The culinary culture that is San Francisco

I am all in favor of San Francisco’s $13 per hour minimum wage (which rises to $15 by 2018), plus mandatory paid sick leave, parental leave and employer health care contributions. But labor costs at restaurants are inching past 50 percent of total expenditures, an indicator of poor fiscal health. Commercial rents have also gone bananas. Add the ever-rising cost of frisée and pastured quail eggs and it’s no wonder that many restaurants are experimenting with that unique form of sadism known as “small plate sharing,” which amounts to offering a big group of hungry people something tiny to divvy up. Even nontrendy joints now ask $30 for a proper entree — a price point, according to Mr. Patterson, that encourages even affluent customers to discover the joys of home cooking.

That is by Daniel Duane for the NYT, on how Silicon Valley shapes the northern California dining scene and it is of interest more generally.

Comments

I think Tyler's point in this excerpt is: higher minimum wage --> more cooking at home --> more demand for grocery stores --> healthier people and more jobs

And restaurants closing down, fewer people making a living in food services. More dependence on frozen supermarket food. "We gotta kill the restaurant industry so that people can earn living wages in it "

Oh is it that time when we blame the 2016 minimum wage law for the 6-year-old bay area property price bubble? Does this supercede the old argument where we try to shame towns into allowing more residential construction while pretending to ignore that the area's existing "underpopulation" is already spending hours a day in Mexico-City-like levels of transit congestion and crumbling public transportation infrastructure? The libertarian argument is that traffic and broken trains are the natural state of the market right? I mean if it bothered people that much they would learn make enough money to helicopter to work amirite?

Good straw man. Must have taken lots of straw to set him up.

He was responding to someone who suggested the policy would kill the restaurant industry, or perhaps ... who believes that a high share of workers in low wage food service is an indicator of a good economy?

If anything, raising the wages restaurants have to pay will increase profits because of the new demand from restaurant workers. Incentives don't real. People go into business to express themselves, it's a form of art.

Directly and cogently state your point, your weak passive aggressive questions come out as whining babble.

I bet you got along real well with the 3rd wife.

Nate the cuck back at it.

So, rents go up when space is vacant? Or is "going bananas" code for sinking like a stone?

But the grocery stores also have to pay the higher minimum wage/benefits, and the commercial rents, and the cost of the quail eggs (assuming that's something consumers actually want). I'm not sure they win, net-net.

So people just eat less food overall because minimum wage is higher?

There are no fat people in Cuba!

"But the grocery stores also have to pay the higher minimum wage/benefits, and the commercial rents"

Yes they do (and groceries will be more expensive in San Francisco than Topeka) , but grocery stores sell a *lot* more food per square foot and per employee hour, so real-estate and in-store labor costs make up a much smaller fraction of the cost of food at a grocery store than at a restaurant. That's especially true when that grocery store is a CostCo or Sam's Club.

Lots of high sq foot groceries in SF?

Lots? I dunno, but there's definitely a Costco

Yes, and they also have self- checkout.

I like home cooking, and only eat in Michelin starred restaurants to impress friends.

For foodies, I highly recommend this humorous (hummus?) but not untrue rap video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99-n42Xb6NQ Gordon Ramsay vs Julia Child. Epic Rap Battles of History - Season 5

So higher minimum wage >> less obesity?

Venezuela here we come!

I'm amazed how leftists justify stomping on people who can afford it the least.

higher minimum wage –> more ["]cooking["] [not] at home [but work]–> more demand for [frozen items from grocery stores] –>microwave ovens for break rooms

At least it makes San Francisco a nice place to start food delivery services like Instacart. When your competition is super expensive it's easier to hide your own startup inefficiency.

Progressives hate the sharing economy too.

Gotta love the fact that progressive economics leads directly to massive inequality, yet its proponents show zero awareness of it.

If you agree with this piece, then you also agree that economics professors should be payed 5 dollars per hour, with no sick leave, vacations, or any health care Insurance.

It is completely different. I have no use for economics professors, but I like to eat out once in a while.

But, if you could take an econ class for $5 then you would substitute learning for eating out because it would be a cheaper way to fill time.

I would pay $ 5 for skipping an econ class. It would be a bargain.

cheaper, but not as enjoyable

Economics professors slow roasted on a spit might be cost effective.

I can't stomach economics professors.

I didn't say anything about eating them.

Oh, then it is a good idea.

"I have no use for economics professors"

The fact that you come here and comment would suggest otherwise.

I have some use for bloggers now and then, but minimum wage bloggers would be cheaper than tenured professors. I shouldn't have to pay for frills like the Coase Theorem and liquidity traps.

No disrespect for the "monkeys" in the picture, but ... "pay peanuts, get monkeys".

And now: have monkeys, pay more, still have monkeys. Not a lot of Harvard PhD holders in the SF tattooed, pierced, drugged, "lifestyle choice", restaurant labor pool.

There are plenty of free economics classes online now. You can pay zero if you want.

If Trump and Hillary opened separate, new, upscale restaurants in San Francisco as owner managers-- who would fare better in profitability, customer/employee satisfaction, and overall success? Why?

