5 Courses with Dave Andelman of Phantom Gourmet
by Louisa Kasdon
| June 11, 2012
Photo: JANICE CHECCHIO
You can’t escape him, or his tan. Andelman is everywhere — flashing that purple cape on TV38’s Phantom Gourmet alongside his co-host brothers, chatting about chow on WTKK 96.9’s Saturday Phantom Gourmet radio show, and running food-focused events like May’s Hot Dog Safari and the annual BBQ Beach Party on City Hall Plaza, this year scheduled for June 22–24. (Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the gate.) Some love to hate him, but such fests are so outrageously fun that many would rather stow away their inner snob and join the happy hordes. (If chef Lydia Shire can have fun participating in a hot-dog festival, why can’t we?) The brand’s CEO is a very public personality, but Andelman is also busy behind the scenes: the MBA/JD founded the Restaurant and Business Alliance (RABA), a lobbying and media-relations initiative that advocates for the more than 300,000 Massachusetts residents who work in the hospitality business.
What’s the idea behind the RABA? When the power went out in Boston last winter, who was screaming for the servers? We are the ultimate advocates for the restaurant community. Over the years, I’ve had maybe 10,000 meetings with people in the business — a tough business, but it accounts for hundreds of thousands of jobs in Massachusetts! Do our politicians realize that? Of our 160 state reps and 40 state senators, I’m guessing less than 10 percent have ever worked in the hospitality business. We decided that the only way to make a difference was to form a membership organization and hire a full-time lobbyist to work directly for the RABA members, and in the process we are benefiting the huge number of people who work in and depend on a healthy hospitality industry to meet their basic bills.
So, what sort of things do you lobby for? One of our first successes was the Restaurant Rejuvenation Act so you could serve alcohol, a mimosa or bloody Mary, with Sunday brunch. Not only was it [the prior ban] annoying to the diners, but it cost the restaurant industry significant dollars in lost sales. Six days a week you can drink before noon — but not on Sunday? Seems so obvious, but people told me it would take years to get it passed. It took us weeks.
What’s your top legislative priority right now? Repealing House Bill 1507, the ban on educational dinners for doctors. Right now, we are the only state in the country where you cannot take a doctor out for a meal. As a result, the estimate is that the state has lost revenues of $60 million in sales from conventions that won’t come to the state, pharmaceutical and medical companies that won’t do business in Massachusetts. It’s a huge issue for restaurants.
And after that? Several things, including a six-day meals-tax holiday and revising the happy-hour policy to a two-day minimum instead of a seven-day minimum. Here’s a question: why is there a meals tax but not a grocery tax? The meals tax is a holdover from the time when only rich people went out to eat. Now everyone goes out to eat, and between the meals tax and the credit-card fee, restaurants are losing 10 percent on every sale before they even begin.
How do you manage going out for every single meal? And eating all those fries and gooey desserts? I am in my element at a bar. I am not into the cooking thing. Knives and fire scare me. I took up boxing because if I didn’t do it, I would gain eight pounds in a week.
Louisa Kasdon can be reached at email@example.com.