Disgraced Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Sells All of his Restaurant Group Shares



In December of 2017, "Eater" reported that Celebrity Chef Mario Batali had been sexually harassing women for the last two decades.

After the allegations hit the media, Batali announced that he would be stepping down from his restaurant empire. At the time, Batali and his former partner Joe Bastianich's restaurant group included 16 restaurants.

“Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses,” said Batali to “Eater.” “...For this reason, I am going to step away from day-to-day operations of my businesses. We built these restaurants so that our guests could have fun and indulge, but I took that too far in my own behavior. I won’t make that mistake again.”

Fast forward to today, Batali has completely removed himself from ownership from his restaurant group by selling all of the shares of his business to the Bastianich family.

“I have reached an agreement with Joe [Bastianich] and no longer have any stake in the restaurants we built together. I wish him the best of luck in the future," said Batali in a statement Wednesday, as reported by “The Blast.”

He “will no longer profit from the restaurants in any way, shape or form," according to the Bastianich family.

Batali is planning to sell his shares of the high-end Italian grocery chain Eataly too.

At the end of last year, "Eater" published a follow-up story where it was revealed that Batali's restaurants saw a 30 percent drop in sales following the multiple sexual misconduct allegations. The article also condemned the group for allowing him to continue to collect profits while the process to buy out Batali lingered for over a year.

"The New York Times" reported in April that Batali would divest from his restaurants, allowing his partners to buy out his stake. But the negotiations, meant to close in July, have gone on, and anyone who eats at the restaurants Batali made famous is putting more money in the chef’s pockets," wrote "Eater" in December of last year.

A little less than a year and a half later, Batali has officially sold his stake to his partner. Will this encourage diners to visit the chef's former restaurants now that he is no longer tied to them financially?

The #MeToo movement has helped to expose the former misconduct of a number of celebrity chefs and now they are finally experiencing the consequences.

Mario Batali, John Besh, Mike Isabella, Ken Friedman, and Tom Colicchio are some of the many that have received multiple accusations of sexual harassment in 2017 and 2018.

At the end of 2017, Foodable Host of The Barron Report Paul Barron gave his predictions for what was to come for 2018. His No. 2 prediction was "the demise of the celebrity chef." Watch the video below where Barron shows how much of a hit Batali's Sentiment Score took following his sexual harassment scandal.

Why are Coffee Chains Attractive to Franchisees?

Cold Brew Coffee |   Shutterstock

Cold Brew Coffee | Shutterstock

U.S. coffee drinkers have an average of three cups a coffee a day, according to the National Coffee Association and 51 percent of coffee drinkers in the U.S. drink gourmet coffee.

In Britain, 80 percent of the population visit coffee shops once a week, as reported by the Caffee Society. There has been significant growth in UK market.

In the U.S., over 50 percent of Starbucks chains are still corporate-owned. But this is not the case in the UK. where "Starbucks does operate a franchise model of operation and only about one in five Starbucks in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are company-run," writes "Forbes."

While Starbucks is still very much expanding, other gourmet chains like Costa Coffee are also on the rise.

Coffee shops offering unique brews and beverages are catering to today's adventurous consumers. Not to mention, consumers are willing to invest in premium coffee options– making the profit margins higher for operators.

"Coffee drinkers have also become much more sophisticated in their tastes - just stand and take a look at the menu in your local coffee shop next time you're there," writes "Forbes." "From different blends to added flavor shots, iced drinks to coffee beans with ethical provenance - this gives business owners not only more option to expand the range on offer without diluting the core product offering, but also means that consumers are willing to pay high prices for a premium coffee product and profit margins can be significant."

Unlike other restaurant chains, coffee franchises are often attractive to operators who are looking to own several stores because they all can be established in the same area.

"Find success with a first franchise branch and then it’s easy then to open more within a short distance and appoint managerial staff to run them. The reality is that most people won’t walk far for coffee. This then means that one franchise can quite realistically operate a number of franchise units within a relatively short geographical distance," writes "Forbes."

In a past episode of The Barron Report, Host Paul Barron predicted that 2018 would be the year of coffee infusions and he was right. Watch the video below to learn more about how coffee chains with unique blends will be the ones that consumers gravitate to in this saturated market.

What's Next for Modern Market Now That the Chain Has Merged with Lemonade?

At the end of last month, the fast casual chain Modern Market merged with Lemonade, a healthy fast casual concept based in L.A.

Although the farm-to-table eatery has teamed up with a fellow fast casual chain, this doesn't mean Modern Market will be closing up shop.

According to Anthony Pigliacampo, Modern Market co-founder, the chain, along with Lemonade will both remain separate identities.

