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August 31st, 2013
02:26 PM ET

The Not So Glamorous Reality of the Restaurant Industry

It used to be that Zagat was for snobs and Julia Child’s The French Chef was your grandma’s cooking show. Over time, beloved reality shows like Bravo's Top Chef and Food Network’s Iron Chef America brought high-end cooks like Tom Colicchio and Mario Batali to living rooms across America and not only turned chefs into celebrities but made haute cuisine accessible to the masses. These days, food is not merely meant for sustenance. It's deconstructed and documented. It's a challenge to sit down for dinner at a restaurant and not see someone whip out a smart phone to chronicle their meal on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. People are even logging on to share their coffee shop visits. Starbucks, for instance, leads a new MomentFeed Restaurant report that found patrons took and tagged 109,054 photos over the course of just four months.

What we're having for dinner suddenly matters, whether we're dining in or out - and it shows. Restaurant industry job growth outpaced the overall economy every year from 2000 to 2012. Sales are projected to hit $661 billion in 2013 - equal to four percent of U.S. GDP. That's up from $379 billion 13 years ago. Restaurants are raking it in, so you would think the people carefully layering your truffle burger behind the scenes would be too. But they make next to nothing and spend almost all of their time at work. Just ask Chris Reynolds. This line cook at a top New York City restaurant has a reality check for those romanticizing the life of a culinary artiste.
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Filed under: Business • Food • Living
August 1st, 2013
12:23 AM ET

Is the new Kate Middleton Untouchable?

It’s been just over one week since Prince George of Cambridge was presented to the world by his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in an iconic pop culture moment on the steps of the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. It was like Rafiki presenting Simba in "The Lion King" for the first time. (Cue "Circle of Life.") Except this was the second time. Princess Diana showed off Prince William as a newborn at the very same hospital.

And the similarities don't stop there. It was 1982 when Princess Di surfaced from the hospital wearing a loose-fitting green and white polka dot dress. This time around, Kate Middleton wearing a custom Jenny Packham blue dress with white polka dots, proudly displayed her postpartum bump when she handed the baby to all-grown-up Prince William.

The other thing that hasn't changed much is the media's relentless coverage of the princesses. The paparazzi are as aggressive as ever, tracking down Middleton in France last September as she sunbathed topless. And the tabloids are all too ready to publish them with a cover line that is going to sell the most rags. In the U.S., for instance, the magazine industry raked in an estimated $31 million from the Royal Wedding in 2011.

In the case of the topless photos, though, Kate and Prince William took legal action against the photographer and the French magazine that published the photos. According to Hollywoodlife.com, both are now facing criminal charges. Did the royals scare the tabloids away?
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Filed under: OutFront Extra • OutFront Staff • Royal Baby
July 26th, 2013
01:07 PM ET

Could Prince George of Cambridge be bad for the fashion business?

While this week has been a joyous and momentous occasion for royal watchers around the World, the arrival of His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge may be somewhat of a letdown for the fashion industry.

The Duchess of Cambridge is known for wearing a mix of reasonably priced “High Street” brands like Zara, Topshop and Reiss, combined with couture fashions by design houses such as Alexander McQueen, Jenny Packham and Issa. When she makes an appearance, her entire outfit frequently sells out instantly online. She’s become such an icon that the fashion industry has come to refer to the trend as ‘the Kate effect.’

In the fashion world, Kate Middleton’s baby was expected to follow her success. But it seems many were betting on a princess instead of a prince. Will the future King of England be less valuable to retailers?
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Filed under: Business • Fashion • Royal Baby
July 19th, 2013
02:25 PM ET

Death by Hotel Room: What happens when a celebrity dies at a hotel?

It’s been almost one week since Glee actor Cory Monteith was found dead in his room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver. Monteith joined celebrities James Gandolfini, Whitney Houston, John Belushi, Anna Nicole Smith, Janis Joplin and Coco Chanel, among others, on the tragic list of 'stars found dead in their hotel rooms.'

When a celebrity checks into a major hotel in the U.S., the hotel is most likely financially prepared for the worst case scenario to unfold. According to Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor for CBS News, celebrity managers of clients [who are known to be aggressive and/or into drugs] often times have to put down a $25,000 to $100,000 security deposit for their clients at their hotels even before they check in.

Jacob Tomsky, author of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, tells OutFront "...guests who pay in cash and only cash are watched quite a bit closer and if a guest or celebrity has a history of damaging hotel rooms then, absolutely, the hotel will take pains to ensure they have additional funds held on the guest's card."

U.S. hotels even have a plan of attack for when a guest dies. According to Greenberg “The first thing that happens is they call the police. Then they [don’t touch] the room so they preserve the evidence for the investigation.”

Once a guest dies, discretion is also key for the hotel staff. Tomsky tells OutFront. “Nothing is bad for business like a sheet-covered gurney being pushed through the lobby…They will do everything they can to deal with it behind the scenes, using employee elevators and back exits…We are trained early on to have this phrase at the ready, no matter how old and tired it may sound: ‘I can neither confirm nor deny that information.  I'm sorry.’”

After the police investigation is finished, these hotel rooms are almost always available again to regular guests and the race is on to restore the rooms to their original condition. “You'd be amazed how quickly they will turn over a room that's had a tragedy occur inside of it” Tomsky explains. In the book Hotel Secrets from the Travel Detective , Peter Greenberg devotes an entire chapter entitled ‘Rooms with a Past’ to hotel rooms ‘famous or infamous’ for deaths, crimes, arrests and movie scenes at places like the Amsterdam Hilton, the Chelsea Hotel, the Chateau Marmont, and the Mark Hotel. For the most part guests can still stay in these iconic rooms.

In 1982 John Belushi was found dead at his hotel bungalow at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, California. Fred Basten, co-author of Life at the Marmont: The Inside Story of Hollywood's Legendary Hotel of the Stars–Chateau Marmont explains to OutFront, "Once the investigators had gone through the bungalow Ray Sarlot [the co-author of the book who also bought the hotel in 1975] had everything inside changed.  He didn't want the place to become a ‘cult symbol.'"

Sally Sarlot, Ray’s wife, reiterated that “Ray put guest privacy ahead of everything and in order to avoid any identification with the bungalow where John died.... There was nothing left to be identified with [Belushi].”

Is it merely a coincidence that so many celebrities happened to die in their hotel rooms or could there be a medical connection between these deaths and the hotel environment?

Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht tells OutFront, “There’s nothing of a physical or environmental connection that predisposes them to [die in a hotel room]…[These celebrities] are frequently on the road and on the move. They spend a great amount of time in their hotel rooms getting ready for performances…It absolutely is a psycho-sociological common denominator of great fame, tremendous pressure and the ease with which drugs are obtained…What you find in many of these cases is much greater ease to obtain drugs when you have 1) money  and 2) sycophants surrounding you.”

Follow Jessica Reinis on Twitter: @JessicaReinis.

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Filed under: Entertainment • OutFront Extra • OutFront Staff
July 12th, 2013
03:28 PM ET

Fact or Royal Fiction: If Kate Middleton is overdue could U.S. menu items induce labor?

In the OutFront newsroom, we are counting down the seconds until the Prince or Princess of Cambridge is born. Some of us are worried about the unthinkable: the Duchess of Cambridge could be overdue.

But did you know, there is a link between some favorite American dishes and their ability to induce labor? Several restaurants across the country feature menu items that are rumored to help overdue moms pop. Kate Middleton, you too could have an eggplant baby.

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Filed under: International • OutFront Extra • OutFront Staff • Royal Baby
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