SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The pandemic’s impact on the food service industry in San Francisco was obvious, but newly released data shows just how stark it was. According to data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the city lost more than half of its restaurant jobs.
“We laid off unfortunately in the beginning almost everybody. We had 100 employees and we were down to eight at one time,” said Tony Marcell, partner and director of operations at Wayfare Tavern.
Marcell is not surprised to learn that San Francisco lost 55% of its food service jobs between 2019 and 2021. The city reported nearly 32,000 food service workers in 2019, compared to just about 14,000 in 2021.
Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association Laurie Thomas says the city’s been slower to recover, especially during 2021 when businesses were still dealing with shutdowns and restrictions.
“There was 25% indoor dining. The bars weren’t even open, not until later in the spring, the bars weren’t even allowed to operate,” Thomas said. “We couldn’t even do outdoor dining until January 28 of that year and it wasn’t just a city constraint, it was a state constraint.”
Thomas says restaurants continued to struggle at the beginning of this year with Omicron, forcing many customers and employees to quarantine for extended periods. She says more recent data from 2022 will paint a clearer picture.
“Right now we have Dreamforce and it’s driving business even out to the neighborhoods. My restaurants are seeing an increase,” Thomas said Wednesday.
Coming out of the pandemic, Thomas and Marcell agree that restaurants downtown will have a different story than businesses in residential neighborhoods due to more people working from home and others leaving the city altogether.
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“We’ve taken a hard hit with people leaving and/or wanting to come back into downtown and so working on what those obstacles look like in terms of the city reinvigorating, revitalizing downtown for a younger group that wants to come in and spend time in the city. I think that’s the struggle,” Marcell said.
With more conventions and events coming back to the city, restaurants hope to return to pre-pandemic sales and employees. The city is also celebrating restaurant week at the end of next month.