Putting cus­tomers to work

Business Spotlight - - UNITED STATES -

No one com­plains about the food at Sou­vla, a Greek restau­rant in San Fran­cisco. That’s be­cause it’s ex­cel­lent. But some might com­plain about the ser­vice. That’s be­cause there isn’t any — or at least not much.

Sou­vla is one of a grow­ing num­ber of U.S. restau­rants that make cus­tomers do the work of servers. If you eat there, you can ex­pect to have to find your own ta­ble, pour your own wa­ter, and carry it to the ta­ble. If you want an­other glass of wine, you have to go to the counter and pick it up.

The New York Times re­ports that high la­bor costs are partly to blame. Cal­i­for­nia raised its min­i­mum wage to $15 (€13) an hour in 2018. Em­ploy­ers with 20 work­ers or more must also pro­vide health­care ben­e­fits, sick leave, and parental leave. Mean­while, restau­rant staffers say that hous­ing is so ex­pen­sive in San Fran­cisco that they can’t af­ford to live there.

An­jan Mi­tra, who owns two top In­dian restau­rants, says he would have to charge $20 for a burger to meet staff costs. Since kitchen staff is nec­es­sary to pre­pare the food, “some­thing [had] to give,” Mi­tra com­ments. “And that is what we did — we got rid of our servers.”

Serve your­self: mod­ern restau­rant

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