SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— For residents and visitors alike, the culinary offerings in the Bay Area are prized, but in a time of wealth inequality in a very expensive region, the restaurant industry is in a paradox of being challenged, but remains excited.
Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, is at the helm of the association as it nears its 80th year. The GGRA has been representing the interests of restauranteurs and related businesses since 1936 when it was created to give restaurants a collective voice and political bargaining power, including a political action committee, which financially supports like-minded candidates and legislation.
Along with political representation, the GGRA offers members resources on everything from local produce growers to compliance information for new laws raising wages, providing health care and paid sick time for employees. In addition they throw annual events like Eat Drink SF, which showcase the local culinary community.
With a little over a year as the association’s director; Borden brought with her a long career in public policy work including; 10 years as IBM’s manager of corporate citizenship and affairs, six as San Francisco Planning Commissioner, and she worked as a legislative aid to Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.
“With the growth of the industry, which has been positive in creating new jobs and opportunity, there’s also the challenge of having enough labor and because the cost of living is so expensive in the Bay Area, restaurants are struggling to get the talent that they need. The other thing is the world has changed. You don’t see white-tablecloth restaurants anymore. It is much more informal. However, it’s expensive to do business in San Francisco. Just like regular residents are having problems with rents increasing, restaurants have the same challenge. Most restauranteurs don’t own their space and they sign leases and they’re subject to the same rent increases—actually even more because there isn’t commercial rent control. A landlord can double or triple their rent if they choose,” Borden said.
On the other hand it is an exciting time she says with the influx of new people in San Francisco. She talks about the uptick even on a national level that suggests that more people are dining out and even trends like “fast-casual dining”, which is the fastest-growing type of restaurant nationally.
Borden recognized the challenges of the wage gap, tipping policy and how the minimum wage hike in some Bay Area cities is impacting diners, restaurant owners and workers.
Listen to the full In Depth interview: