San Francisco's Restaurant Red Tape

San Francisco red tapeBy now most of you are probably aware that Reset San Francisco is a fan of San Francisco’s food truck movement. In fact, as you read this, some hungry members of the Reset Team are Off the Grid – hard at work tasting some of what the city’s most popular food trucks have to offer. Our research into food trucks has enlightened us to the fact that opening a restaurant in San Francisco – be it one on wheels or one on Market Street – is a daunting task.

Maybe it shouldn’t be so challenging to open a restaurant in the restaurant capital of the world.

It is a well-known fact that the restaurant business is a risky business. There is the widely spread notion that 9 out of every 10 new restaurants fails during the first year. One San Francisco restaurateur shed some light on the realities of opening a dining establishment in San Francisco – from exorbitant costs to the lengthy and complicated licensing process. The restaurateur pointed out that a full liquor license in San Francisco can cost $250,000 and in order to open a potential owner has to at some point deal with the San Francisco Building Department, Health Department and Fire Department – just to name a few of the different agencies and layers of government bureaucracy involved.

Another observer of San Francisco government regulations has weighed in with a video farce of how to navigate the planning department if you want to open up a restaurant that is not on wheels.

Too Much Red Tape?

Off the Grid San FranciscoFood trucks it seems are fast becoming an alternative to those looking to break into the food service industry. But while they are undeniably far less expensive to open and operate, the food truck licensing process has also had its share of complaints over too much red tape

With the food service industry being such a vital part of San Francisco’s culture and economy it seems to us that there ought to be an easier, more efficient way to deal with the restaurant and food trucks permitting process.

Creating a welcoming environment for the food service industry in San Francisco won’t just bring us more good food. It will bring us more good jobs and increase the quality of life in our neighborhoods. City officials should look closely at the red tape associated with the business licensing process and see what can be done to minimize the bureaucracy and maximize San Francisco’s potential as an international food Mecca. 

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Eric Jaye's picture

Scott James covers the debate this morning

Good piece from Scott James of Bay Citizen/NYT this am on how the competition from food trucks puts pressure on the "brick and mortar" restaurants. Some folks asking for more regulation - some embracing the spirit of competition.

But one of the restaurant owners does point out, fairly it seems, the higher fee burden on the unmobile eateries.



Phil Ting's picture

Transparency Needed

SF probably has more planning code per capita than any place in the country.  We need a code which is open and transparent and easy to follow. If a code is so complicated that you need an attorney to help you follow it every step of the way something is seriously wrong.

Alyssa Sittig's picture

San Francisco Food Trucks Make Everything Better

Anything that makes great food more accessible in San Francisco is a win in my book. We are are always looking for more ways to enjoy our amazing city, and I believe everything gets better with delicious calories in tow. The next question is, are there easy methods to locate food trucks in the city, like on my phone? And how about delivery!
Eric Jaye's picture

One thing that is interesting about the video

One of the interesting things about this city planning video is that it seems to be hosted on an official SF city planning site. The City Family gets a sense of humor. Very cool.


Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137