Silicon Valley may be the world’s best place to make fake meat, but turns out it’s a really sorry one to run a normal restaurant right now. The Times took a long look at how inhospitable the Valley’s become for eateries that fall in the vast middle space between Saison and Sweetgreen, and the picture is grim, to put it nicely. The report notes the irony of tech companies basically “disrupting” the local restaurants right out of business:
It is a story playing out across Silicon Valley, where restaurateurs say that staying afloat is a daily battle with rising rents, high local fees and acute labor shortages. And tech behemoths like Apple, Facebook and Google are hiring away their best line cooks, dishwashers and servers with wages, benefits and perks that restaurant owners simply cannot match.
The story actually quotes one Palo Alto restaurateur as saying restaurants “will no longer exist here in the near future.” He tells the paper people have started “leaving the business entirely.” The industry’s profit margins are paper-thin already, so the need to pay higher wages plus exorbitant rents has proven a killer combo. Additionally, workers can’t live anywhere near the Valley, where one-bedroom apartments now push $3,000 a month and local laws saddle restaurants with onerous fees that, alongside the sky-high rent, make the cost of occupancy two to three times higher in the Valley than elsewhere in the country.
Restaurants can’t compete, either, with the raft of automated competitors, or with tech companies when they try — as they now do — to poach industry workers. One wine-bar owner says he’s had staff depart for Facebook and Google because they make more there than he does as an owner. Delfina co-owners Craig and Annie Stoll, who have a James Beard Award under their belt, say they’re perennially understaffed, recently broke down and gave jobs to their 14-year-old and her friends, and have quit posting help-wanted ads that demand applicants have culinary experience. Instead, Craig says, their Craigslist posts are now just “pictures of cooks butchering pigs, sautéing, and good-looking waitresses.”