The 3rd annual Golden Gate Restaurant Association Industry Conference is coming up next week! Bay Area chefs and operators will gather for two days of programming around everything from business and policy trends to new developments in service and technology — and we at OpenTable are thrilled to be a sponsor of the event.
In anticipation, we talked to Gwyneth Borden, the GGRA’s Executive Director, who oversees the conference and sets direction for the organization. In short: it’s a challenging time for San Francisco restaurants.
“We’re starting to see a little bit of a slow down in pace from years before,” says Gwyneth. “Residents are concerned about the economy, and that impacts how they spend. The cost of living in San Francisco is very expensive — all of those things are going to factor into consumer behavior.”
Here, Gwyneth outlines some of the biggest issues and opportunities in the Bay Area industry today, plus how restaurants are responding to changes. Read on below, and locals, register for the conference here!
There’s a fear among the industry and from consumers about the current political environment, particularly around immigration issues and the Affordable Care Act. The restaurant industry is an immigrant-dominated industry, including both restaurateurs and workers. Creating protections and a feeling of safety and security is what hospitality is all about and maintaining a workforce in an area where we’ve seen major shortages due to the cost of living is paramount.
From a practical standpoint, with an existing labor shortage and what seems to be a market slow down, we cannot afford to lose workers or see costs rise any higher for labor. We’re hearing concerns about the national rhetoric and what it means for businesses — are there going to be ICE raids on restaurants? What can I do to protect my employees should ICE show up? How will the industry survive a tariff on Mexican products like avocados and other produce? Will there be workers to farm food and create wine, and if so, who will be able to afford the price? There’s a lot of concern about what that rhetoric means about the industry and our ability to continue to thrive.
Other countries are threatening a boycott of San Francisco, and there’s a genuine concern that if other countries that fuel our tourism decide that they don’t want to come here, we’re going to have real trouble. We rely on Canada and Mexico, who are our largest groups of tourism visitors. There are concerns about whether there will be issues with travel visas too. This year the Moscone Center will be shut down for six months for an expansion project, meaning we’ll have no large conventions for a six-month period. Next week we’ll have the CEO of SF Travel speaking at the Industry Conference about what they are doing to encourage tourism visitors, including attracting smaller conventions and trying to maintain great relationships with the general tourist population. [Read more…]