San Francisco may ban free employer lunches to save restaurants

Just as a heads up, we’re toying with the idea of starting a new partner blog focusing on nothing except “Dumb Things That Happen in San Francisco” because we could fill up the entire front page here with such stories and never cover them all. Today’s entry in the weird San Fran stories contest is yet another proposal from members of the city council which would (wait for it…) ban new employers from having cafeterias in their offices where free food is served as a perk for employees.

Why would anyone consider such a thing? Because local restauranteurs are complaining that they can’t compete with a free lunch. (CBS San Francisco)

Two San Francisco supervisors want to do away with employer-provided free lunches, a perk enjoyed by thousands of people who work in the City. That’s because restaurant owners say they can’t compete.

It’s lunchtime at Perennial in SOMA but you wouldn’t know it. The seats are empty. Anthony Myint is the restaurant’s owner and says it’s extremely challenging owning a restaurant so close to big companies that have their own onsite free employee cafeterias.

“I think it’s never been harder to run a restaurant in the city then right now,” he said.

Other restaurant owners in the area agree.

I know what you’re probably thinking. They can’t actually do that, right? Could they really force employers to start charging for the food in their cafeterias? Probably not, but the answer is rather complicated. Trying to force an employee policy on all the businesses in the city could likely be successfully challenged in court. So they might not be able to impact the current businesses in San Francisco. But what they can do is change the building codes so that any new commercial structures (except for restaurants) can’t get a permit approved for a building with a kitchen or other food preparation area in it.

Man, talk about your brilliant plans. Whenever the government picks winners and losers in the private sector, things can only improve. Unfortunately, this reflexive instinct where left coasters always ask the government to intervene in each and every inconvenience they encounter rarely produces positive results. Those companies with in-house cafeterias aren’t “competing” with local restaurants because none of the rest of the people in the city can simply walk in, sit down and order a free lunch. It’s a perk for the workers which is offered to attract the best talent in a competitive labor market.

And it’s not just the free food. Anything that allows workers to avoid going out onto the streets in some of the worst traffic in the country is a huge plus. Eating at the shop also allows them to avoid the armies of homeless people crowding the streets, contributing to a constantly increasing violent crime problem. Have you ever considered the possibility that if you cleaned up some of those problems in your increasingly crapholish city, people might actually want to go out at lunchtime, hit the streets and grab some food?

But instead, you’ll bust the chops of the only companies who are still providing good jobs so people can afford to live in one of the most expensive cost of living municipalities in the country. This is a brilliant plan, guys. I’m really excited to see you put it into action.

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