A friend alerted me to an interesting post on Michael Bauer's (our local restaurant reviewer at the San Francisco Chronicle) blog titled "Is San Francisco Killing Restaurants?" Mr. Bauer spoke with the chefs of Foreign Cinema, husband-and-wife team Gayle Pirie and John Clark, about the expenses of doing business in San Francisco. The post has also sparked a lively debate in its comments.
While out of self-preservation I won't touch Mr. Bauer's blog with a 10-foot wooden spoon, this topic is obviously the focus of my attention right now. I'm pointing it out on my blog, because I believe it may be of interest to those of you following my quest to open a restaurant in San Francisco. Frankly, it's a topic that should be of interest to anyone who goes out to eat in our city.
While the Foreign Cinema couple points out some *sadly* humorous expenses like a "candle tax" and a "tent tax" (neither of which I was aware of!), these are relatively minor. The two more significant expenses unique to San Francisco are the recently passed Proposition F, which mandates employers to pay for 5-9 sick days for its employees, and the Board of Supervisors' new universal health care requirement. When combined with San Francisco's recent minimum wage law, the owners of Foreign Cinema estimate that these new ordinances will add $260,000 to their costs!
You may be surprised to learn that, for the most part, I support the new laws and ordinances. I agree with what New York restaurateur Danny Meyer wrote in his new book, Setting the Table: the Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business: employees come first, even before guests. It is the responsibility of any employer to take care of her employees to the best of her ability. Happy employees, in turn, will provide better service to the restaurant's guests. [To learn more about Mr. Meyer's innovative "enlightened hospitality," I recommend Shuna's excellent report on her former employer's recent visit to the Commonwealth Club].
But whether or not I support the new ordinances is beside the point. They are the new reality for every restaurant and business owner in San Francisco, small and large. In case it was not already, San Francisco will now become the most expensive city in the country to operate a restaurant, higher than Manhattan or Chicago.
It makes me wonder what the hell I was thinking when I decided to open a restaurant in this lovely, though increasingly expensive, city....
So, do I think San Francisco is killing restaurants? Nah. Speaking for myself, I know the risks and costs of this business, and yet I still have decided to open a restaurant here. I know I'll be lucky if I make a dime. I want to open a restaurant simply because I like cooking and making people happy. It's what I do. And I love this city too much to even consider doing it anywhere else. Despite the expenses. That's what the hell I was thinking.
In any event, Mr. Bauer's post will give me (and hopefully all of my SF readers) something to
ponder forget tonight while celebrating the arrival of this year's beaujolais nouveau at some Frenchy restaurant in the city. Perhaps Foreign Cinema?
Cheers, Michael Bauer, for raising this very important topic!