Qualified residents to begin receiving Hawaii Restaurant Card

… Development and Tourism (DBEDT), Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Hawaii Restaurant Association and the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation.

The Hawaii Restaurant Card (HRC) will begin arriving in mailboxes of qualified residents this week, beginning Friday.

The HRC Program, funded via $75 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides residents who filed an initial claim for Unemployment Insurance benefits beginning March 1 or thereafter and continue to meet additional CARES Act fund eligibility requirements with a preloaded, prepaid debit Mastercard with $500 for use at restaurants, eating establishments, bakeries and food caterers throughout Hawaii.


Qualified individuals will automatically receive the card and have through Dec. 15 to expend the funds. There is no sign up required. The use of the Hawaii Restaurant Card will not impact SNAP and Medicaid benefits or eligibility.

The HRC Program is a public-private partnership between the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Hawaii Restaurant Association and the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation. The state says the program will result in far reaching economic benefits beyond restaurants, including the restaurant industry supply chain, farmers, ranchers, fisherman, produce suppliers, supply companies and more.


The card can be used statewide at restaurants, eateries, bakeries and food caterers that accept Debit Mastercard. The card can only be used for food and nonalcoholic beverage purchases and it will not be accepted at grocery or convenience stores or for grab-and-go prepared meals.

For more information, visit www.hawaiirestaurantcard.com.

Three Taverns Imaginarium brewery to open later this month at Atlanta Dairies

“An ancient cabinet of curiosities inspired the unique design and will … which was concepted by Metaleap Creative and designed by architectural firm …

To ensure proper social distancing inside the tasting room, the brewery will limit the number of guests inside by assigning people to tables and requiring masks unless seated and drinking beer.

The Imaginarium’s space, which was concepted by Metaleap Creative and designed by architectural firm Square Feet Studios, “draws inspiration from the scientific world of centuries past: laboratories, apothecaries, and cabinets of curiosities, where collectors would proudly put their experiments and discoveries on display,” according to the press release.

The design “embodies those lush hideaways where every square inch is meant to be a visual escape hatch into the imagination,” Metaleap Creative’s Jose Reyes said in a prepared statement. Look for neon inside and out and custom-designed wallpaper and typograph among the design elements.

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Three Taverns owner Brian Purcell said the historical significance of the Atlanta Dairies site, its tenant list and its proximity to the Eastside Beltline trail made the location a good fit for the Imaginarium. He also referenced Dairies’ retained industrial feel, along with the fact that the first craft beer brewers constructed brewing systems from used dairy equipment.

“We have a love and reverence for history at Three Taverns, and with so many touchpoints to the past, in Georgia and beyond, continuing the industrial tradition that defined this place for so long is inspiring and provides a deeper sense of place and purpose,” Purcell said in a prepared statement.

Three Taverns, which opened its Decatur location in 2013, initially announced its plans for the Imaginarium in late 2018. It will join other Atlanta Dairies tenants including diner Wonderkid and Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar. The Paces Properties-owned site is also set to welcome a live music venue with a rooftop bar and a barbecue restaurant in the coming months.

The Imaginarium’s hours will be 3-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 1-8 p.m. Sunday.

777 Memorial Drive, Atlanta. threetavernsbrewery.com/theimaginarium

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About the Author

Yvonne Zusel

Yvonne Zusel has been with the AJC since 2010. She works as a digital audience specialist for the food and dining team.

The Singaporean startup that ran a cloud kitchen before they got popular

“We were one of the very first few cloud kitchens that served customers … we feel we are ready to provide a great customer experience,” said Sung.

“We were one of the very first few cloud kitchens that served customers without a storefront back in 2015. This was before the terms ‘cloud kitchen,’ ‘ghost kitchen,’ or ‘dark kitchen’ even existed,” said Yi Sung Yong, CEO and co-founder of Grain Singapore.

In 2014, the Grain team found themselves asking the same question every single day: ‘What do we eat today?’ It is a first-world problem and along the same vein, everyday eating should be as easy as a few taps on your phone—not some brain-cracking math question. This sparked the idea for Grain to be online-first.

Sung, together with three other co-founders—Ernest Sim, Gao Rifeng, and Isaac Tan—launched Grain in 2014. Their aim is to offer health-conscious, taste-conscious and everyday meals, working with their own team of chefs and delivery fleet in a so-called “full-stack” model.

Most food tech startups like foodpanda and Deliveroo partner restaurants to deliver cooked meals to customers. Grain’s co-founders went for a different approach. They adopted a cloud kitchen model—utilizing unwanted real estate space as kitchens.

