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In the battle to keep their New York City restaurant going despite sharp restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak, the owners of Il Posto Accanto tried something Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta would have considered sacrilege in normal times.
That was offering their traditional Italian dishes for delivery, “which never, never, never, ever, ever, ever happened before,” she said. “I like my food to go from the kitchen to the table, and that’s it!”
On Friday, she said she and husband Julio Pena decided to suspend operations because employees were wary of being out in New York City, which is now the U.S. epicenter of the contagion.
“We respect their feelings,” she said. “It’s not like we were making money.”
Across the United States, restaurateurs are transforming operations to try to stay afloat. The National Restaurant Association warns that the outbreak could cost 5 million to 7 million jobs and hundreds of billions in losses and is pushing for a special federal relief package for restaurants.
In an industry of traditionally tight profit margins, some decided it’s time to take chances.
Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants, a Cincinnati-based chain that laid off more than a third of its 5,000 employees in the first days of bans on in-restaurant dining, last week pivoted into the grocery business. Besides its signature Big Boy double-decker burgers and onion rings, customers at its 100 restaurants in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky can buy bread, milk and and produce at its drive-throughs and carryout counters and via home delivery.
Frisch’s saw a quick jump in revenues at a time when people have been frustrated by long lines and shortages at traditional supermarkets. Toilet paper is in high demand, and Frisch’s and others are using it as a lure.
Westmont Diner in Westmont, N.J., has added it to carry-out options at 60 cents a roll, along with paper towels, soap, bleach and other household needs. Lindey’s in Columbus, Ohio, throws in a free roll with all takeout orders. Frontier in Chicago gave out decks of cards to homebound customers with their carryout dinners.
With the number of states with stay-at-home orders growing, some restaurateurs decided to shut down. Cameron Mitchell, based in Columbus, said carryout offerings weren’t bringing in enough business to keep his namesake chain of 36 restaurants in 12 states going. More than 4,000 employees were laid off last week.
Some fine-dining restaurants unused to carryout are trying scaled-down menu at bargain prices.
In Chicago, patrons can now carry out food for a fraction of the typical dine-in tab at Alinea, where nabbing a seat typically requires reservations weeks in advance and dinners can cost as much as $395 per head. Alinea now offers takeout meals of beef wellington, mashed potatoes and creme brulee for $39.95, and reports strong sales so far.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday that with Californians under a stay-home edict, restaurants are allowed to deliver alcoholic beverages along with meals to boost their revenues.
Sitting in the nearly empty Frisch’s “Mainliner” restaurant where the chain originated in suburban Cincinnati in 1942, CEO Jason Vaughn said customers at the privately held chain’s 100 restaurants have asked for additions, such as bottles of orange juice, quarts of soup and coffee for home. Frisch’s is trying to leverage its supply chain to accommodate requests.
Vaughn predicts the crisis will change the industry.
“People have changed habits,” he said. “When the green light goes on, we don’t expect to come back as status quo … when we go to whatever that new norm is, we’ll see if we can continue it [groceries] if it’s a service the community wants.”
In New York, Tosti said leftover meals would be given to city firefighters. She said the restaurant’s future after some 15 years of operation would depend on how long quarantining and edicts against in-restaurant dining lasted.
“I’m better at taking it one day at a time,” said the Rome-born restaurateur. “We can hope for a better day.” (VOA)
The Israeli Antiquities Authority said Tuesday that a diver swimming in the Mediterranean Sea has recovered a large sword that experts believe to be about 900 years old, dating back to the Crusades.
The antiquities authority's Director of Marine Archaeology, Kobi Sharvit, said the amateur diver was swimming about 150 meters offshore near the Israeli port of Haifa a few days ago when he spotted the sword lying on the ocean floor, four to five meters below the surface.
Sharvit said the diver recovered the sword and immediately took it to the antiquities authority. Sharvit said the sword -- encrusted with marine organisms when discovered –is the most complete and well preserved he has seen in 31 years. He described the sword as large, heavy and made of iron.
He added that the one-meter-long blade, hilt and handle were distinctive and highly noticeable after undercurrents apparently shifted sands that had concealed it.
Sharvit said because the sword was found in a cove, not far from the Crusader castle of Atlit on the northern coast of Israel, it is being assumed the sword belonged to a solder in the Crusades.
The Crusades were a series of medieval European Christian-led military expeditions to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.
Sharvit said that from an historical perspective, the handle of the sword may be the most important part of the weapon as that is where decorations, and perhaps, even names or initials are often found that will help identify the sword.
He said once it cleaned, examined, and restored, the antiquities authority will put the sword on display. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Crusader sword, Israel, Antiquity, Castle of Atlit
Facebook must pay a $4.75 million fine and up to $9.5 million in back pay to eligible victims who say the company discriminated against U.S. workers in favor of foreign ones, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
The discrimination took place from at least January 1, 2018, until at least September 18, 2019.
The Justice Department said Facebook "routinely refused" to recruit or consider U.S. workers, including U.S. citizens and nationals, asylees, refugees and lawful permanent residents, in favor of temporary visa holders. Facebook also helped the visa holders get their green cards, which allowed them to work permanently
In a separate settlement, the company also agreed to train its employees in anti-discrimination rules and conduct wider searches to fill jobs.
The fines and back pay are the largest civil awards ever given by the DOJ's civil rights division in its 35-year history.
"Facebook is not above the law and must comply with our nation's civil rights laws," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke told reporters in a telephone conference.
"While we strongly believe we met the federal government's standards in our permanent labor certification [PERM] practices, we've reached agreements to end the ongoing litigation and move forward with our PERM program, which is an important part of our overall immigration program," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "These resolutions will enable us to continue our focus on hiring the best builders from both the U.S. and around the world and supporting our internal community of highly skilled visa holders who are seeking permanent residence." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Employment, Justice Dept., Recruitment
Tomatoes are a staple in the Indian diet, be it a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian dish. It has to be a part of each meal in some form. As puree, paste, flavour, or diced into the dal. This tangy, sweet, and juicy ingredient was not always Indian. In fact, it did not even grow in India until the British sanctioned it. It is a product of colonization and has come a long way to become part of our everyday meals.
Originally, the tomato was considered poison. Its actual native is debatable. Some say it is European while others argue that is came from indigenous parts of Spain and Portugal. Either way, it is a plant species that is associated with the legendary Nightshade. It looks very similar to this poisonous plant that tomatoes were not even harvested for a long time, for fear of picking Nightshade instead. It was believed that Nightshade caused the blood to turn to acid and that tomatoes had the same property. Later research proved that the plant itself may be poisonous but the fruit is not.
The fruit if the woody nightshade plant Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Tomato is considered a fruit instead of a vegetable because it is cooked. But this theory has an interesting tale behind it. in the United States, in 1887, a tax was levied on the transport of vegetables, but not on fruits. By then, tomatoes had become a huge part of the American diet and traders could not afford to pay the ten percent duty. So, they began to call the large loads they transported fruits, just to avoid the tax due. In time, this is how the tomato came to be regarded. Some scientists went even further and stated that it is a berry. Botanists claim that since it is a part that grows from the flower's ovary and contains seeds, it is a fruit and not a vegetable. But this is a debate that will never end.
Incorporating tomatoes into the Indian diet must have happened so long ago that people do not remember a time without tomatoes, considering how it is the fundamental ingredient of most cuisines. The tomato has a name in every language as well, so the trading between nations, the voyages that brought them to India, and the decoding of the fruit-vegetable must have taken place far earlier than our ancestors remember. Or, perhaps we liked it so much that we decided to use it everywhere and make it our own. Nonetheless, it has been a delightful addition.
Keywords: Tomato, Fruit, Vegetable, Nightshade, Voyage, Staple