Like a shark smelling blood in the water, the city of San Francisco is looking to clamp down on the free lunches that keep tech workers from spending money in local neighborhoods.
“Two San Francisco supervisors introduced an ordinance last week that would forbid employee cafeterias in new corporate construction. It is not clear whether the measure will pass, but it is a direct attack on one of the modern tech industry’s most entrenched traditions.”
The problem these and many other cities in the Bay Area face is that tech workers who receive free meals throughout the day (not to mention snacks, beer, coffee and kombucha on tap) have no incentive to ever leave the office and spend money at nearby restaurants and bodegas.
When San Francisco offered tax deals to companies like Twitter to keep them in the city, they hoped that the shiny new tech offices would result in a revitalization of the areas around them. This hasn’t happened, and the fact that tech workers don’t venture outside their offices to eat or drink is a big part of that.
San Francisco won’t consider this new ban until the fall, and even then, it will only address cafeterias in new construction. This means that existing cafeterias and corporate catering services won’t be impacted. Which is good news for the number of startups in the corporate catering space that have secured millions in funding over the past year.
But the city has shown it’s not afraid to bite the hands that feed it. Last year it enacted strict rules over how delivery robots could roam its sidewalks.
There could be an intangible halo effect from all this municipal scrutiny. While the idea of a city telling employees of private businesses where they can and can’t eat is unsettling, perhaps the public attention will force companies to at least examine their existing policies — and do more to share their wealth.
If you are interested in the future of lunch at work, be sure to come to the Smart Kitchen Summit: North America in October where we’ll be hosting a panel dedicated to “Leave The Lunch Box Behind: How Tech Is Changing How We Eat At Work” with speakers from Chowbotics, EZCater, and more.