It’s a refrain that’s been repeated often as restaurants and bars have opened in the last year or so: Doing it “for the industry.” Whether it’s a decision to remain open on Mondays — a day restaurants often close since business can be slow — or an IYKYK discount, it seems Bay Area chefs and restaurateurs are consciously making the choice to be more inclusive of their hospitality brethren, aiming to be the destination where fellow bartenders, cooks, waiters, and other restaurant and bar workers gather on their days off. Whether it’s an outcome of the pandemic, which saw restaurants, bars, and service workers struggle through months of closures and inherent health risk, or not, what seems to be blossoming in the hospitality industry is a renewed interest in serving those who serve others.
Most of those who worked in the hospitality industry prior to opening their own restaurant know the relative lack of dining options open at after restaurants shut down for the day. That’s why Andres Giraldo Florez, he keeps his very BART-accessible Oakland spot Slug open late and on Mondays for industry folks to drop by after their shifts for a plate of food and glass of natural wine. At Hilda & Jesse in North Beach, owners Kirstina Compton and Rachel Sillcocks, both veterans of fine dining restaurants in San Francisco, remain open on Mondays and offer a 10 percent discount to those in the industry, knowing there’s “a dearth of dining options” those nights, as Sillcocks put it. Compton says working in hospitality is a hard job, and there needs to spaces for those in the industry. “If you want to go celebrate something, we should have the access just like everyone else does on a Saturday or Sunday,” Compton says.
Compton says she thinks the pandemic drew people in the industry closer together. “I feel like everybody wants to support each other more now, especially,” she says. With the newer spots that opened because the owners were able to find spaces that weren’t available before the pandemic, she adds: “I do think there’s a younger generation of chefs wanting to support each other.” Sillcocks agrees. “There’s just more of an opportunity, I think at this point, to develop community and to really support each other from an emotional and intellectual standpoint — and I think that’s what being open on a Monday, and being available to other members of the restaurant industry, does,” Sillcocks says.
Heather Hoffman, co-owner of Nob Hill’s Propagation, which opened in spring 2021, says she recently opened her bar on Mondays — with the notable promise of staying open every night until 2 a.m., and with a late-night happy hour running from 8 to 10 p.m. She says there weren’t many industry workers to speak of in fall 2021, but there’s been a renewed interest this year in finding a spot for restaurant and bar workers to go after their shifts. Hoffman notes most restaurants and bars now close as crowds thin out at night, but Propagation’s commitment to a late close has made them a destination. That the crowd becomes 85 perfect industry workers after midnight, she estimates. “We make it a point to [stay open late] because we do want to cater to them,” Hoffman says. “They’re the best customers: easygoing, and they talk to everybody. We like to give back to our community, so we always take care of them when they come in.”
Hoffman, a veteran of several bars around San Francisco, says it’s important to have spaces for hospitality workers. “We spend all day, every day, serving other people and it’s nice to get served for ourselves,” Hoffman says. “We’ve all been in this kind of COVID slump... So you need some time to decompress together, to not only be stressed out together, but have some laughs together.”
Jessica Kapoor, who opened Copas last fall and is Chief of Staff at Saison Hospitality Group, made it a point to incorporate both a 20 percent discount for service industry on Sundays. She also organizes a Sunday Supper night once a month; the restaurant partners with cook or chef to produce an eight-course tasting menu, and she specifically aims to work with someone more behind-the-scenes, as in, not an executive chef. With a bartender collaboration night also on the way, Kapoor sees the restaurant’s initiatives as a way for people in the industry to not only relax and enjoy themselves, but also as making a place for workers to recharge creatively. “I think that’s so uplifting when you give people an opportunity to create, and then also really shine the light on them and give them their flowers for creating,” Kapoor says. “Oftentimes, in this industry, we know that people do things for the passion of it; they’re very passionate about what they do, but they should also be rewarded for it.”
Copas’ industry discount is one way she hopes the restaurant serves service workers. But it’s more than just a monetary incentive to come by. “When people work service, and when they do it days on end, it’s taxing and it’s rigorous and you want to give people a place to go unwind and have a good time,” Kapoor says.