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Interesting piece in the New York Times about a small but growing trend taking place in San Francisco’s restaurant business.

It is evident, the story says, “that the forces making this one of the most expensive cities in America are subtly altering the economics of everything. Commercial rents have gone up. Labor costs have soared. And restaurant workers, many of them priced out by the expense of housing, have been moving away. Restaurateurs who say they can no longer find or afford servers are figuring out how to do without them. And so in this city of staggering wealth, you can eat like a gourmand, with real stemware and ceramic plates. But first you’ll have to go get your own silverware.”

That’s right. What is happening is that some restaurants are adopting a kind of cafeteria business model: “You have to do much of the work of dining out yourself. You scout your own table. You fetch and fill your own water glass. And if you’d like another glass of wine, you go back to the counter.”

“Such hybrid restaurants are spreading to other high-cost cities, and they fit what analysts say is growing demand for more flexible dining options,” the Times writes. “But here, the extreme economics have rapidly made the model commonplace.”

It isn’t just the high cost of housing that has created a scarcity of workers. San Francisco’s minimum wage is about to hit $15 an hour, and the city requires its businesses to offer a high level of health care benefits … all of which means that employees can be expensive. Which leads to asking customers to engage in self-service.
KC's View:

It would be easy for some folks to blame the high wages ands benefits for this program, but I don’t know how people being paid less could even afford to live anywhere near San Francisco. I know it is enjoying enormous prosperity, but it also is creating a city of “haves,” with “have-nots” sent off to live elsewhere.

This just seems unhealthy to me.