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Danny Meyer Calls Closing a Restaurant an ‘Incredible Learning Experience’

Chinese tariffs create tough times for soy bean farmers, Applebee’s bounces back thanks to cheap booze, and more news to start your day

Getty Images/Dimitrios Kambouris

Danny Meyer’s silver linings playbook

In his hospitality bible Setting the Table, restaurateur extraordinaire Danny Meyer wrote, “I haven’t had the experience of closing any of [my restaurants], and I pray I never will.” That book was published 12 years ago, and since Danny wrote those words, he actually has had to close a restaurant — his massive NYC Indian fine dining establishment, Tabla — and now he’s gearing up to sunset another one of his projects, Lower Manhattan’s North End Grill. In a new essay for LinkedIn, the hospitality guru and Shake Shack founder looks at the valuable lessons that can be learned from saying goodbye to one of your restaurants:

[When] reality dictates closing, we have a choice: to do so in secrecy and shame, or instead, with dignity, integrity, and pride. Uplifting outcomes (some of which can take time to reveal themselves) usually ensue from taking the latter path: your team grows tighter and stronger from weathering adversity. It’s actually a painful, but incredible learning experience. You build trust with guests, suppliers, investors and all stakeholders by upholding your values during difficult times. And you benefit from the introspection needed to reflect upon and learn from what went wrong. It’s a lesson every entrepreneur can practice with failures big and small.

Meyer notes that the team at North End Grill is “innovating up until the very last service,” which will likely be on December 15.

A sad time of year for America’s soy farmers

As a response to President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, the Chinese government has in turn placed a tariff on American soybeans — and now farmers across the country are feeling the pinch. Over the last decade, midwestern farmers were able to grow their businesses by shipping large quantities of soybeans to China, where they were used to feed pigs and cattle. Now, in places like Cass County, North Dakota, local farmers are sitting on massive piles of freshly harvested soy beans that will rot unless demand increases. By one NYT estimate, soybean sales in the area have dropped by as much as 94 percent since last year. “I’m trying to follow and figure out who the winners are in this tariff war,” says local farmer Greg Gebeke. “I know who one of the losers are and that’s us. And that’s painful.”

And in other news...

  • Now that “poison has come back in vogue in the shadow world of espionage,” NYT critic Ligaya Mishan wonders if it’s time to bring back food tasters for royals and politicians. [NYT]
  • McDonald’s has been doing sweepstakes for 40 years now — the first was called “Guess the Weight of the 50 Pound Hash Brown” — but the latest national game, Trick, Treat, Win!, was the first to be tied to a holiday. The Halloween-themed sweepstakes proved to be such a big hit that diners can likely expect more of these holiday-themed games popping up in the future. [Fast Company]
  • Top Chef alum Fatima Ali appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show last week to talk about her terminal cancer diagnosis, and her plans for the near future. “I have so many restaurants I want to go to around Europe,” Ali told Ellen. “Go to Italy. Go to France. Go to Spain. Go to South Africa ... go on a safari. So many things I want to do.” As a surprise, DeGeneres gifted her $50K to help pursue these experiences. Fans have also set up a GoFundMe page for Ali to assist with her medical bills and travel costs. [GeoTV; GoFundMe]
  • And finally, Applebee’s increased its sales by 7.7 percent in the third quarter of 2018 by leaning into comfort food and offering outrageous drink promotions like Dollaritas and $2 Buds. “Americans are stressed,” says Applebee’s president John Cywinski. “When stressed, they tend to go to comfort food ... and we’re pretty darn good at comfort food.” [CNN]

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