View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

AT&T’s Big Deal With Discovery Unwinds Billions in Mergers

Goldbelly’s growth surpassed its expectations. Sales more than quadrupled last year, and it nearly doubled the number of restaurants on its platform, to 850. That, according to Joe Ariel, its co-founder and C.E.O., was because the company allows restaurants like Di Fara pizzeria in Brooklyn and Parkway Bakery and Tavern in New Orleans to go national: “We’re basically opening up a 3,000-mile radius for restaurants.”

Can that good fortune continue? As in-person dining resumes across the U.S., Ariel concedes that Goldbelly’s phenomenal growth rate last year “is not going to happen forever.” But its newest backers believe that restaurants will keep making online sales part of their businesses. Goldbelly is also counting on maintaining its lead by spending more on marketing, offering livestreamed cooking classes and relying on the loyalty of chefs.

  • Ariel didn’t deny that the company has its eye on an I.P.O. “In the future, we do want to be a public company,” he told DealBook.


Cryptocurrency’s rise to prominence is reflected in the latest U.S. tax documents (due today, in case you forgot). This year, a virtual currency question tops Form 1040, the individual income tax return form, right after the personal identifying information. The I.R.S. wants to know: “At any time during 2020, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?”

Yes means no, sort of. If you only bought crypto with “real currency” then you aren’t required to answer “yes,” per the I.R.S. But this guidance is not binding, which means you can’t entirely rely on it. This relatively simple question, which is generating consternation among accountants, reflects the greater state of disarray when it comes to digital asset taxation.

  • “There’s very limited guidance on crypto,” Michael Meisler, a lawyer who leads EY’s crypto tax center, told DealBook. Basic tax principles apply to digital assets and many concepts translate from the physical to digital realm, but crypto is evolving fast. The approach taxpayers take depends on their tolerance for risk, Meisler said.

Cryptocurrency is property for tax purposes. That means that there is a tax liability for every sale or purchase using crypto, said Amy Kim, the chief policy officer of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a trade group: “Imagine reporting the gain or loss on every cup of coffee you bought at Starbucks.”

Big Crypto wants the I.R.S. to flip its script. The tax authorities have engaged in an “enforcement-focused approach,” Kim said. “We believe this approach should be reversed — issue practical guidance, then enforce that guidance against those who do not comply.”

Deals

  • Alex Rodriguez and the Jet.com cofounder Marc Lore agreed to buy the N.B.A.’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the W.N.B.A.’s Minnesota Lynx for $1.5 billion. (NYT)

  • George Soros’s investment fund was among those that scooped up stocks at a steep discount when they were offloaded by Archegos during its implosion. (Bloomberg)

  • The influential proxy adviser I.S.S. backed three of four candidates for Exxon Mobil’s board put forth by the climate-minded activist investor Engine No. 1. (Bloomberg)

Politics and policy

  • Rural areas are counting on President Biden’s infrastructure proposal, in particular its expansion of broadband access, to help attract more workers. (NYT)

  • Proponents of Biden’s planned revival of the International Entrepreneur Rule to grant start-up founders special visas say it will create thousands of new jobs. (Axios)

Tech

  • “The Deadly Toll of Amazon’s Trucking Boom” (The Information)

  • Goldman Sachs’s online consumer banking unit lost another top executive as its C.F.O., Sherry Ann Mohan, defected to JPMorgan Chase. (CNBC)

Best of the rest

  • Leslie Moonves, who was fired from CBS in 2018, will receive nothing from the $120 million the company set aside in a potential severance package. (NYT)

  • Some advice on how to prevent the re-emergence of workplace cliques as people return to the office. (FT)

  • The publicly traded New Jersey deli with a $100 million market cap that David Einhorn identified as a symptom of irrational markets has fired its C.E.O. (CNBC)

We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to dealbook@nytimes.com.

View Source

Goldbelly Raises $100 Million During Pandemic-Driven Boom

When the pandemic started last spring, Di Fara, one of New York City’s storied pizza joints, had the same question as countless restaurants nationwide: How would it make any money when customers weren’t allowed through its doors?

