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Shaky or Stable: On the Future of San Francisco Dining

Scott Howard: victim of changing times?

Last week, Senor Bauer—along with plenty of others—rightfully took exception to the Wall Street Journal article that depicted the San Francisco dining scene as a "big white blank." In today's edition of the BauerBlog, our town's biggest restaurant mouthpiece brings up a bigger, and perhaps more important, question that surfaced in the course of the prior discussion: is a restaurant exodus imminent in San Francisco? With this new thought embedded in his head, Bauer put on his detective cap and got to investigating:

To try to put it all in perspective, I called Kevin Westlye, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a trade group that represents hundreds of restaurants in the city.

He didn't have statistics about chain restaurants, but he believes we have more chef-owned restaurants than just about any other city.

As for the number of restaurants: His group did a study in May 2005, which showed that the number of restaurants dipped after 9/11, but then rebounded.

"My understanding is that the number of restaurants in San Francisco is stable at around 2,500, and number of permits are at about 4,120," he said. "There are restaurants that fail but there are others that come in."

This "fear" of losing restaurants is nothing new—see the SFM article from last year—but an influx of new factors may impact things down the line, be it a year or four from now. Though the source must be considered here, Bauer does a nice job in identifying some myths as such, particularly the stability of restaurant numbers, but as a commenter points out, the effects of this current storm may not be felt for some time. Between a looming recession, city mandates (health care, etc), rising rents and the increasing attractiveness of the East Bay, we're still thinking that the eastern migration might happen.
· Restaurant exodus? [BauerBlog]
· Eastern Migration [~ESF~]

Have thoughts on the future of San Francisco dining? Are rumors of its decline grossly exaggerated? Your thoughts in the comments field or straight to us.