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Proposal Eliminates Employer-Provided Lunches In SF Because Restaurants Can't Compete

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) - Two San Francisco supervisors want to do away with employer-provided free lunches, a perk enjoyed by thousands of people who work in the City. That's because restaurant owners say they can't compete.

It's lunchtime at Perennial in SoMa but you wouldn't know it. The seats are empty. Anthony Myint is the restaurant's owner and says it's extremely challenging owning a restaurant so close to big companies that have their own onsite free employee cafeterias.

"I think it's never been harder to run a restaurant in the city then right now," he said.

Other restaurant owners in the area agree.

"We see it in our business," said Ryan Corridor, owner of Corridor. "We see thousands of employees in a block radius that don't go out to lunch and don't go out in support of restaurants every day -- it's because they don't have to."

"You can't compete with free," said Gwyneth Borden, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. Free food is a wonderful amenity, but doesn't do anything to extend the community around it."

San Francisco Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin introduced new legislation Tuesday prohibiting in-house cafeterias in new office buildings and tech campuses.

They say the city does have the legal right to do this. It's through a zoning amendment using certain planning and public health codes.

"This is the beginning of a conversation," said Safai. "We think it's appropriate conversation to have now. We absolutely have that authorization."

Jonathan Berger works at a startup company that gives their employees an allowance to go out and eat at local restaurants every day. He's also worked at a large tech company with a cafeteria of free food.

"The workers in that café I think benefit tremendously, as well, from having those jobs there, so there's a lot of ways to make about this issue and it's complex," said Berger.

If passed, this new law would only apply to new companies, not existing companies like Google, Levi's and Twitter.

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