Typical return on investment (ROI) for successful independent restaurants is ~ 18%; can be ~40% for very successful restaurants. Labor costs run ~ 33% of overall costs.

Why aren't there far more "upscale restaurants" given the ROI exceeds all tech in the region?

It's baffling, isn't it mulp, that people can believe anything so daft?

Mulp has almost stumbled upon "business isn't risk-free profit"!

Stumbled, caught himself, and went out an started a restaurant.

And it will feature Reagan Era Government Cheese fondue.

That doesn't count for the other 80% who ran out of money and closed their doors in the first year of operation. Survivor bias in the restaurant industry is probably worse than just about any line of business.

33% labour costs sounds right. I've worked in a few restaurants, and the view was supposed to be 1/3 labour, 1/3 materials, 1/3 profit. But this assumed that the profit part was to cover for the owner's effort and the initial investment, and no one seemed to begrudge (much) that the ownership might take as much of the menu price home as the entire staff.

"1/3 labour, 1/3 materials, 1/3 profit."

No, it's 1/3rd labor, 1/3rd materials, 1/3rd gross profit.

"Full-service restaurants at all levels spent about 32 percent of each dollar on the cost of food and beverages, 33 percent on salaries and wages, and from 5 percent to 6 percent on restaurant occupancy costs. Profit margins, however, varied according to the cost of the average check per person. Those with checks under $15 showed a profit of 3 percent. Those with checks from $15 to $24.99 boasted the highest profit margin at 3.5 percent. Finally, those with checks of $25 and over had the lowest profits, at 1.8 percent."

So, Net profits are around 3% for Full-service restaurants.

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/average-profit-margin-restaurant-13477.html

3.5%?!?! That's an outrage! It's time to spread the wealth to people who wouldn't even invest in guaranteed 10% returns! The extra consumption will really help our crumbling infrastructure, or whatever.

It's how they looked at it. Maybe there's a better way, but the shorthand makes it supremely easy to gauge the menu price of a meal for quick considerations of options, and as a general target on a more short-term basis, although obviously a number of other considerations are relevant to explain variations across a menu.

Say, you're doing a special or testing a new item. You price out a plate and it's $10 in ingredients. So the number that pops to mind is $30 a plate. Then you think whether the associated labour cost (very roughly speaking, because there are a few people involved) is covered by the other 1/3 for wages. If it is very low labour effort you might play the price downwards a bit, and conversely if it's a lot of work.

At the end of the month, quarter or year, etc., there may be discussions on these rates. I know there's more involved out of that remaining third, but this is not of much concern for the kitchen.

If the minimum wage is killing businesses, why are commercial rents "going bananas?"

Commercial property is an investment asset, and property investment rises with property prices. There doesn't need to be any businesses for a property to go up and up in price.

I live in one of the most affluent parts of Silicon Valley, and when I went walking for some exercise along a main road, I was surprised to see how many retail storefronts were fake -- they looked like businesses if you were driving past, but up close there was nothing inside. I'd driven past these places many times, but did not realize they were hollow inside.

If demand increases and supply increases, and price still goes up, clearly an increase in demand doesn't increase price!

DO NOT SOCK PUPPET MULP.

Smaller portions, less obesity, lower health care costs. What's not to like about that. Added bonus for the restaurant: diners eat less, drink more; alcohol is money in the bank.

Nothing, so long as a $600 meal is middle of the road for you.

If you have to inflate your numbers by 1000%, the point may not be that big of a deal.

The $30 mentioned in the article would be quite sufficient to keep minimum wage folks away from restaurants, but maybe not now that they're making more money. I don't think the folks bidding up property to ridiculous prices will be hugely concerned about such a price range.

"maybe not now that they’re making more money"

$30 per entree means $60 for a couple plus tax and tips. That is if you drink water. Drinks, dessert etc. increase this minimum. [The $30 is probably chicken based. Beef and seafood entrees are higher.]

No one on minimum wage goes to restaurants that charge $30 per entree. They go to pleasant chain restaurants [Olive Garden etc.] once or twice a year if at all.

If they will drop $15 for dinner on an $8/hr minimum wage, then why not $30 on a $15/hr minimum wage? I assume the effect will be in the direction you imply, but probably not a very large effect (they might have more money to spend for more Olive Garden meals, where more people might be earning that higher minimum wage). Of course, there is quite a lot of other stuff going on too.

"Commercial rents have also gone bananas."

Rents have been sinking as labor costs increase?

Property owners have seen that prices of food can rise more than store owners claimed? Or they have seen that store owners were liars when claiming they had no profits from which to pay higher rents?

Or are higher wages leading to higher incomes, leading to higher consumer spending, leading to more businesses seeking space to sell to the better paid customers?

And is the rent for 4 people sitting at a table eating a "small plate" for 45 minutes lower than if 4 people spend 45 minutes eating 4 plates of home cooking?

Food ingredients are not a big part of a $15 meal which is modest for my typical meal out (mostly with gift cards for big chains) which run to $25 to $30 in Maryland. $30 for an entre seems like a lot to me who grew up eating out on steak at Ponderosa and Bonanza steak chains (the TV show was just ending then, but I never associated them with the show) at a $3 or less price point, but not that high today.