One answer quickly emerged: Ship frozen (and slightly smaller) versions of its classic pies across the country in partnership with the eight-year-old e-commerce platform Goldbelly.

Sales picked up so much that Di Fara converted its two-year-old second location, in a food hall, to essentially be a Goldbelly production line. Margaret Mieles, the daughter of Di Fara’s founder, who had already struck an agreement with Goldbelly in December 2019, credits the platform with helping the pizzeria avoid layoffs.

It isn’t just iconic pizzerias that have relied on Goldbelly to survive lockdown orders. More than 400 of the 850 restaurants that sell food on Goldbelly’s platform have joined since the start of the pandemic, an influx that the company says has more than quadrupled sales over the past 12 months.

Parkway Bakery & Tavern in New Orleans, recalled dodging calls from Goldbelly representatives pitching the platform for more than a year, before relenting in September 2019. Even then, he said in an interview, he would ship perhaps 15 boxes in any given week.

Then pandemic lockdowns devastated the restaurant industry. More than 110,000 restaurants nationwide had permanently closed by December, the National Restaurant Association estimated, and a survey it conducted found that sales in October had dropped from a year earlier for 87 percent of the full-service survivors.

Mr. Kennedy shut Parkway in March 2020. When he restarted the business several months later, he began by shipping its signature po’ boy sandwiches through Goldbelly. At the height of the pandemic, Parkway shipped around 200 orders a week, doing roughly the same business that it had done prepandemic — only now its customers included people far from New Orleans.

“We got customers from Alaska calling us, asking us what to do for leftovers,” Mr. Kennedy said. “These are customers we would never have had.”

Some restaurants seeking alternate sources of revenue during the pandemic turned to local delivery services; total orders on DoorDash’s platform in 2020, for instance, jumped roughly threefold from the previous year.

But like Mr. Kennedy, many also turned to Goldbelly to ship their pork shoulder dinners, bagel brunches and huckleberry cheesecakes to locations as far away as Hawaii. (Goldbelly doesn’t consider services like DoorDash to be rivals, since its food generally takes at least a day to arrive and requires cooking).

grilled eggplant parm — something that previously would never have been served at the Michelin-starred restaurant — in part because it would do well on Goldbelly.

Spectrum Equity, the investment firm that is leading the new financing round, reached out to Goldbelly last year as it saw how the company was able to connect local restaurants with a national audience.

“The pandemic has really accelerated trends that were already happening,” said Pete Jensen, a managing director at Spectrum, adding that Goldbelly’s growth has been “extraordinary.”

Mr. Ariel said the fresh capital — raised at an undisclosed valuation — would help Goldbelly expand further, including by hiring more staff and augmenting new offerings like livestreamed cooking classes with celebrity chefs, including Marcus Samuelsson and Daniel Boulud. The company is looking to have more than 1,000 restaurants on its platform by year-end.

The goal, Mr. Ariel said, is to make Goldbelly the biggest platform on which restaurants make money outside of in-person dining, while expanding their brands nationally.

Streetbird is on the Goldbelly platform.

But others, like Ms. Mieles of Di Fara, said they remained committed to the service. “I think, honestly, Goldbelly is here to stay,” she said.

View Source

Roger Federer on His New Gig: Swiss Tourism Spokesman

I love to walk through small villages where life is still normal. Small places where people are driving tractors and there is one baker, one church. The people in these places aren’t multitasking. They go about their days in a normal way. Someone shows up and they want to know, “Hey, what brought you here?” It’s very friendly, so you can always have a chat with people.

Tennis club life in Switzerland is important. This is how I grew up. There are many scenic places where you can play tennis in Switzerland. Tennis Club Geneva, where the Geneva Open tournament is played is very beautiful. Tennis Club de Genève Eaux-Vives is also really nice. The clubs in Basel where I played growing up in the Interclub competition are quite nice.

There was a boom building tennis clubs when I was growing up, so every second village has its own club. We have to protect this tennis culture we have. The restaurants at the tennis clubs are very important. A lot of the clubs where I’ve played, they have really good chefs, really good service and very high quality. People spent a lot of their time at the clubs, so the food has to be good and it’s usually at a good price, too.

