San Francisco is so expensive waiters can no longer afford to live in the city, and it's changing the way restaurants are serving food and hiring workers
- The housing market in San Francisco is so expensive that it's now commonly referred to as being in a crisis.
- Restaurant workers are fleeing the city's unmanageable costs, reports The Guardian, and it's changing the way the industry is serving customers.
- Some restaurants are now having customers order at a counter instead of being waited on at a table and are simplifying their menus to decrease the size of their waitstaff.
- The problem isn't unique to the Bay Area: Restaurants in cities like New York City and Washington have encountered similar staffing issues.
Michelin recently released its 2019 San Francisco Guide - and awarded the city more stars than it's ever had before, including eight restaurants with the coveted three-star status.
But there's a grimmer reality behind these numbers: Many restaurants in the city can no longer attract or maintain enough talent to keep operations running as they have been.Largely, that's because the San Francisco housing market is so expensive that it's driving people out in droves. In fact, as Business Insider's Melia Robinson reported, the city is so expensive - the median home sale price is $1.6 million - that 60% of tech workers say they can't afford homes.
The news bodes even worse for many workers in the service industry. Despite a city-wide wage hike implemented on July 1, 2018 that raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, rent continues to be unaffordable for many. And it means that restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, once a common source of employment for people in the Bay Area, are struggling to hire enough staff to keep operations running.
As The Guardian reports, the effect this is having on the restaurant industry is two-fold: Restaurants are either closing down, or they are changing how they serve their customers.
In an effort to stay open despite staffing shortages, restaurants that previously may have had extensive menus and waiters tending to each table are taking measures to cut back on the size of the staff that both prepares and serves the food.
Instead of traditional service, writes The Guardian's Erin McCormick, some restaurants "... are having the customers do the work by standing in line to place their orders and picking up their own drinks. Meanwhile, new 'fine casual' establishments are serving scaled-down menus that can be easily prepared by fewer cooks."
Looking beyond the Bay AreaWhile San Francisco is particularly notorious for its rising prices, the problem extends beyond the Bay Area.
High rent in New York City has had a similar effect on the restaurant industry, reports The Guardian. And Washington, as The New York Times reported in April, is also experiencing a staff shortage - but the problem there is that the expanding restaurant scene is simply outpacing the area's ability to staff these establishments.
"The demand for highly skilled help is especially acute in Washington, where a boom in restaurants run by creative chefs is outstripping the region's labor force," wrote the Times.
Ultimately, the shortage of restaurant staff creates a problem whose repercussions are felt by both the staff and by the diners.
For guests, it means at the very least an altered dining experience with less human interaction from the waitstaff. At worst, as the Michelin Guide wrote, it manifests as "lackluster service and food or fewer opportunities to dine."
And for management looking to fill out staff at these establishments, it means that hiring is an increasingly pressing challenge. As Business Insider's Kate Taylor previously reported, "Analysts are also calling a lack of employees one of the biggest problems in the restaurant industry today."