Welcome to a.m. Intel, your bite-sized roundup of Bay Area food and restaurant news. Tips are always welcome, drop them here.
First, it was the return of masks. Then, on Friday, August 20, the citywide mandate requiring proof of vaccination for customers who wish to dine or drink inside went into effect. Now, new data from OpenTable indicates the potential impact on San Francisco restaurants: dining is down 16 percent in San Francisco compared to July, with business dipping as far as 66 percent below 2019 levels. Together, those numbers indicate San Francisco restaurants have been among the hardest hit in the country this August, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
The reasons can surely be debated — the last weeks of August are often slow for restaurants nationwide, due to vacationing customers and late summer doldrums. The numbers do indicate, however, an especially tough time for restaurants, as they experience a combination of “difficult diners, the staffing shortage, and looming safety considerations.” Specifically, top San Francisco restaurants like China Live have seen reservation cancellations increase by 15 percent over the past few weeks, according to the Chronicle, while at Warung Siska in Redwood City business is down 15 percent overall.
It’s not all bad news, though — the cancellations mean China Live has been able to accept more walk-ins from its Chinatown neighborhood. Demand for outdoor dining is high as well, with about 30 percent of reservations in San Francisco over the past six weeks being made for outdoor tables, nearly double the rate of outdoor reservations in other cities globally. [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Bake Sum bakery’s yearlong atmospheric rise culminated yesterday with the opening of its new Oakland bakery at 3249 Grand Avenue. Bake Sum has officially opened the doors to its first permanent location, after a year of popping up out of the Bread Project in Berkeley and selling pastry boxes at spots in San Francisco and Redwood City (with great success). Blending French techniques and Asian flavors, diners can expect creations ranging from purple pineapple buns to loco moco danishes to a halo halo croissant filled with ube pastry cream.
- In just five weeks, the Dixie Fire, burning about 175 miles northeast of San Francisco, has become the second-largest wildfire in state history. As of Sunday, it had grown to more than 725,000 acres, covering an area twice the size of Los Angeles. Among the more than 1,200 structures that have been destroyed is the Gin Mill, a Gold Rush-era bar dating back to the 1930s in Plumas National Forest. The beloved local bar was one of just a few in Plumas County, and as San Francisco Gate says, likely one of the only privately owned drinking establishments in the middle of a national forest. Check out the SFGate story for the full history of the historic bar. [SFGate]
- Since OpenTable announced it was introducing a function to verify customer’s vaccination status, there’s been some speculation as to how, and how useful it would really be, given that it only clears people at the restaurants they’ve made reservations for. Now, Fortune reports that OpenTable is partnering with airport security company Clear for a vaccination verification app. The free app securely connects a person’s verified identity to his or her proof of vaccination from hundreds of vaccine providers and pharmacies, according to Fortune. It will be available for both iPhone and Android in September. [Fortune]