I mean, chocolate, hello, you have to love chocolate if you’re Swiss. I used to be white, then I was milk, and now I even like going dark. I like it all. Then I like the Bündner Nusstorte, which is like a nut tart from the region of Graubünden. That’s beautiful. And then, of course, there’s rösti, a potato fritter dish. We have a dish called Zürcher Geschnetzeltes that’s like minced meat with a mushroom sauce, and I love to eat cordon bleu — that’s beautiful, too.

Fly into Zurich or Geneva and go from there. In the summer, I think you would want to visit Lucerne and Interlaken and maybe visit the Jungfrau, Basel, Zurich, Bern, the capital — its inner city is also really beautiful. We also have some incredible museums in Switzerland. The Fondation Beyeler art museum is great. I grew up visiting the Tinguely Museum, which is very interesting.

In Lucerne, there is the Swiss Museum of Transport, which is still my favorite place to take my children. It’s a wonderful place where you can see old trams, trains, planes, cars, bikes, you name it.

View Source

The high-end restaurant Eleven Madison Park is going vegan.

Eleven Madison Park, the Manhattan restaurant that has been called the best in the world, will serve an all-plant-based menu when it reopens after more than a year of being closed because of the pandemic.

Eleven Madison Park’s multicourse menu will keep its prepandemic price of $335, including tip, Brett Anderson and Jenny Gross report for The New York Times.

Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park’s chef, said the decision is the result of a yearslong re-evaluation about where his career was headed, which reached its breaking point during the pandemic.

“It became very clear to me that our idea of what luxury is had to change,” Mr. Humm said. “We couldn’t go back to doing what we did before.”

Davies and Brook at Claridge’s hotel, the move at Eleven Madison Park — which has four stars from The New York Times and three from Michelin — suggests how different fine dining may look as restaurants reopen and reimagine themselves.

View Source

There Is a Lot of Fungus Among Us

Inside a state-of-the-art lab, tucked in an industrial neighborhood on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, employees wearing protective suits move around two clear boxes, careful not to disrupt the tubes and sensors that keep temperature and humidity constant. Inside the boxes are mushrooms.

But not just any mushrooms. They are psychedelic — “magic” — mushrooms that the start-up Numinus Wellness believes one day may be used to treat mental health conditions as varied as depression, substance abuse and anxiety.

Welcome to the ’Shroom Boom. While Numinus is using mushrooms to make mind-altering therapies, other mushroom growers are promising other benefits, like strengthening immune systems or reducing inflammation. Mushrooms are showing up in all sorts of wellness products, pushing them into the mainstream and making mushrooms a major force in the flourishing, multibillion-dollar wellness market.

legalize psilocybin, the main active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms, for the treatment of certain mental health conditions in supervised settings. In March, the New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang said New York State should legalize psychedelic mushrooms, a stance he raised in 2019 when he was a Democratic presidential candidate.

Regulators in the United States and Canada are taking baby steps toward allowing limited use of psychedelic mushrooms, which produce visual and auditory hallucinations over a few hours after ingestion, for the treatment of certain mental health conditions. Popular as part of the counterculture in the 1960s, magic mushrooms were deemed illegal in the United States in the 1970s.

public offering. Another psychedelic company, MindMed, has financial backing from Kevin O’Leary of “Shark Tank.”

New York in March. But some analysts and many of the companies themselves caution that the path for psychedelics will most likely be very different.

study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine that found use of psilocybin relieved anxiety and depression in people with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. A second, small study involving 24 participants conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers that was published in JAMA Psychiatry found that those who received psilocybin-assisted therapy showed improvement as well.

“The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market,” Alan Davis, adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in an announcement about the study’s results.

The Food and Drug Administration has put at least two psychedelic mushroom compounds on the fast track for approval to treat depression.

Last year, Canada began allowing a limited number of people with terminal illness to use psychedelic mushrooms. Currently, Numinus is working toward a psilocybin-assisted therapy trial for patients with substance abuse disorders.