While cloud kitchens rent their space to F&B companies as a cheaper way to make food for their on-demand delivery customers, Grain works with its own chefs, menu and delivery team. Their menu is designed by in-house chefs, and the platform features shared meals for groups, as well as meal box combos that come with sides and drinks. A regular meal costs from SGD 10.95 (USD 8.07) while their combos cost from SGD 16.95 (USD 12.49).

Besides individual meals, the startup also serves buffet catering for corporate events and parties during pre-COVID-19 days. These dishes are also developed by their R&D team and chefs. Users can place their orders via the website or mobile app through a standard e-commerce platform process. All food is prepared and packed inside Grain’s own facilities, then delivered to customers by their own fleet of couriers.

Photo courtesy of Grain via Vulcan Post.

They started the business with less than SGD 100,000 (USD 73,700) and after a year, Grain crossed the SGD 1 million revenue run rate. This is no mean feat as among the four co-founders, only one of them has F&B experience and is a chef.

Isaac had managed 4 different restaurants under the WWW Concepts Group at the age of 25 and is the main creator of the dishes on the menu. Albeit achieving success early into the business, Sung said that they faced challenges.

They received their very first external funding in January 2016—a SGD 2.5 million (USD 1.84 million) Series A round led by Openspace Ventures. Another Series A round was called at the end of the year and Openspace Ventures participated again injecting an additional SGD 1.7 million (USD 1.25 million). The four young gamechangers—their current average age is 32—soon received recognition and landed themselves on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List in 2016.

Photo courtesy of Grain via Vulcan Post.

While a full-stack model allows them to control everything, it also presented challenges. They were initially hamstrung by a small team of staff, and operated from a home kitchen. When it upgraded to a sprawling new office fitted with an industrial kitchen in 2017, Grain had to quickly adapt its processes. Subsequently, a venture round in February 2018 led by First Gourmet, FoodXervices, and Majuven raised them another SGD 1.7 million.

By December 2018, Grain achieved profitability, which was “a huge milestone for [them], because it proves that [they] have what it takes to be a sustainable company.” Their latest round of Series B funding in May 2019 raised USD 10 million led by Thailand’s Singha Ventures.

Grain was delivering “thousands” of meals per day in Singapore—its sole market—with eight-figure sales per year, Sung shared in a 2019 interview with TechCrunch. Growth reached 200% in 2018 and it was soon time to spread their wings overseas. The startup began looking to expand to other Asian cities, starting with Bangkok. The funds raised would enable them to work with Singha to leverage its extensive F&B network across the country, including logistics and distribution.

By then, the 2019 funding round and business growth ranked Grain fifth among Singapore’s fastest-growing companies, according to a study conducted by The Straits Times and Statista.

Grain team in 2016. Photo courtesy of Grain via Vulcan Post.

In May 2020, Grain made its entrance into Thailand and opened three new branches in Bangkok in July. They also embarked on five new projects: Wokaholic (American-Chinese food), Hot Chick Buns (chicken-centric fast food), Holy Kao!, Krua Soi 9 (Thai favourites), and Fareground (a virtual food hall).

Sung, who is Malaysian, shared that, during COVID-19, “B2B took a big hit with offices going remote, but B2C experienced tenfold growth during this period.” Grain also quickly saw an opportunity to utilize their cloud kitchens to make bubble tea when standalone bubble tea stores were ordered to close. With the pandemic causing the closures of F&B establishments everywhere, cloud kitchens have emerged as a F&B alternative as the industry adapts to shifting consumer demand.

Just as co-working and shared office spaces have been touted as possible solutions for companies to provide the option of flexible office space once the crisis subsides, shared cloud kitchens could also help ease the financial burden on restaurants when it comes to renting kitchen space.

In addition, the expansion of cloud kitchens could help pick up the slack created by in-house restaurants being forced to close as a result of the economic fallout of the virus.

The next projects on their plate: launch high-quality brands with a lot of customer love and productize their restaurant tech stack, Grain Atlas, that wants to become the “operating system” of F&B. “We will also open up new cities slowly when we feel we are ready to provide a great customer experience,” said Sung.

This article was originally published by Vulcan Post.

Food Delivery Apps, Restaurants and COVID-19: Where’s the Profit?

This June, DoorDash said that it raised $400 million dollars – now valuing the company at nearly $16 billion dollars. Sales for meal delivery services …

As state restrictions continue to limit restaurants’ dine-in capacity, and concerns about the spread of COVID-19 remain prominent, many people are relying on delivery service apps to get meals from their favorite local restaurants.

Since COVID-19 lock-down orders were issued across the U.S. in mid-March, consumers shifted to ordering their meals through food-delivery apps like Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats.

