SF city leaders push to ban company cafeterias

San Francisco's tech boom has created a bubble for local restaurants, many of which have been forced to shut down due to declining business.

Now city leaders are hoping to reconnect corporations with its community. 

The idea is to prevent large corporate companies and startups from building internal cafeterias, in an effort to encourage employees to get out of the office and dine at a local restaurant. 

San Francisco is a thriving metropolis with a vibrant food scene, filling the air with flavorful aromas that please any palette. It's a restaurant owners' dream to be here, but an unintended consequence of the tech boom is hurting their business. 

"For us it's been challenging because there is a bit of a vacuum of foot traffic," said restaurant owner, Anthony Myint of the Perrenial. 

The Perrenial is a farm-to-table restaurant with a unique approach to climate change.

They set up off of Market Street more than two years ago. It's a promising location but many of it's neighboring tech companies and startups have in-house cafeterias that are difficult to compete with. 

"You can't compete with free. Free food is a wonderful amenity for those companies that can afford it but it doesn't do anything to extend the community around it," said Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. 

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association has teamed up with San Francisco Board of Supervisors Ahsha Safaí and Aaron Peskin to introduce legislation that would ban internal cafeterias in new office buildings and tech campuses. 

"There are already 51 of these existing internal cafeteria restaurants that are not open to the public that are only designed to feed their employees," said Safaí. 

As a way to work with those existing cafes, city leaders say they would encourage the companies to expand catering, or introduce a voucher program like tech company Square has done.

"Every other Friday they close their cafeteria they give vouchers to their employees to spend it at square cellars. We are a Square cellar. We see our business increase significantly every other Friday because they don't have that option to stay in," said Ryan Cole, restaurant owner of The Corridor. 

Some fear the approach is too narrow.

"What happens to the workers that they have in their cafeteria on those days? Are they told to go home," questioned tech company worker, Jonathan Berger. 
Others celebrate the city's effort to save the restaurant industry, that could help feed the success of the economy. 

"I think it's a really good attempt to reconnect the communities with the business that work between them," said Jason Bennett of San Francisco. 

Supervisors say this is just the beginning of discussions. Introduction of this legislation is timely because coming soon to SoMa is 6 million square feet of office space.