And while regulators in the United States are taking a new look at psychedelic mushrooms, psilocybin is still a Schedule 1 drug and would need to be reclassified by regulators.

Despite those hurdles, though, Mr. Nyquvest sees the potential for a broader use of psychedelic mushrooms around wellness, beyond what he called “treating really heavy indicators” of substance abuse and depression.

“The same way you go to the dentist to take care of the teeth, we need to think about taking care of the brain and mental well being.”

View Source

The technology that helped restaurants survive the pandemic.

The past year has crushed independent restaurants across the country and brought a reality to their doors: Many were unprepared for a digital world.

Unlike other small retailers, restaurateurs could keep the tech low, with basic websites and maybe Instagram accounts with tantalizing, well-lit photos of their food. It meant businesses like BentoBox, which aims to help restaurants build more robust websites with e-commerce abilities, were a hard sell, Amy Haimerl reports for The New York Times.

For many, BentoBox’s services were a “nice to have,” not a necessity, the company’s founder, Krystle Mobayeni, said.

But the pandemic sent chefs and owners flocking to the firm as they suddenly needed to add to-go ordering, delivery scheduling, gift card sales and more to their websites. Before the pandemic the company, based in New York City, had about 4,800 clients, including the high-profile Manhattan restaurant Gramercy Tavern; today it has more than 7,000 restaurants on board and recently received a $28.8 million investment led by Goldman Sachs.

The moment opened a well of opportunity for other companies like it. Dozens of firms have either started or scaled up sharply as they found their services in urgent demand. Meanwhile, investors and venture capitalists have been sourcing deals in the “restaurant tech” sector — particularly seeking companies that bring the big chains’ advantages to independent restaurants.

View Source

Restaurants Fought for Covid Survival, With Some Tech Helpers

The past year has crushed independent restaurants across the country and brought a reality to their doors: Many were unprepared for a digital world.

Unlike other small retailers, restaurateurs could keep the tech low, with basic websites and maybe Instagram accounts with tantalizing, well-lit photos of their food.

For the past decade, Krystle Mobayeni had been trying to convince them that they needed more. Ms. Mobayeni, a first-generation Iranian-American, started her company, BentoBox, in 2013 as a side job. She wanted to use her graphic design skills to help restaurants build more robust websites with e-commerce abilities. But it was a hard sell. For many, she said, her services were a “nice to have,” not a necessity.

Until 2020. The pandemic sent chefs and owners flocking to BentoBox, as they suddenly needed to add to-go ordering, delivery scheduling, gift card sales and more to their websites. Before the pandemic the company, based in New York City, had about 4,800 clients, including the high-profile Manhattan restaurant Gramercy Tavern; today it has more than 7,000 restaurants onboard and recently received a $28.8 million investment led by Goldman Sachs.

“I feel like our company was built for this moment,” Ms. Mobayeni said.

The moment opened a well of opportunity for companies like BentoBox that are determined to help restaurants survive. Dozens of companies have either started or scaled up sharply as they found their services in urgent demand. Meanwhile, investors and venture capitalists have been sourcing deals in the “restaurant tech” sector — particularly seeking companies that bring the big chains’ advantages to independent restaurants.

“A lot of what’s happening is reminiscent of what we’ve seen in the broader retail sector in the past decade,” said R.J. Hottovy, a restaurant industry analyst and an investor at Aaron Allen & Associates. “Covid accelerated the transformation quite a bit. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to redefine the experience.”

Part of what Ms. Mobayeni offers restaurants is a one-stop shop and the ability to own their customer data. Many restaurants rely on third-party vendors, such as DoorDash or UberEats, to handle delivery. But those companies charge significant fees and retain customers’ data because the transactions go through their websites. That’s not such a big deal when delivery is 20 percent of a restaurant’s income stream, but it’s a game-changer when delivery becomes 100 percent of income — and you can’t contact any of your customers.

“Restaurants realized they had to think of themselves as larger businesses and brands,” said Camilla Marcus, co-founder of TechTable, which connects the hospitality and tech industries. “You have to expand into other things: e-commerce, delivery, products. You have to think outside the four walls.”

