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The end of free tech lunches in San Fran

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There is no such thing as a free lunch And in San Francisco, where free meals have become one of the most attractive advantages that some technology companies offer their employees here, local restaurants are paying the price.

Some companies and municipal supervisors argue that the company’s coffee shops keep workers inside the office during meals, which discourages them from frequenting local restaurants. The tendency to eat has led two San Francisco supervisors, Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin, to propose a ban on companies moving to a new office in the city offering their employees free meals.

“We are facing and we are about to enable 6 million more feet of office space in what we call Central SoMa, closer to the south of the centre,” Safai told CNBC. “And then, at this particular moment, thinking about one of the things that could have been different about the tax cut in the middle market, I decided to present a policy to say we limit or ban them altogether in certain areas that essentially offer free food, and it’s okay, I’m not trying to take anyone’s lunch, we really want to encourage people to leave their silos, leave their offices and interact and contribute to what contributes to a healthy city. “

About 40 office cafeterias provide non-taxable food throughout San Francisco, according to Safai and data from the San Francisco Department of Health. Those who offer free food include Twitter, Uber and Square.

Thousands of tech-affluent workers who stay to work for lunch instead of visiting local restaurants are not what the city had in mind when they offered businesses in their district medium-strong tax breaks. However, companies that provide free meals also do not intend to obtain the collateral economic damage caused by what they see as a competitive advantage to retain the best talent.

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“When you have thousands of people occupying all the real estate, but they never leave, it creates a very strange dynamic for other companies in the area that did not think about everything through and bet on the number of offices, the number of employees, the number of people and how their employers should have been, “said Ryan Cole, a partner at Hi Neighbor Group, owner and operator of four restaurants and coffee shops in San Francisco. . “But these technology companies are so smart that they altered normal patterns because it’s a benefit to them.”

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Some say that the proposed ban of future companies that give employees internal food is insufficient because it is not retroactive, which means that companies that already offer the benefit will not have to stop the practice.

Others argue that the ordinance would be too much regulation and dissuade technology companies from entering the area.

“I appreciate the ordinance because it wants to support local restaurants, I think it’s great,” said Vanessa Brown, a city worker. “But I think it’s too normative to tell people that they can not eat at their place of work.”

The solutions to the lunch dispute have begun to emerge. Twitter, for example, sometimes invites and pays companies to cook in their kitchens to expose them to their employees. And Square closes its cafeteria approximately two Fridays a month to encourage workers to eat out of the office.

Katherine Chiao, the owner of Kagawa-Ya Udon, a Japanese restaurant in the Mid-Market district, and Cole, said they see a remarkable boost in business that Friday.

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“It’s like day and night,” Chiao said. “It’s already pretty busy on Fridays, but when Square has its culinary closing days, we see an increase in sales by 20 percent.”

San Francisco would join Mountain View, headquarters of Alphabet’s headquarters, as the second Bay Area city to ban new duty-free office cafeterias if the proposed legislation is approved.

“I think technology has been a phenomenal collaborator in San Francisco,” said Safai. “But that does not mean we can not reflect and think of ways in which we can strengthen certain aspects of our economy and our society, and encourage those to look at their business model and say: ‘Maybe that worked in Silicon Valley, but it does not work in an urban environment. “

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