Welcome to p.m. Intel, your bite-sized roundup of Bay Area food and restaurant news. Tips are always welcome, drop them here.
- SoMa’s acclaimed Bar Agricole shuttered early on in the pandemic, followed not long after by former staffers filing formal complaints of wage theft and volatile working conditions. Now, owner Thad Vogler wants to bring back the James Beard Award-winning restaurant as a non-restaurant of sorts, eliminating the roles of executive chef, bar director, and traditional owner, reports the SF Chronicle. It’s a reimagining he (optimistically?) thinks will produce a restaurant without hierarchy, thus creating a more equitable environment for employees — a vision bolstered by a plan to give 20 percent of company shares to employees. Vogler’s original plan to move Bar Agricole to the ground floor of a luxury building at 1550 Mission Street remains, though the business will now primarily function as a spirits company, according to the Chronicle; the bar will be for casual drinks and snacks, with far less emphasis on food than its previous iteration. Vogler hopes to launch in December. [SF Chronicle]
- The NY Times had a report on the proliferation of QR codes at San Francisco restaurants this week, and the main upshot is that it’s become yet another way for businesses to intimately track customer data. The report includes this eye-opening statistic: according to the National Restaurant Association, half of all full-service restaurant operators in the U.S. have added QR code menus since the start of the pandemic, which allow them to build a database of customer order histories and contact information. Count the return of physical menus among the many things to look forward to if we ever get through this pandemic. [NY Times]
- In another hit for downtown restaurants that lost their primary customer base during the pandemic, tech giants like Google, Twitter, and Facebook are delaying a return to their offices, Forbes reports. In Twitter’s case, the company is closing offices in San Francisco and New York only two weeks after reopening them for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. The company said in a statement that it will monitor the situation, but it seems the great promise of an influx of workers returning downtown is that much farther from becoming reality. [Forbes]
- The precarious situation for California wine country producers confronting wildfire season continues to draw urgent reporting, the latest being a NY Times deep dive into three wine country vineyards who, still recovering from the devastating 2020 wildfire season, are doing all they can to adapt to and respond to climate change in 2021. Tactics include constructing a winery mostly underground, with firebreaks and an underground irrigation system, in addition to forest management and other traditional mitigation tactics. Still, the takeaway is plain: “It’s no longer clear that the region will be hospitable to ambitious winemakers.” [NY Times]