Upon taking a new job in Russian Hill, Ryan Cole discovered what a lot of neighbors already know. "Parking in Russian Hill is atrocious...There's no valet, there's no garages, and if you park on Polk Street but aren't going there, you have to walk uphill." Cole has cause to be concerned about the neighborhood parking situation, as he's the general manager of forthcoming restaurant Stones Throw, which is taking over the former Luella space. He's afraid the situation will deter customers. "If it's this bad during the day, I know it will be terrible at night. How can we get people to get here?"
Cole's solution: the first ever team-up by a San Francisco restaurant with popular ride-sharing service Uber. In exchange for showing their Uber ride receipt on their smartphone when they check in at the host stand, diners will be able to receive a small discount (Cole is currently thinking about 5 percent) on their dinner bill. It's a program that Uber has tried in the past in a few other markets, most notably Boston, but never in SF—unusual, given the city's famously tech-centric culture and the fact that it's the home base for all three of the most popular ride-sharing apps (Uber, Lyft, and SideCar).
The collaboration was Cole's idea. "I got in touch with Uber, and said, 'Look, I will pay, I'll absorb the cost if people come happy, and have an opportunity to get here without stressing over parking.' I believe that Uber, Lyft, SideCar, all these companies are the future of travel in a city like this." He also thinks it'll be a great way to encourage diners to indulge. "The more you spend, the more you get covered. If two people spend $100, that's half the cost of an UberX—their average fare is $11. That's way cheaper than having to park anywhere. Four people spend $200, and their whole ride's covered. We want people to take advantage of this deal. The cost is well worth my time if it gets people to arrive happy, and gives them more reason to come."
Cole said he considered the other rideshare services, but felt Uber was the most legitimate: "I like that Uber is the pioneer in the industry, and not donation-based like Lyft. Uber also has the biggest reach and database, locally and nationally." For their part, Uber is pleased with the deal: "We're always looking for creative ways to partner with local businesses," says Ilya Abyzov, general manager of Uber SF, who's recently run promotions giving away ice cream and Tamale Lady tamales from Uber cars. "Our office is full of foodies, so when the Stones Throw team reached out, we were definitely eager to sync up." The only folks who likely won't be happy about such a partnership are traditional cabbies, who've been protesting the effects that the ridesharing companies are having on their businesses—an effect that partnerships like these could only increase.
As for Stones Throw itself, Cole says it's progressing well, and should be on track to open in November. "It's like a football game, you gain three yards, then you lose two yards. Hopefully, you eventually gain more than you lose."
Update, 12:45 pm: Because they liked this blog post, Uber is offering a $20 credit to first-time users with the code EaterSF. You can also text EaterSF to 827222 to get the credit. Stones Throw isn't open yet, but maybe you can take your Uber to Tosca Café tonight?