notoriously high for even the smallest shoebox. Restaurants can expect to pay $120 per-square-foot in Manhattan and trendy Brooklyn.
  • Utilities: water, electricity and gas. At peak efficiency, this – along with rent – comprises total occupancy, and should come in around 10 percent of monthly revenue. So if you’re paying $10k a month on occupancy, you need to be doing $100k in revenue.
  • Equipment: ovens, refrigerators, fryers, freezers, and dishwashers can cost from $100,000 to $300,000 or more. This is not accounting small devices like spatulas, pots, pans. storage containers, cutlery, thermometers, etc.
  • Technology: monthly subscriptions, installation and licensing fees for point of sale, the reservation system, online ordering / delivery, in-store wifi…each of these are essential pieces of the restaurant tech stack, but can quickly stack up to thousands of dollars in monthly recurring fees.
  • Seating, Renovations and Decorations: each restaurant never knows exactly how much of these items will cost them. There’s always the risk of leaks and electrical complications. Oh, and that’s after you’ve already paid up for chairs, tables, lighting, art, etc.
  • Salaries: The biggest line item – aside from rent – squeezing restaurants right now with minimum wage in NYC moving up to $15 an hour. Between front of house, back of house, delivery, etc., the costs here continue to rise.
  • Sales, Marketing and Advertising: with so much competition, restaurants have to start spreading the word before their doors even open. These expenses vary, but mainly include web design, menu development and social media. 
  • Licenses, Permits and State/City Requirements: restaurateurs looking to operate in New York city are subject to a number of permits and licenses like food protection, gas authorization, waste removal, food service establishment, etc.
  • Food Expenses: last but not least, at least 30% of the restaurant’s revenue gets eaten up on food and beverage costs given that it costs a week of produce around $600 for just 30 items.

Restaurants are mini factories – each one as numerous moving pieces that need to work in harmony to serve a great, consistent product…and any wrench in the works throws off the process and costs valuable time and money.

We’re not saying don’t have a $10 budget all-in. That’s totally fine. That’ll work for pizza or more cost-effective fast food options. But asking your local vendor – or a concierge service like FoodtoEat that coordinates everything for you – to satisfy a below-market request adds further pressure to a business that’s already dealing with its fair share.

Understanding the supply chain will deepen your empathy for a key aspect of the local community. And more importantly, emphasize the importance of paying a fair price for a high-quality product.

Collectively, we need to start valuing other people’s work and understand why it’s simply not acceptable to routinely ask for someone to provide their services for free. You can’t realistically say you invest or believe in social impact businesses, and then turn around and ask for an >80% discount on their services. 

We’re not saying that discounts are flat-out bullshit. Rather, there always needs to be an equivalent value of exchange – fair pay for fair work. 

Luckily, there are a few ways you can make this happen while still asking (and receiving) a discount.

Putting your money (or effort) where your mouth is

So now that we know the dynamics of why smaller businesses are at a disadvantage, what can we do about it? Here are some actionable tips to still achieve your CSR goals on a reasonable budget while not hampering the vendor.

To mitigate adding pressure to already thin margins, companies can instead exchange services. When there is a clear exchange of services, small restaurants/catering services can provide some services at cost or discounted. Some examples include:

  1. Speaker opportunity for the vendor at the event catered
  2. Provide the vendor with the contact information of attendees
  3. Create a dedicated post-event email
  4. Market the vendor through a dedicated social media post

You won’t get that 250-person catering for free, but maybe in-line with a more acceptable budget.

We already see this dynamic play out in personal dining – with influencers. When an influencer asks to eat at a restaurant at a discount, it’s a completely valid request, since they’re actively marketing the food and experience to their following. Because the influencer exposes the restaurant to potential customers, they in turn receive a tangible benefit. 

New York City is a culinary mecca, made up of so many of the small businesses that make our city so vibrant. And FoodtoEat loves promoting them. They are a part of our city’s culture, shaping us as global citizens and reminding us of the hard work and determination that comes with running any business. 

In our current social climate, supporting your local food community is more important than ever before. When so many factors divide us, food is a common denominator – a reason to come together and share different parts of ourselves, our cultures and our identities.

So from the bottom of our hearts, as part of the community of small businesses, stop taking advantage of our lack of power in the market. We’re not the biggest companies out there, but we’re a vital part of our social fabric, employing more people in this city – and country – than are larger counterparts, entrusted with sustaining peoples’ hearts, minds, and stomachs. 

How will you start utilizing your purchasing power to improve local communities around you?

