Customers around Palo Alto may notice fewer employees and longer wait times at restaurants where workers observed a national "Day Without Immigrants" on Thursday, protesting recent actions from the federal government on immigration.
The loosely organized demonstration that spread word through social media asks workers to go on a one-day strike to demonstrate the impact immigrants have on the nation's economy.
Rob Robertson, general manager at Il Fornaio on Cowper Street, was running on minimal staff at the Italian restaurant. He normally doesn't come in on Thursdays, but today was an exception today due to an estimated 30 workers such as dishwashers and servers who said ahead of time that they would observe the action.
The restaurant chain, which has locations in the Bay Area, Southern California, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas, hasn't taken an official stance on the action, but Robertson said it appears they're "passively supporting it" and won't penalize participating workers.
"Everybody's entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, that much I certainly respect," he said.
Customers may expect longer wait times and can't make reservations at Il Fornaio. They'll also see a posted sign stating the restaurant is short-staffed and offering a reduced menu (the only change is no pizza station during lunch) because of the protest.
It was too early to say how business would be affected for the day, though Robertson said he doesn't think the restaurant will see major repercussions when it comes to finances. There may be minimal impacts to lunch, but there may be fewer dinner sales, he said.
On University Avenue, chef Augustus Remo of La Strada Ristorante Italiano was scrambling to prepare food in time for the 11:30 a.m. opening. He was still figuring out what to put on the restaurant's limited menu, which would likely include sandwiches and other dishes they can pull together.
Remo wasn't sure how many people didn't show up for work at the family-owned business or if they were observing the protest, but he himself was supportive of the effort.
One employee at Howie's Artisan Pizza at Town & Country Village and several at Pizzeria Delfina on Emerson Street did not come into work today, according to their respective owners Howard Bulka and Craig Stoll.
Tacolicious, a San Francisco Mexican restaurant with a location in downtown Palo Alto, supported employees who chose to observe the strike and plan to donate the day's proceeds from their Emerson Street outpost and four others to the American Civil Liberties Union, the company's marketing director Sara Deseran said.
All employees have showed up today at the chain's Palo Alto eatery, but their San Francisco patrons can anticipate fewer staff and a limited menu, said Deseran, who added she'll likely end up washing dishes to alleviate the work backlog.
Deseran and her husband, Tacolicious founder Joe Hargrave, saw the protest gain momentum leading up to today but elected not to close their restaurants as they recognized some of their staff members still want to work.
Customers can expect to see a letter printed in English and Spanish at their five locations addressing the protest.
"Today represents a chance for our employees to make a statement about California's powerful and irreplaceable immigrant workforce -- without which, we all know, there would be no restaurant business (not to mention the supply chain that delivers all of our products)," the statement reads.
The restaurant is upset with the decisions President Donald Trump's administration has made regarding immigrants, who have a long history of joining the workforce in many industries, and would like to see policy changes that will support their employees, Deseran said.
Workers are the backbone of the restaurant industry, which includes not just those who serve customers and work in the kitchen but also the people employed by their vendors, such as their tortilla makers and shippers, she said.
"We try not to be too political, but I feel things have gotten to the point where to not be political is to not be American," she said.