Having solved crippling homelessness, cleaned its streets, and driven down the cost of housing in the Bay Area, the city of San Francisco has moved to tackle the real challenge facing the tech-centric city: free lunch.
According to CBS News, the city is considering “new legislation to end free lunch,” on the theory that San Francisco restaurants are failing not because tourists and city-dwellers have to step over piles of used needles and 20-pound bags of human feces littering its sidewalks, but because tech companies offer free meals to their employees and thus San Francisco workers don’t patronize local joints on their lunch hour.
“We see thousands of employees in a block radius that don’t go out to lunch and don’t go out in support of restaurants every day, because they don’t have to,“ one restaurant owner told CBS. He also said that the only time he sees lunch traffic is when a local payment startup, Square, closes its company cafeteria.
“You can’t compete with free. Free food is a wonderful amenity but doesn’t do anything to extend the community around it,” he added
Tech companies like Google have long offered employees a host of amenities like nap rooms, game rooms, and free food in order to keep those same employees on campus and working during periods they’d normally disappear, like lunch (and, quite often, dinner). The more employees are on campus, the more work they’re doing for their hefty salaries.
San Francisco offers tech companies major tax breaks to move into parts of the city that need gentrification, like the city’s “mid-Market” district, which is now a hotbed of Silicon Valley bigwigs. But the money they anticipated flowing into the local economy just isn’t coming and San Fran needs that cash . . . desperately.
City council members, though, are trying to play off the proposed legislation, set for debate next month, as a way of encouraging desk-bound tech employees to spend time in the fresh air.
“This is also about a cultural shift,” one city legislator told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We don’t want employees biking or driving into their office, staying there all day long and going home. This is about getting people out of their office.”
Given what’s on the sidewalk, it’s easy to see why they prefer the in-house cafeterias.