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The Crumb for September 15th, 2017

Lori Bailey / September 15th 2017

Today's Crumb dropped next to a cup of instant.

Happy Friday! Treat yourself to a coffee (but, please, enjoy your pumpkin spice lattes responsibly) as you settle into this past week’s food news.


Storm’s not over yet

Although Hurricane Irma didn’t hit the States as hard as expected, restaurants still face a long and challenging road ahead. Many businesses are expected to be without power for quite a while — in some cases, weeks. For restaurants that run on tight margins, prolonged power outages could create inventory problems and further delay re-openings. On top of that, insurance companies are evaluating the aftermath of flooding and other damages wreaked by not one, but two record-breaking hurricanes within mere days of one another. In the meantime, most businesses are prioritizing safety of their employees and customers as they work to get back on their feet.

 

Caution: coffee may be hot

Add Blue Bottle to the growing list of independent coffee brands going the not-so-indie route. Following the likes of Stumptown and Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle’s caught the attention of a corporate giant — in this case, Nestle, which announced Thursday that it’s buying majority stock in the San Francisco-based company. For Nestle, this is a strategic move to get with the times and freshen up its portfolio with trend-forward brands. For Blue Bottle, this deal presents big opportunities for expansion across North America and Asia. Add that to Starbucks’ Reserve bars, plus JAB Holdings’ steadily amassing coffee empire, and it’s clear that third wave coffee is swelling in a major way. Which presents a question to the indie coffee world: when other companies are selling out to the big guys, what are the opportunities in staying small? Something to ponder, perhaps, over your next pourover.

 

Don’t trash these fish

‘Cause a little dog(fish) might just make a great slider. Due to warming waters and bad practices, New England waters aren’t seeing the same hauls of highly-valued cod that have earned its livelihood in centuries past. Consumers still want the cod, but it’s harder to get — and, all the while, local “trash fish” are getting sold for pennies and shipped off to more promising international markets. That’s why Pier to Plate is partnering with Cape Cod chefs and restaurants, putting locally-harvested, “under-loved” fish on menus to experiment with these new varieties and raise consumer awareness. The key lies in using industry thought leaders (and smart marketing) to pave the way, driving demand and eventually buy-in from large-scale manufacturers and distributors. In the end, Pier to Plate and similar orgs are rooting for a healthier, more sustainable seafood system for all. No more fishy business in the fishing business.

 

Like-able by design

If you make a good product, the customers will come... so long as said product is also prepared to model against a wall papered with the houseplant-du-jour or atop a sleek white marble counter. The age of Instagram has permeated the very designs of restaurants, the hippest of which must now regard photograph-ability along with, you know, more operationally essential considerations. Hailed as a new, visual “word of mouth,” Insta and other social media platforms can do businesses plenty of good when their tactics resonate with customers — lots of shares basically equates to free marketing, after all. Important enough of a perk to merit one LA cafe owner’s claim that “if you're not using this tool, then I’m sorry, you shouldn't be doing business in this day and age." 

HC’s two cents: Of course, every business is different, with different target audiences. But as social media sharing shows no signs of slowing just yet, an appealing digital presence may become increasingly important in every sector of the market. Time to “friend” your contractor.

 

In-store innovation

Restaurants without brick-and-mortars, multi-purpose spaces that mix food and retail — the model for the in-store experience is changing as more people browse and buy with their laptops or phones. Fashion, like food, is experimenting with the future of shopping, and premium retailer Nordstrom just unveiled their big idea: a clothing store without inventory. Strange sounding at first, but consider the free consultations with styling experts, curated clothing choices, and a glass of wine or cold-pressed juice while you wait. Nordstrom’s logic is that, if modern customers decide to to bother with a physical store, reward them a streamlined, non-overwhelming experience. Relaxed minds and bodies, relaxed fists on wallets.

 

It ain’t easy being cheesy

The good news, for all you cheesy-dip-lovers: Chipotle has finally rolled out its queso nationwide. The not-so-good news: some reviews have called it bland, and most describe it as somewhat grainy. According to the company, this is because they wanted to avoid all that artificial junk that makes normal queso so delightfully, impossibly elastic. So sadly, if you’re a traditional queso aficionado, Chipotle’s variety may not be for you. But, if you’re interested in a cheesy queso-rito, apparently it makes for a pretty stellar combo. Pleased, or cheesed? Let us know!


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