California

Eat ‘lunch with the rest of us.’ San Francisco weighs ban on employee cafeterias

People have lunch at the Embarcadero Center in 2016 in San Francisco. A proposal to ban employee cafeterias at new San Francisco office buildings is being considered by city leaders.
People have lunch at the Embarcadero Center in 2016 in San Francisco. A proposal to ban employee cafeterias at new San Francisco office buildings is being considered by city leaders. The Associated Press file

A proposal introduced Tuesday to ban employee cafeterias in future San Francisco office buildings represents more than an effort to boost the city’s restaurant scene, backers say.

“People will have to go out and (eat) lunch with the rest of us,” Aaron Peskin, a San Francisco supervisor who co-sponsored the proposal, told The San Francisco Examiner.

“This is also about a cultural shift,” Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who proposed the ban, told The San Francisco Chronicle. “We don’t want employees biking or driving into their office, staying there all day long and going home. This is about getting people out of their office, interacting with the community and adding to the vibrancy of the community.”

But some employees at San Francisco tech giants targeted by the proposal need free or reduced-cost meals typically offered at the cafeterias, Sam Schneidman, who works in San Francisco, told KNTV.

“A lot of people who rely on the benefit aren’t necessarily highly compensated engineers and it’s something that a lot of tech workers depend on,” Schneidman told the station.

Anthony Myint, co-owner of the Perennial restaurant in the city’s mid-market neighborhood, told the Chronicle he expected a brisk lunchtime business, but instead sees only a few customers for lunch each day.

“We misunderstood the pervasiveness of the company cafeterias inside,” Myint told the publication. He probably would have chosen another location had he known, he said.

“You can’t compete with free,” Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, told the Chronicle.

Safai told KNTV he hopes the ban would invigorate the city’s restaurant trade.

“The backbone of any vibrant strong city is our small business, our restaurants, our cafes, our locally owned businesses,” Safai told the station.

However, the proposed ban would not affect the 51 employee cafeterias already in San Francisco, only future office buildings, “so it’s not goring anybody’s ox,” Peskin told the Examiner.

Introduced Tuesday, the proposed ban now will be reviewed by a city committee, reported KNTV.

The nearby city of Mountain View recently barred a new Facebook office from offering free- or reduced-cost meals at its cafeteria, reported the Chronicle.

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