Helping restaurants deepen relationships with customers is where Sam Bernstein saw an opportunity. Before the pandemic he ran a tech start-up that connected students to housing, similar to Airbnb; when universities sent students home last spring, his revenue fell to zero.

He went to his board of directors and offered to return what investment was left and close down. Instead the board suggested he regroup with a smaller team and new vision.

“It was an existential crisis, as you can imagine,” he said.

Mr. Bernstein laid off all but 10 employees and took them for a brainstorming retreat. They considered dozens of business models, looking for the right problem to solve. The more they discussed options, the more the members of the team realized they were all interested in food and hospitality and wanted to help restaurants.

They hit upon the idea for a site that would allow customers to “subscribe” to their favorite restaurants. The new firm, Table22, would help chefs develop and market subscriptions for monthly meal kits and wine clubs, for example, and then manage the sales, recurring billing, scheduling, data analytics and more. In exchange, Table22 takes a percentage of each transaction.

Table22, which is based in New York, went live with its first restaurant in May. Since then, it has grown to more than 150 restaurants in 50 cities. Late last year, the company received about $7 million from investors, who include David Barber, owner of Blue Hill farm and restaurants.

Shelby Allison signed up her Chicago bar, Lost Lake, for the service on a cold email from Table22. She was hesitant at first, planning to listen just long enough to learn how to create a cocktail subscription service herself.

“We get lots and lots of calls from these tech companies trying to help — or prey upon — us struggling businesses,” she said.

But she was impressed by the low service fee and the fact that Table22 shared customer data. She started the service in October, hoping for 30 sign-ups; 100 people joined. Ms. Allison now has 300 subscribers and five employees working on the make-at-home cocktail boxes.

“This will 100 percent stay in the future,” she said. “I love this program. I thought it might cannibalize my to-go business, but it hasn’t at all.”

Ping Ho considered signing up with Table22 to host the wine and meat clubs she offers at her Detroit restaurant and butcher shop, Marrow, and wine bar, the Royce. She decided against it, however, because her existing subscription platform, Zoho, gave her the essential tools.

“It’s a bit more work, but there’s more agency,” she said.

But because her website was mostly informational, she realized she did need help offering online ordering and a delivery system for the butcher shop. So Ms. Ho turned to Mercato, which enables e-commerce for independent grocers. In a bit of fortuitous timing, she had signed up a month before the pandemic struck. When stay-at-home orders were issued, she was able to quickly begin offering grocery items, such as milk and eggs, in addition to meats.

Her sales jumped “tremendously” she said, although they have flattened out in recent months. Still, Ms. Ho intends to maintain the service.

Mercato began in 2015, but 2020 was its year. In February 2020, the service had 400 stores across 20 states; it quickly ramped up to more than 1,000 stores in 45 states. It continues to grow and has added some big-name clients, including the Ferry Building Marketplace on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, with dozens of merchants.

“We’re trying to give independent grocers a sustainable competitive advantage,” said Bobby Brannigan, founder and chief executive of the company, which is based in San Diego.

It’s a mission that he has been training for all his life. Mr. Brannigan’s family owns a grocery store in the Dyker Heights area of Brooklyn, where he started working when he was 8, stocking shelves and delivering groceries.

“It’s ironic that I’m back to doing what I was doing as a kid in Brooklyn,” he said.

Last March and April, Mercato brought on hundreds of new grocers each week — clients that weren’t used to having online orders or weren’t used to the sudden volume of orders. Some stores that were accustomed to 10 orders in a day were flooded with hundreds, Mr. Brannigan said. Thankfully, his dad already had him build tools into the system that would allow grocers to limit the pace of orders and schedule them.

Mr. Brannigan is also adding more data analytics to help his clients better understand what their customers want. They can now see what was bought and what customers searched for.

“You’re amassing a valuable treasure chest of data that lets you sell the products they want today and that they want tomorrow,” he said.

