The restaurant empire owned by chef Mario Batali and his business partner, Joe Bastianich, is rebranding — possibly to a new name without a mention of the disgraced chef.
Employees of the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group were told in a letter emailed on December 22 that a new company, with a new name, will be created “whose structure will better reflect that our restaurants’ success is built on the contributions of many, not just one or two.” With a restructuring, the new company will “bring on additional senior management experienced in ensuring everyone has a respectful workplace,” according to the letter obtained by Eater.
B&B manages about two dozen restaurants, including high profile New York City ones like Del Posto, Babbo, and Lupa.
The letter arrived to staffers the same day that Eater published an investigation into the “boys’ club” culture at the company’s restaurants — an environment that allegedly fostered misconduct, current and former staffers said. Batali himself has already stepped away from day-to-day operations after accusations of sexual misconduct, behavior that he admitted “match up with ways” that he has acted.
B&B declined to comment on the timeline of the changes or what the new name might be: “Though we cannot yet address specific initiatives, we are in the process of making strategic changes in an effort to improve the culture of our organization,” the statement says.
Besides an announcement of a new name and new structure, the company letter to staffers noted other steps that it plans to take to create a better work environment. As Eater reported in December, Bastianich’s mother, chef Lidia Bastianich, and Nancy Silverton, who helms B&B’s LA restaurants like Mozza, will take on greater leadership roles in the company.
In the letter signed by Joe, Lidia, and Silverton, they write that along with steering the company’s culinary direction, Lidia and Silverton “are intent on making sure that no one experiences sexual or any other form of harassment and that, if they do, our policies will be strictly, and swiftly enforced and offenders will be held to account.” They also promised to make sure all staffers have equal opportunity for promotion. The letter can be seen in full below.
The company has already taken steps to scrub Batali’s name from the restaurants. The day allegations came out, B&B removed the chef’s cookbooks from restaurants like Lupa. Batali’s photo and name is also no longer on restaurant websites, though several restaurant Facebook pages still list him on their “about” pages. Mario Batali’s own website also continues to list all the businesses.
But despite the name removal, Batali continues to be financially tied as a partner to high-profile and still-popular restaurants like Babbo, Del Posto, and Otto. Each individual restaurant has a different ownership structure, with varying investors and chefs having stakes.
The restaurant empire is also grappling with misconduct beyond Batali. Longtime Babbo head chef Frank Langello, who was accused by multiple men and women of sexual misconduct, left the restaurant in January; sources said he was fired for alleged behavior.
B&B Letter to Staff 12.22.18 by Eater NY on Scribd