Give Me Your Lunch Money

Written by: 
Nick Smith

In the wake of Mountain View’s ban on Facebook serving free food in their new office resurfacing, the bureaucrats in San Francisco City Hall decided they couldn’t be outdone. Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin are planning to introduce their own proposal for The City to ban industrial kitchens in office buildings for all future developments.

This measure is designed to save the “failing” restaurant industry in San Francisco by forcing workers out of their offices and into the local restaurants (and of course more of their tax dollars into City Hall). Thankfully our diligent Supervisors were able to pinpoint the real problem that local restaurants are facing— not enough tech business— so they can continue to tax this and every other industry out of existence.

The tech industry should be comforted to know that this measure won’t affect existing businesses, only future developments— although this would lead one to wonder if this will have any effect on the restaurant industry at all, at least not in the near future. Companies are likely to instead provide catered meals from a single offsite provider, or employees may start bringing their lunch to work. The bigger effect this will have is yet another raised middle finger to tech companies, which apparently have brought nothing but problems to The City. As if there weren’t already enough, entrepreneurs now have another reason to avoid opening offices in San Francisco.

In a very telling statement, Peskin explains that tech workers “will have to go out and each lunch with the rest of us.” I suppose the board will also lead by example and do their part to help the restaurant industry by closing down the cafeteria in City Hall.

I have heard proponents of the ban suggest that this is actually good for the tech companies, even. They claim that it will make the company more connected with the community and will increase employee happiness by letting them spend more time outside the office, ultimately helping their business be more successful. If that’s true, then this could be a win-win, and the looting is justified! City Hall should pat themselves on the back.

What the central planners seem to forget is that companies are driven by profit, and if they can do something to help their bottom line and attract top talent then they will do it voluntarily, without need for a law. Google doesn’t give its employees paid leave specifically to do charitable work because it’s required by law, but because it boosts morale and distinguishes their culture from that of other companies that don’t offer such perks. This is why “government knows best” arguments never hold water. No one has more incentive for a company to succeed than the company itself.

The do-gooders also seem to ignore that in order to run these office cafeterias, a company needs to employ dozens of kitchen staff, custodians, and security to be able to operate it. Apparently these jobs are less important than the restaurant jobs they claim they are trying to protect.

Ultimately, handicapping an industry that is doing well to save one that is not is protectionism, and it is bad for everyone. Some of these restaurants will adapt to solve their own problems and some will go out of business— and that’s okay. If supervisors really want to give the restaurant industry a break, they should start by lightening the tax burden so that they can afford to operate, but The City continually increases this burden instead. Government meddling doesn’t solve problems; government meddling is the problem.

San Francisco residents should prepare for the next “forward thinking” initiative which will make it illegal to have a kitchen in your own home.

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