Of course, not all solutions are tech-centric; sometimes, it’s just a grass-roots community of chefs helping chefs. Alison Cayne, for example, has been giving free advice to chefs looking to create packaged goods, like her line of Haven’s Kitchen sauces. Having that extra revenue stream was critical when she shuttered her Manhattan restaurant and cooking school last spring, and she wants others to have the same options.

“This is all very much from my perspective, not the supercapitalized, venture capital-backed, cool-kids business,” she said. “I just want to help them take a brick-and-mortar business and develop a product and build a brand that makes sense and is sustainable.”

In Detroit, the grocer Raphael Wright and the chefs Ederique Goudia and Jermond Booze developed a “diabolical plan,” as Mr. Wright called it, to offer a weekly meal kit cooked by Black chefs during Black History Month.

“Black food businesses are hurting in the city, so we thought, what if we created this meal box in a way that celebrates Black food and Black contributions to American cuisine?” Mr. Wright said.

They named the project Taste the Diaspora Detroit and brought together Black chefs and farmers to create the weekly dishes — like gumbo z’herbes and black-eyed pea masala. The three organized all of the e-commerce and scheduling, which allowed chefs to participate even if they weren’t tech-savvy, and created the packaging and inserts that told the history of the meal. They topped it off with a paired Spotify playlist.

“Being a part of this project woke everyone up and made them think they have a little hope they can push through,” Mr. Wright said.

They hope to reprise the service for Juneteenth and are currently talking to funders to support the effort.

View Source

Michelin Resumes Its Ratings of U.S. Restaurants

After a pause last year because of the pandemic, the Michelin Guides for restaurants in several cities in the United States are up and running again.

The venerable French company announced Thursday that starting next week, it would begin revealing the stars and other ratings for restaurants in Washington D.C., Chicago and New York. The 2021 restaurant guides will be rolled out one week at a time and be entirely virtual; no red books are being printed, nor are they likely to be in the future. A guide to California will be announced at a later date.

The rating process for these guides was completed by the end of 2020. Although the ratings for restaurants in the United States are usually released in the fall, Gwendal Poullennec, the international director of the guides, said the company decided to wait until now to allow more time for restaurants to reopen and Michelin inspectors more time to visit them.

“If anything we were benevolent as to the selections,” he said of the restaurants. “We were impressed with their incredible achievement throughout the crisis. Some of them went above and beyond the standards we usually expect. That’s a positive trend right now.”

app is also available.

Michelin Guide, guide.michelin.com.

View Source

As Diners Return, Restaurants Face a New Hurdle: Finding Workers

Erick Williams, the executive chef and owner of Virtue, a Southern restaurant in Chicago, said his staff of 22 employees is about half the size it was before the pandemic. “People aren’t even showing up for interviews these days,” he said.

If he can’t hire more help before business increases with the growth of outdoor dining, Mr. Williams said, “all of a sudden, you got to pay more overtime, and you’re running the risk of burning out your staff.”

The tight job market has helped hasten changes that restaurant workers pushed for during the shutdowns, including higher pay and better working conditions. Ms. Button has raised wages in accordance with recommendations made by One Fair Wage, an advocacy group for service workers, and is paying $150 bonuses to employees who refer new hires who stay on the job for more than 90 days.

The starting wage for kitchen employees at Mr. Acheson’s Atlanta restaurants is $14 to $15 per hour, he said, up from $12 before the pandemic. “People will walk down the street for a buck more — and they should,” he said.

Mike Traud, the program director of the Department of Food and Hospitality Management at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, said intense competition for talent makes this an opportune time for people to break into the restaurant business. He said this is particularly true in the Northeast, where restaurants on the coast are hiring for the tourism season.

“You have more leverage,” he said, “and there are more opportunities to get into upper-level kitchens.”

Many people, though, may be reluctant to take up or return to restaurant work, given the health risks that some studies have linked to serving customers, particularly indoors. Many restaurateurs are also concerned that resuming indoor dining too quickly could cause another spike in Covid infections. (This week, the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society Program released a set of safety guidelines it developed, in partnership with other industry groups, for diners and restaurant employees to continue following.)

View Source