Restaurants and Violins

There’s been a lot of press in the San Francisco Chronicle about local restauranteurs worrying about local ordinances. Like the one today.

I agree that all of the ordinances (increase in the city’s minimum wage to $9.14/hour, paid sick time, mandatory health insurance) are a bit much to take all at once, but my question to these restaurants is why weren’t you offering these things to your full-time workers prior to being required to do so?

Don’t get me wrong, Foreign Cinema is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. But it’s not cheap (though the Chron calls it “moderately priced”), an entree can cost you upwards of $25, plus appetizers and drinks (also not cheap) and it’s constantly full, particularly on weekends. And Tres Agaves, also mentioned in the above article, is parked almost directly outside Pac Bell park. During baseball season, the place is overflowing. Even with their relatively “inexpensive” menu (entrees at $12-$22), paying minimum wage should not come as such a shock. Same for Incanto.

I’m not sure why this article ticks me off so much, because I do understand what they are saying. Perhaps it’s the “poor me” attitude that keeps getting expressed over and over again.

In the article, Eric Rubin, Managing Partner of Tres Agaves, stated, “One option the partners are considering is to set food and drink prices that aren’t round figures — say, $22.57 for a steak. That might prompt guests to ask why and give the restaurant an opportunity to talk about San Francisco’s perceived impositions on small businesses.”

Not exactly the best idea; when people go out to eat, they don’t want to hear about other peoples’ problems.

The ones who are really going to buckle under these ordinances are the small businesses, the ones in less populated areas than the ones mentioned above, the ones who charge far less for a meal.

I guess I don’t mind paying a few extra dollars for a good meal if it means that these employers can comply with the SF ordinances by providing sick time and health insurance to their employees (though I really don’t want to hear about it). No one working full-time should ever have to go without health insurance, particularly when they are working for a profitable business.

Or we can just stay in. I’ll cook something nice. And Supervisor Ammiano, you are welcome to join. I will never ask you to leave just because you were looking out for the little guy.

Bon Apetit.

2 Replies to “Restaurants and Violins”

  1. Lori,

    I live in Boston and have lots of friends in the restaurant scene here. I’ve complained in the past about the lack of places where you can get a respectable meal for $40/head or so inclusive of a drink or two–there’s great $20’s pub grub, and no lack of $50-$100 options, but little in between.

    One exec chef friend took me through his P&L to show me how hard it is to make mid-tier work. The challenge is that people expect creative prep and quality ingredients with fine-dining aspirations, in a desirable part of town, at prices within $10 or so of Chili’s or TGIF. Rent and ingredients can easily account for 2/3 of the menu price before we touch labor, insurance (watch out for that liquor license), let alone profit margin.

    And it doesn’t really get easier the higher up you go. People demand fresher and more exotically-sourced ingredients, $200/place china and crystal, rooms that cost $2m or more to build out, and even more extravagant rent. Most restaurants, even very successful ones, operate very close to the line of being vanity businesses, with a few very successful ones lasting long enough to start turning real profits.

    Anyway, I guess the point is that just because a $20 plate of chicken seems expensive, doesn’t mean anyone (except the landlord) is making that much money.

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