Tommy Byrnes, Co-Founder of Jalapa Jar

From serving breakfast tacos in a subway station in Austin, Texas to now opening their own store all the way in Brooklyn, Jalapa Jar continues to ascend the road of local success. Back in 2015, three friends had a great salsa recipe that at the beginning was only for friends and family gatherings. One worked in Wall Street, the other was in the food industry, and the other was involved in several Marketing and Business Development rolls. The three wanted to pursue something different and start their own business but weren’t exactly sure what. After many thought processes and friends’ encouragements, the three took the love for their salsa recipe to share it with the rest of the world and make it into an actual business.

They quickly got involved with Smorgasburg NYC, realizing the idea of a breakfast taco wasn’t as popular as in Texas or California. And since both tacos and salsas go together, the founders found themselves with an opportunity. From a taco standpoint, Jalapa Jar has definitely added its own twist. Among their specialties they have their garlic, jalapeño mashed potatoes with crumbled bacon, cheese, eggs, and cilantro. For a more afternoon bite, you can do their own bowl or taco with proteins ranging from super slow cooked shredded chicken, chopped steak, and mushroom with onions and garlic. The success of the salsa and taco makers had them join the catering business and many markets.

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But what was so special about this combo? This salsa company set itself apart from others like Tostitos for the freshness with no chemicals or preservatives. “You can purchase some Tostito’s salsas, send it to the moon and still be able to eat it”. We all know it is full of chemicals but we just blindfold ourselves. Jalapa Jar has proven that no chemicals are needed in order to preserve the ingredients. Yes of course it will not last you over a year. But if kept refrigerated, their salsas could last you up to 12 weeks. Red wine vinegar, lime juice, and the natural acidity of the tomatoes is all what’s needed. Jalapa Jar doesn’t look forward to become a national brand full of preservatives rather one like Blue Bottle Coffee or Van Lewens Ice Cream. Both have served as brand marketing inspirations for their artisanal nature, trying to be the best of their categories by sourcing the best ingredients, knowing exactly the best way to make it and presenting themselves as a very clean, ethical brand.

The founder also mentioned how through the development of the company they have not only learned how they want to position themselves in the market but also how to differentiate ingredients regarding sources, seasonality and taste. Jalapa Jar gets its ingredients from local produce manufacturers in the area, such as Baldor and Avanti. They are not able to directly work with farmers yet, but Tommy says as the company grows, they would be able to contact farmers and collaborate with them. In the end, they make it locally, they provide job opportunities to the local community, and also sell at local events like concerts and markets.

And like many food startups, it is currently at a kitchen incubator in the FIDI area. Economically it makes sense to be part of these incubators as small businesses don’t need to pay for kitchen space, rent, utilities, etc. and are also provided an education on how to run their operations successfully – forming some type of community where they support each other and each other’s companies. At the same time, Jalapa Jar has the best of both worlds: the incubator and their own space at the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Building 77. With this latest venture, Jalapa Jar has the chance to produce even more salsa for a wider audience. As of now, they are in all the Wholefoods of New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York City. With their new location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, they are striving to be in Massachusetts and D.C.

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Besides co-founder Tommy, we also interviewed chef Dillon. With a background in Mathematics, he got himself involved with food at his first job at Waffle Bar. “Just by looking at my apron and seeing all the flour and the mess, I loved it! From that point on, I developed a unique passion to serve people and provide the most delicious food”. Solidifying his interest, he pursued his career as a chef. Short Story, Jalapa Jar wouldn’t be the same without him. Here’s why. Early on, Jalapa Jar sticked to the original recipe as they knew for sure people enjoyed eating it. As neither Tommy nor Steve had much experience in developing recipes, there wasn’t much room for creativity. When Dillon tagged along, he positioned the company to take on new challenges. Many people think that when cooking, recipes are followed over and over again. Absolutely not. If you are going to be making food at a regular basis you need to be creative and learn as you go. Dillon started experimenting with the ingredients, adjusting the rations of fat or salt content for example, and started developing new outstanding recipes that are very popular nowadays.

Jalapa Jar’s strength in the market is certainly the simplicity of their ingredient list. But can you really grow to become a national brand and be in remote locations like Iowa if you are fresh? “It is still a work in progress and definitely have many plans that can potentially help us get there. For example, having a local manufacturer in different areas to reduce the delivery time. Yet again, another challenge as you need to put your trust with so many people like we do with Dillon. We hope we can disrupt the food system. That’s is why we are constantly asking ourselves new questions such as: What are the various forms we can cook our ingredients? or What natural ingredients play the same role as preservatives to have a longer shelf-life?”

Both founders admit it has definitely been a challenge as the routine of knowing exactly what your day is going to look like doesn’t exist anymore. “Now, we don’t get patted on the back every time we do something right like it was before”. But Tommy definitely credits his business background and Smith’s 15 years in the financial sector for their ever-growing success with their product. They are enthusiastic about the future as they know all the time, money, and resources they’ve put in has been worth it so far. Oh, and curious of where they got the name from? The first town in Mexico that grew jalapeños is called Jalapa.

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