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What is happening to "affordable" Peninsula restaurants

Original post made by Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2019

It seems that every week another favorite affordable restaurant is closing. The reasons given are high rents, high staff costs and the difficulty of finding suitable staff. This is not a good thing for those of us who live here and want to be able to do something that is a normal part of life, eating a meal with family or friends at somewhere that isn't home.

In the past few months on the few occasions I have eaten out I have noticed some disturbing trends. The staff on duty seem over-worked and stressed from their jobs. The tables have not been wiped down. The trash receptacles are not being emptied. The condiment station run out of condiments, napkins, silverware, drink lids and of course straws!

We are expected to buss our own tables, but are we also expected to wipe down tables, sweep up the floor from previous diners dropped fries, do without forks to eat salads or napkins to wipe our hands and mouths? We are given drinks to go and no straws or if a straw is given it is unwrapped and handed in a napkin.

In other words. Eating out is fast becoming a difficult and unpleasant experience. High rents and minimum wage are coming home to roost in lack of service, lack of choice and making a difficult experience of something that should be and has been in the past, a simple pleasure.

Comments (13)

Posted by Old Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 30, 2019 at 11:04 am

Unfortunately, This started happening after the last recession and I'm surprised you are just now raising the concern. Many of us have been fighting this for the past decade. Blame the excesses of the "Economic Boom" - a double edged sword if you ask me. Blame all cash buyers flooding the area. Blame the startups choosing to takeover downtown and displacing the "Mom and Pops". Blame the tech giants invading the area (Google, Facebook, etc). Blame yourself for not voicing up at the CC when we all saw this coming in '08.

Posted by Agreed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2019 at 11:39 am

What Old Joe said. To which I add, most complaints of this kind come from people who have never worked at, or had any involvement with, or have any insight into, restaurant businesses (or, usually, any kind of small retail business at all). They happily vote for minimum-wage increases thinking it just "gives" more money to deserving workers, ignoring the rest of the equation and the implications for local businesses (the effects of where that extra pay "comes" from) -- with the result that, just as one example, we currently have locations of national chains like Subway apologetically refusing to honor discount coupons sent out nationwide in the parent firm's mailings (because the coupon offer would force the business to lose money under our high local costs, hence to close). Or they hold forth about the kind of restaurants they'd "like to see" locally, but never think of taking any initiative (i.e., risk) themselves to make it happen -- and even when the called-for restaurants open, they then don't seriously patronize them, which would amount to putting their money where their mouth was.

The marvel here is that any Peninsula restaurants even operate at all.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 30, 2019 at 7:40 pm

Mmm, 12-inch turkey sub $8.69 at Midtown Subway, tax-free to go.
Probably healthier than my usual $1.50+tax Costco hot dog and drink.
Make McDonald's look upscale.

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2019 at 8:13 pm

To original poster - This depends on how you define "normal".
My family, neighbors, and childhood friends around Palo Alto did not normally eat meals away from home.
Both of my parents worked, and my brother and I learned to cook when we were middle school age.
Neither of us remember any family that ate out.
I think this must be a trend of younger generations or wealthy families.
We also made less waste.
No fast foods, no disposable utensils, no paper towels, and no plastic containers.
I'm sorry you were not given a lid and straw with your drink.
If you haven't heard, people are trying to reduce their plastic waste.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2019 at 8:45 pm

Posted by Agreed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> The marvel here is that any Peninsula restaurants even operate at all.

There must be thirty moderate-to-expensive-to-ludicrous restaurants in Palo Alto now. There were what - five maybe? - back in the late 70's?

What is disappearing almost completely are "value" restaurants for starving students and families who ate out maybe once a week. Places like, lemme think, "The Good Earth" and "Ramona's Pizza". Doesn't matter. Our expensive restaurants are much more -vibrant- than the old, affordable places were anyway.

Posted by it's the rent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 1, 2019 at 9:42 am

It's always the rent. Sure, wages are up, but every story seems to note the massive rent hike.

Posted by it's the rent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 1, 2019 at 9:43 am

It's always the rent. Sure, wages are up, but every story seems to note the massive rent hike.

Some of these owners have held these buildings forever, and their costs aren't rising appreciably - they're just gouging their tenants.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2019 at 10:30 am

Posted by it's the rent, a resident of Charleston Meadows

>> It's always the rent. Sure, wages are up, but every story seems to note the massive rent hike.

According to business owners, it is both the rent AND the cost of labor. e.g.

"Facing a sharp rent increase and growing labor costs, Redwood City's longtime Woodside Deli is closing" . Web Link

Of course, the reason that more skilled working class people can't afford to live here is because of -their- rent.

Posted by Moh Bone Saw
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm

Like he said: every one of these had a huge rent increase.

Blaming labor costs would be like blaming Trump for trade war related rising costs. Or the gas price hike because we support the bone saw guy in Saudi against Iran.

It's rent.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2019 at 6:18 pm

Lots of fine detail rules. Example, I think more are ahead. It seems difficult to get up and running (check: I think I read a recent discussion in Mountain View Voice about delays affecting well-meaning persons trying to open restaurants there.)
I think the forbidding of any “plastic” like sensible, minimum, functional carryout bag from the casual Med eatery I like (so hummus doesn’t spill all over my car) goes into effect ~ 2020.
Look, most of us here are environmentally conscious- that’s great, but thoughtful workable improvements are fair.
Constant new rules from a state, county, and city. I doubt these government officials, whether elected or appointed, have ever run a small business like (some) restaurants. I am in favor of public health and sensible rules. Minimum wage is a tricky, tricky subject. So ya end up with huge chains, hideous conglomerates (not my preference).

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 2, 2019 at 11:42 am

Online Name is a registered user.

How about banning downtown cafeterias like Palantir's which several restaurants have blamed for their downturn in lunch traffic? We were sold on the "economic benefits" of all the downtown workers when companies were trying to defend turning downtown into an office park.

San Francisco is considering banning company cafeterias and Palo Alto should also.

Posted by Brown Bag Lunch
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 2, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Nice try about banning free cafeterias. In my working experience, most people take their own brown bag lunch. Trying to get out at lunch time to buy lunch takes too long. Most people skip lunch breaks so that the can leave early or use the time to run errands.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 2, 2019 at 2:36 pm

Consider the sales tax revenue.

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