Despite their popularity, these food-delivery services have come under increased scrutiny during the pandemic for the steep fees they charge restaurants.

Kristian Bawcom is the Owner of Four Corners in Chapel Hill. He said the average diner needs to understand that it makes a big difference whether or not they use a third-party food delivery service or pick up a meal themselves.

“All of these delivery services take almost 30 percent of the total sale for themselves,” Bawcom said. “You’re already operating on such thin margins and then you throw that in the mix and it’s brutal.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on businesses ranging from cruise lines to movie theaters to restaurants, food-delivery companies are thriving as the country shelters in place.

This June, DoorDash said that it raised $400 million dollars – now valuing the company at nearly $16 billion dollars. Sales for meal delivery services through the end of May 2020 more than doubled, compared to the previous May of 2019, according to data from analysis company Second Measure.

But while the orders keep rolling in for these apps, local restaurants are feeling the losses.

“So we see this huge increase in to-go business, but you wish that people would just do curbside pickup instead,” Bawcom said.

Throughout the pandemic, Bawcom said he is already having to shell out more money – whether it’s to buy things like to-go containers or to keep his restaurant up to CDC safety standards. So, whatever money is lost to these delivery services is critical.

“It’s stressful for small businesses and restaurants, because not only are you trying to survive but you’re trying to keep your staff and your customers safe,” Bawcom said.

Without restrictions on delivery fees, restaurants typically pay between 15 to 30 percent on orders placed with delivery providers. The big issue with this business model, which the pandemic has exacerbated, is how these apps generate the bulk of their revenue: charging high fees to small restaurants.

Just before the onslaught pandemic Grubhub acknowledged that it makes more money from independent restaurants and small chains. A February 2020 shareholder letter explained that a typical order from an independent restaurant that uses Grubhub for marketing and delivery generates $4 dollars of profit for Grubhub, while an order from a national chain generates $0 dollars.

“You see the increase in business and you’re grateful it’s there, but it’s like you’re just paying Uber Eats and these delivery places,” Bawcom said. “You’re helping them make money, but not yourself.”

In response to these high fees, cities across the country have placed caps on how much delivery apps can charge restaurants for their services. In big cities like Seattle, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, emergency orders have been enacted to limit what delivery-service companies can take to 15 percent.

However, Bawcom said that’s not enough. He said change needs to come from the food-delivery industry – especially as local restaurants continue to fight tooth and nail to make it to the other side of the pandemic.

“They’re not working with the small businesses at all,” Bawcom said. “It’s really tough to really appreciate these delivery companies because they’re doing nothing for us.”

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Oakland City Council Approves Cap On Charges For Food Deliveries

Three food delivery services — Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash — said the cap will hurt restaurants. An Uber spokesman claimed the company …

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland City Council approved a maximum allowed fee Tuesday that delivery companies like Doordash can charge local restaurants for delivering food.

The cap is 15 percent of each order, which Councilman Dan Kalb said on Wednesday is half of what was being charged.

“The idea is to help our restaurants,” Kalb said, adding that they are struggling to bring in business.

Dining out is prohibited in Alameda County but restaurants may sell food for delivery or pickup. City leaders used an emergency ordinance, which goes into effect immediately and lasts until 90 days after the health emergency, to cap the fees that delivery services can charge restaurants.

“In general, we think it is a good thing,” said Ari Takata-Vasquez, owner of Viscera, which is part of the Oakland Indie Alliance, a nonprofit organization representing about 500 Oakland small businesses, including restaurants.

But Takata-Vasquez and others are concerned about enforcement. She said that in San Francisco restaurants must report when food delivery services exceed the cap set by the city.

“There could be retaliation,” she said. “They could kick you off their platform.”

She would prefer for small businesses to do their own deliveries because the services don’t always have the best interests of small businesses in mind.

Some restaurants have been being charged even more than 30 percent, she said. In one instance, the restaurant tried unsuccessfully to discuss the fees with the service provider, she said, and nothing changed.

Three food delivery services — Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash — said the cap will hurt restaurants.

An Uber spokesman claimed the company focuses its efforts on “driving demand to independent local restaurants.”

“Regulating the commissions that fund our marketplace forces us to radically alter the way we do business and ultimately hurt those that we’re trying to help the most: customers, small businesses and delivery people,” the spokesman said.

Taylor Bennett, a spokesperson for DoorDash said that “merchant fees help pay for a variety of costs to support all three sides of our marketplace. A cap to our commissions means we may not be able to provide the level of quality customers expect, pay Dashers meaningful earnings, and drive sales that are so important to restaurants right now.”

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