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San Francisco proposes ban on free food for employees

By
Ray Downs
In an effort to spur the local economy, San Francisco lawmakers have proposed a ban on companies providing free food to employees, effectively forcing them to eat at area restaurants. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
In an effort to spur the local economy, San Francisco lawmakers have proposed a ban on companies providing free food to employees, effectively forcing them to eat at area restaurants. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

July 25 (UPI) -- San Francisco lawmakers this week introduced a proposal to ban workplace cafeterias that offer free food, in an effort to encourage more patronage of local businesses.

City Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin introduced the measure, which would change zoning laws so workplace cafeterias would no longer be permitted. The change would not be retroactive, The San Francisco Examiner reported.

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"You can't have an industrial kitchen in your office building," Peskin said of the ban, which has support from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

"Many of these companies touted the boost their employees would have on our local economy, only to provide everything from round-the-clock gourmet catering to dry-cleaning on-site," Peskin added.

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Peskin and Safai said the ban was inspired by Twitter and AirBnB, two large tech companies that are known to offer free food to employees as a perk.

Although the ban is meant to help local eateries and their employees, University of California, Berkeley, urban economics professor Enrico Moretti told Buzzfeed News it would likely hurt restaurant workers more than it helps them, because cafeteria jobs in tech companies tend to offer better pay and benefits.

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"If we're talking about wages, working conditions, and benefits, I think it's likely to make things worse for workers," Moretti said. "The fraction of workers in restaurants that are offered benefits and high wages is certainly lower than what the worker would find in the cafeteria of a large company."

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A similar ban has already been enacted in Mountain View, Calif., another tech-heavy city in the Bay Area. Facebook is opening a new office there in November and would be affected by the ban, if it passes.

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