Yesterday morning, big-time officials from Mayor Ed Lee's office — Sam Dodge (Office of Housing Opportunity), Todd Rufo (Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development), and Scott Wiener (SF Board of Supervisors) — met to publicly discuss key issues facing Bay Area restaurants and (hopefully) assuage some anxiety among operators. Matt Sutton of the California Restaurant Association (CRA) also chimed in.
Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) executive director Gwyneth Borden ran the discussion, which broached the rising minimum wage, rising cost of housing, the income gap, Bay Area transportation issues, and a pesky measure currently in the Senate that — if passed — will have a certain and negative affect on all restaurants in the state (more on that below). Industry players, take note of these key takeaways from yesterday's talk:
1) On permits: In order to remedy the deathly slow permitting process for new San Francisco restaurants, Rufo said there will soon be a new permitting officer devoted exclusively to restaurants. They are "finalizing the hiring process right now," and the hope is to "streamline the process and increase level of service for restaurant businesses." Rufo said the new "programming will be up and running this year." Fingers crossed.
2) Restaurant categories on the rise: For your interest: In 2015, the fastest growing restaurant categories in the Bay Area were Mexican, fast food, and Asian. There's been a general slowing in cafes, vegan and vegetarian restaurants, and French restaurants.
3) Staff training: In order to ease the burden of training staff, Rufo spoke of the Hospitality Initiative a free subsidized training program for San Francisco restaurant workers. He said they've trained 2200 people to date.
4) "Twitter Tax Break": Scott Wiener mentioned that there are several San Francisco restaurants currently taking advantage of the infamous "Twitter Tax Break" a.k.a. Central Market Tax exclusion. He wanted to be clear that the tax break does not exist solely to benefit the technology industry.
5) Homelessness: What should restaurants do if an aggressive homeless person is interrupting service in some way? Dodge mentioned that they should call 311 or 911. Even if the police don't come out — and they often don't — it's important to file the complaint so the city can keep track, especially if there are repeat offenders.
6) Housing in-the-works: In response to the housing crisis and the Bay Area's projected population addition of 2.1M by 2040, Weiner said that the city has about fifty thousand new housing units in the pipeline, including Treasure Island, Park Merced, Mission Bay, Visitation Valley, and The San Francisco Shipyard. One third of this housing will be available at below market rate. He did not address a specific timeline for the projects or the inevitable gap between population expansion and the arrival of this increased housing.
7) Transportation: Issues with intra-Bay Area transportation affect restaurant workers whose hours fall outside of the nine to five commute rush. (NB: As of now BART and MUNI are organized to support commuters who work a traditional 9-to-5 schedule.) Weiner cited the following solutions: a) BART's creation of a new overnight bus service between San Francisco and Oakland, and b) the continued augmentation of All Nighter Service. He also mentioned the elephant in the room: a second Transbay tube which is still "a good five to ten years away." Weiner added an aside about BART running 24 hours, which is an eventual goal after the second tube is built.
Pinterest recently bolstered its ability to work with 'a small Bayview restaurant' by using the newish SF Business Connect service
8) SF Business Connect: Rufo plugged SF Business Connect, designed to connect local businesses (including restaurants) to major Bay Area employers for catering opportunities, etc. He mentioned that Pinterest recently bolstered its ability to work with "a small Bayview restaurant" by using the newish SF Business Connect service.
9) A restaurant killer: Sutton addressed the controversial and new Senate Bill 878 Predictive Work Schedules, running by the Senate this week that would affect everybody in the restaurant business. The measure would require all restaurants to plan and post a set schedule three weeks in advance for all hourly employees. If the employer deviates from that schedule then they’re penalized. Sutton acknowledged that it's a "neat idea but it’s not going to work for everybody." The CRA and GGRA are actively lobbying against this bill.
For complete information on the legislation the CRA and GGRA are currently working on, see the embedded document here: