News & Politics

San Francisco Looks to Ban Workplace Cafeterias to Boost Restaurants

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Once upon a time, I had a job with a company-owned cafeteria in the building. While I could still bring my lunch if I wanted, the cafeteria had some really great food at a really low price. As someone who prefers a real meal over a sandwich in most instances, I was a fan.

Now, however, it seems such places are a problem in San Francisco, where frankly everything can be a problem if it tries hard enough.

As the San Francisco Examiner reports: “Two city legislators on Tuesday are expected to announce legislation banning on-site workplace cafeterias in an effort to promote and support local restaurants.”

Sponsored by Supervisor Ahsha Safai and Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the measure seeks to use the zoning laws to bar companies from having on-site cafeterias, because the economy or something.

“Peskin said the measure was inspired by tech companies like Twitter and Airbnb, which are widely known to have access to dining in their own buildings, depriving nearby restaurants of the dollars usually spent by nearby workers. The measure has the support of Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and other local merchants.”

They want to push these people out of their workplaces with the idea that they’ll then visit other restaurants in the city. The problem is, it’ll push a lot of those employees to just bring their lunch or grab fast food. That’s why the supply/demand graph looks the way it does.

Part of the allure of on-site cafeterias is the cost and convenience. You can get a good meal just steps away from your desk.

If you take that away, they’re not going to flock to sit-down restaurants in the city where there’s going to be a rush, possibly a wait for seating, then a wait for food. Those are all things that take away that time from the workers. Instead, they’ll grab fast food just to avoid being rushed.

In other words, not only is this rent-seeking, it’s not even well thought out rent-seeking. It doesn’t understand why these cafeterias are popular with employees. Couple that with this being a perk employees enjoy that is economically feasible to the companies. Companies will have to find new perks for their staff now, who may just decide to find a new job.

It’s well past time that governments stop trying to regulate people into the behavior they want. Not only does this hurt tech companies like Twitter, it also doesn’t help the restaurants like these lawmakers think it will. It just pisses people off.