The Modern Market team has lofty goals of expanding and merging with Lemonade is one of the ways they plan to achieve them.

So far, there are 30 Modern Market stores. In 2017, the restaurant's revenue spiked by 27 percent. Then in 2018, five new stores opened and the chain has plans to open three more locations in Colorado this year.

But to expand it takes capital.

About a year ago, the private equity firm Butterfly Equity acquired a majority share of Modern Market.

"We talked to many private equity groups, and we got on well with the team at Butterfly. Their philosophy was like ours. They saw that food was being disrupted. We believed that in restaurants, someone was going to rise and become the best brand and help bring a higher quality food to the masses. And Butterfly had the same world view," said Pigliacampo to "Forbes."

But a year later, Modern Market made the strategic decision to merge with Lemonade.

"With Butterfly’s owning both brands, we realized if we were working together there’s a ton of efficiencies to be gained that would allow us to run certain back-end functions more efficiently. We could provide better resources to solve problems. For example, financing and accounting of two restaurant chains that provide scratch-based menu with many small vendors is a very complicated accounting issue," said Pigliacampo to "Forbes."

What else is to come for the Colorado-based eatery? Read the full interview with Pigliacampo at "Forbes" now.

We have been following Modern Market's growth since the beginning. Pigliacampo was one of the stars of Foodable Network's documentary "Fast Casual Nation: Changing the Way America Eats."

Besides building a loyal customer-base with healthy-focused dishes, Modern Market has been ahead of the curve when it comes to incorporating technology. Check out the blast from the past video below where Pigliacampo outlines how technology enhances the chain's operations.

Worse than getting burned? Losing your mind! Why Mental Health Matters

In today’s Chef AF episode, our host Chef Jim Berman speaks candidly with Chef Curtis Gamble of Pittsburgh’s Station restaurant about a very important topic not only within the restaurant industry but in society today.

Mental Health.

The two talk about the importance of having some sort of anchor outside of the work place, establishing open lines of communication about each individual’s goals, and simply adopting healthier lifestyle habits.

“I think on a day-to-day basis, as I’ve grown older… I’ve kind of calmed down, you know? To be totally candid, quit drinking, things like that… I’ve managed to keep more of a calmness about the kitchen work, a calm kind of intensity to it?,” says Chef Gamble. “And I think that’s translated well to keeping communication open… allowing people to be like candid with how they feel about certain things… the work loads that they have and things like that.”

Listen to the podcast above to hear the full conversation and learn some tips about how to better communicate with your fellow crew members!

Show Notes:

  • 2:26 - Meeting Chef Curtis Gamble

  • 3:50 - How is your head?

  • 5:47 - Work/Life Balance

  • 13:06 - BOH Hospitality

  • 16:59 - How to get your crew to feel comfortable to talk?

  • 23:40 - Advice for young chefs?

  • 26:49 - Blue Collar Work

Hosted by:

Jim Berman


Expert Columnist / Show Host


Watch out Ziosk, the Restaurant Tablet Company Presto Raises $30M

Presto Tablet |   Presto

Presto Tablet | Presto

Presto, the technology company that offers pay-at-table services for full-service restaurants, announced earlier this week that it has raised $30 million from Recruit Holdings and Romulus Capital.

Other venture firms including I2BF Global Ventures, EG Capital and Brainchild Holdings have also invested in the tabletop tech company.

Presto has emerged as one of the leading solutions for restaurants looking to incorporate more technology when it comes to the guest experience.

The table-top tablets allow users to order and pay on the device, which helps to improve speed of service. The device can even be used to alert servers when a table needs them.

“I would say most restaurant groups are looking at how they can become more of a tech company… and adopt technology that could help them become more efficient,” said Raj Suri, Presto CEO to "TechCrunch." “The industry is moving in this direction in a pretty significant way and it won’t be long before you see our technology in every restaurant.”

Ziosk's rival Presto has partnered with large chains including Red Lobster, Applebee's, Denny's and Outback Steakhouse.

Besides enhancing the customer experience by accelerating service, the platform collects valuable customer data.

For example, the information collected can be used to help the restaurant's team determine how much of certain food item to order or how many servers should be staffed on Monday based on previous data.

But the software goes beyond offering internal analytics. "The platform leverages a variety of data inputs so that things like nearby sporting events or weather patterns can be integrated into suggestions about how many servers should be staffed on a given Tuesday," writes "Tech Crunch."

Read more about Presto's latest funding round at "Tech Crunch" now.

While Presto and Ziosk are streamlining the guest experience and providing valuable data, other systems like Nowait are improving front-of-house operations. This waitlist app is helping operators give guests an accurate estimate of when their table is ready, while also giving the operator daily analytic reports. Check out the video below to learn more.