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San Francisco Restaurants Can't Afford Waiters. So They're Putting Diners to Work.

By The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Souvla, a Greek restaurant with a devoted following, serves spit-fired meat two ways: in a photogenic sandwich, or on a photogenic salad, either available with a glass of Greek wine. The garnishes are thoughtful: pea shoots, harissa-spiked yogurt, mizithra cheese

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  • An interesting story, and personally I think it's appropriate that if you can't afford to pay a living wage, it's more responsible to figure out a business model that doesn't rely on that labor.

  • Couple of things indicate the writer does not understand how the restaurant business handles compensation. Servers make waaaaay more than minimum wage. The usual setup is something like- the restaurant pays them a very small hourly salary ($4 an hour) and the rest is covered by tips, but again, after

    Couple of things indicate the writer does not understand how the restaurant business handles compensation. Servers make waaaaay more than minimum wage. The usual setup is something like- the restaurant pays them a very small hourly salary ($4 an hour) and the rest is covered by tips, but again, after the switch to cards/less cash that’s all declared and taxed now so unfortunately it’s no longer a lucrative job. No one is going to work that hard with the typically long hours for $15 an hour that’s not under the table. Restaurants are not suddenly going to start paying out a living wage. It used to be a give and take balance with many parts being outside of the law that worked hand in hand with our brand of capitalism.

  • This is not something to be celebrated or applauded. In a market where more wealth has been generating in the past ten years than in any other part of the country, those benefiting and unwilling to share with those supporting them. This is not a good indication of what’s to come with the growing wealth gap

  • Here is the Queen of sanctuary cities. It plays mouth service to the world how open. forward thinking and humanitarian SF is. yet pushes those same seekers to the bedroom communities to deal with housing and employment. SFs elected officials, elected!. raised the minimum wage, so that these businesses

    Here is the Queen of sanctuary cities. It plays mouth service to the world how open. forward thinking and humanitarian SF is. yet pushes those same seekers to the bedroom communities to deal with housing and employment. SFs elected officials, elected!. raised the minimum wage, so that these businesses can't afford servers. Why are you whining? Why should we care that you will soon pay $20.00 for a burger you will cook yourself, transport to your table yourself, fill your drink yourself and bus your table?

    San Fransisco is only a sanctuary From! reality.

  • I’m all about this trend in restaurants in San Francisco. Sucks that the cost of living in the city is so high but the job of a server is so outdated. I’d rather opt for self-service than feel obligated to tip somebody for doing the bare minimum. I’ve waited tables for many years. It’s hard work; it

    I’m all about this trend in restaurants in San Francisco. Sucks that the cost of living in the city is so high but the job of a server is so outdated. I’d rather opt for self-service than feel obligated to tip somebody for doing the bare minimum. I’ve waited tables for many years. It’s hard work; it was great money going through college and some side hustle but definitely not fulfilling at all. As for Souvla, I’d be ok if I could skip the counter too... Might as well just put my order into an app and have it ready (not for take-out) when I get there. Cause those lines are just ridiculous.

  • So instead workers who would have had an income don’t now. Yet this is the more responsible thing to do?! Stop kidding yourself people need money, sorry the progressive think tank ruins the abilities for small companies to create job, very simple.

  • Smart ways to optimize the consumer experience and offer a fast-casual atmosphere. The amount of tips the restaurant receives ought to be significantly lower with this business model.

  • If they can’t afford to pay servers a decent living wage then perhaps they can’t afford the cost of doing business

  • We will continue to see new/innovative/disruptive/challenging models to traditional restaurant operations caused by labor shortages, fair wage legislation, and human error/rise of metrics. Glad this is getting some attention.

  • This is basically fancy fast food like service. Not sure I understand the controversy.

  • This is an awesome look at what money buys depending on where you live. These are very affluent people eating at a restaurant and unable to pay for service to their table. The US is now made up, geographically, of mostly places that residents of New York and San Francisco could reasonably consider “developing

    This is an awesome look at what money buys depending on where you live. These are very affluent people eating at a restaurant and unable to pay for service to their table. The US is now made up, geographically, of mostly places that residents of New York and San Francisco could reasonably consider “developing countries” given how much further their paycheck could go. And it’s also an example of why our lifestyles are so reliant on income inequality. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich if everyone around you is too rich to consider being a waiter. I think the general movement of our labor into more productive activities than waiting tables would be a very very good thing. So far it’s only happening in a couple places.

  • I feel like there’s a fair amount of context missing from this article. Diners today are generally less wowed by the pomp and circumstance of traditional full-service dining, plus we are living in DIY times (everywhere in LA has a get-your-own-water station). I don’t believe this serverless trend is

    I feel like there’s a fair amount of context missing from this article. Diners today are generally less wowed by the pomp and circumstance of traditional full-service dining, plus we are living in DIY times (everywhere in LA has a get-your-own-water station). I don’t believe this serverless trend is solely a result of housing markets and the minimum wage.

  • Waiters are paid by diners. Not by the restaurant. Wages are a minimal part of their income. The owners aren't saving much. If customers like it then fine but I predict this model is going to fail. It only works with fast food and pizza.

  • There are many restaurants in Austin, Texas where you stand in line, place your order, and either get your food right then, or are given a number; which you go retrieve yourself when your number is called. This is SELF-service, yet you’re still prompted to give a tip on the ticket! I have a problem with

    There are many restaurants in Austin, Texas where you stand in line, place your order, and either get your food right then, or are given a number; which you go retrieve yourself when your number is called. This is SELF-service, yet you’re still prompted to give a tip on the ticket! I have a problem with this practice. The owners should be paying a fair enough wage to the workers that are necessary to take an order, prepare the food and take my money. After all, at last check most of these restaurants that I’m speaking of are successful enough to have multiple locations.

  • I sure miss automats. That will solve this problem.

  • Young people no longer want these jobs. But guess what? Legal immigrants would recognize this as a great opportunity.

  • Losers never tip and tippers never lose.

  • For every business, the goal is to make profit and if you're not making in a planned way, try another way. San Francisco isn't a joke city, if these restaurants can't afford waiters, it's the best thing they figured out another way to make profit by introducing Diners. Probably if they had used waiters

    For every business, the goal is to make profit and if you're not making in a planned way, try another way. San Francisco isn't a joke city, if these restaurants can't afford waiters, it's the best thing they figured out another way to make profit by introducing Diners. Probably if they had used waiters, they would have to close down eventually. Waiters often times make way more than minimum wage.

  • Not really a super new idea. Coffee shops have been handing people numbers to indicate where their order should be dropped for a long time.

  • So we don't need pay the tip comfortably.

    That will work well for the Millennial.

  • Brand new way to run a restaurant!

  • Maybe we will soon have a Souvla here in Vancouver

  • I feel sorry for young people straight out of school looking for jobs.

  • I think a server-less cafeteria style restaurant can work well and have a nice charm about it. I think also the owner is losing anywhere from 20-40% in higher ticket sales for not having a people person oriented server that can upsale wines, desserts and appetizers. Lack of training and passion beyond the craft of the food.

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