Putting customers to work
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