We have a few clues that the owners of Farina are getting desperate to eek out a profit and/or pay off that expensive — though lovely — build-out they did on 18th Street a couple years back: 1) they levy a three percent surcharge on diners for bread and water — something Michael Bauer balked at in his recent one-and-a-half-star update review; 2) they are now charging upwards of $26 for a plate of pasta — their current menu actually lists the upper price for the primi piatti at $70; 3) the Chron reports today that the restaurant is doing this totally messed up thing with gratuities wherein they’re pocketing them, paying employees a flat $10 an hour (the minimum wage they’ve always gotten) plus an “extra salary” based on position, and then giving them bonuses based on performance. Say what? At least one employee has already quit in frustration, saying the bonus system is “not transparent. It’s all hidden behind [owner Luca Minna’s] doors.”
To Farina’s credit, they do provide full health benefits to their employees — they also charge diners a 4% Healthy S.F. surcharge to cover that, but as we’ve recently learned, most restaurants are just setting up flexible spending accounts and pocketing most of that money. But tips are kind of like the only thing people work for in the front of the house, and it’s got to hurt when you’re the server with the eight-top who orders boatloads of expensive wine, and the beautiful, enormous tip gets snatched away from you. And would the table be giving that tip if they knew it wasn’t going directly to the server’s pocket?
The Chron also points out, between the surcharges and 20% gratuities, the restaurant is now taking a 27% bump in revenue.
In related news, there’s been no movement we can see on Farina’s long-delayed pizzeria project down the street, at 18th and Valencia. Antica Pizzeria Napoletana, according to the company website, is still slated for a 2011 opening, but all that plywood around the site assures us that that ain’t happening.
We are not ones to pull out our fiddles and dance as restaurants struggle, but is Farina showing signs of weakness at the seams? Time will tell.
Making sense of making dollars [Chron - second item]
Earlier: Bauer Delivers a One-and-a-Half-Star Smackdown to Farina