First in time: Lots of growth in tech industries

Second in time: Property costs go through the roof

Third in time: Many people do not think it is right for the people who serve their meals, cut lawns, etc., to have to live in crappy conditions, so a minimum wage hike is supported rather than counting on charity to pad the pockets of the selected "deserving recipients".

Fourth in time: Businesses threaten to invest in technological advancement and other higher quality inputs to compensate for higher labour costs, implying that the low-quality low-margins option will simply disappear from the market if the labour cost of a Big Mac meal goes up by $0.20.

Suggestion: The easiest indicator on whether the observed effect in the restaurant industry is to look to the number of Mcdonald's, Burger King's, etc. Some of them have threatened to invest in technological advancement, but since I do not observe that their doors tend to close, perhaps all these odd stories should be considered more as anecdotes relating to business experimenting after a policy change and less so as something which is generally informative.

Lots of small restaurants go out of business all of the time because of regulation.

The question is what is the socially optimal level of regulation in terms of increased fixed costs versus benefit of regulation. To me, we have reached peak regulation in San Fransisco.

As for using McDonalds and Burger King as a barometer for the overall effect of new regulations in San Francisco is completely absurd. They have scale economies in procurement and production that small boutique restaurants in San Fran don't come within 1/1000th of.

The threat: some businesses will be replaced by those with more scale economies.

I swear HRC (net worth $200,000,000 plus control of $2,000,000,000 in nonprofit spending) is going to destroy the 1%. Doctors will make 100k, HRC will be a billionaire, and high school dropouts will make 40k. Glory, glory.

Doctors make more than 100k a year in most countries with universal health care which are remotely comparable to the USA in terms of wealth.

And it's a shame, but the Clinton Foundation won't pay out the 10% it pays to any healthcare firm that pays in excess of 100k annually for any specialist. Come to think of it, maybe the CF should be the sole provider for ACA?

In a fair few places, doctors basically run their own businesses and bill the government. It's a little more complex than that, but not really for general purposes.

The specialist you refer to, about a 100k limit (I wasn't aware of this particular rule for that particular source of health support in that particular sort of context), I think they are not prevented from seeking other sources of income if they please, including elsewhere covered by pubic sectors health provisions/insurance.

Restaurant, retail and residential space is increasingly being marketed to the 1 percent because regulation and the workings of the market in San Francisco in tandem with their regulatory environment have produced a business climate that is only profitable to sell to the 1 percent.

You have Tartine bakery selling take away Turkey sandwiches for 15 dollars, that isn't even a full service restaurant.

So long story short, you can keep increasing the min wage, health care benefits etc, however not every restauranteur wants to have to court the global elite to have to stay in business.

And any food service operation approaching 50 percent labor costs is absurd, no way to make decent money ore even begging to think about ROI at that level.

There is no "n" in restaurateur. Drives me friggin' nuts...

The "small plate" (formerly known as "tapas") trend is a great trick that restaurants have invented to get people to spend more money without realizing it. For example, supposing your entree is nominally $15, which would be $30 for two, not including drinks. You don't think they'll pay $18 per entree, so instead you have a bunch of small plates for $10-$12 each, and they end up ordering 3-4 of them.

On the plus side, for people with small appetites the small plates can be helpful in reducing portion sizes to a more reasonable level. A couple can order multiple small plates and sample the menu more widely without having too much food to eat.

Sounds to me like dim sum or a buffet where you pay by plate or weight.

I love the small plates restaurants in SF. The waiters always tell you "we recommend x plates for a party of two." Do x-2 and you'll be full as well as come in at a price point slightly lower than the 1 app & 2 mains combo at another place.

Hmmm ... maybe, but there is quite a bit of fixed costs that go into preparing different meals. Even assuming that potatoes and yams cost the same, it is a lot cheaper to make a large serving of potato fires than 2 small servings of potato fries and yam fries.

How do very small businesses (under 10 employees) deal with mandatory paid sick leave and parental leave in countries that have laws requiring such?

$40 pizza pies.....that's how

Parental leave: In Canada, parental leave is dealt with through the employment insurance system. The challenge for the business is in human resources management, since the additional cost is not directly paid for by the employer, but instead a nation-wide insurance pool.

Small firms like that rarely offer paid sick leave (I've never heard of it to happen), but for more severe stuff this also falls under insurance premiums associated with employment, such as relating to long-term disability, etc. So, sectors with higher rates of disability claims tends to have higher mandatory insurance premiums for such purposes, and this can even be implemented at the firm-specific level to raise or lower premiums for firms with a particularly high or low "offense rate".

I'm not sure whether the coverage is strictly more "efficient" according to different usages of the word in economics, but the coverage is effective in significantly reducing the number of businesses and/or families who would lack social insurance in such situations.

Basically, there is no direct additional cost for the business. It's already priced into the market through mandatory insurance premiums (often considered as taxes).

Actually, the employer has a direct cost. See: tax incidence.

It's prepaid regardless, as indicated by the name "insurance" on the source of funds which pays for it. There is no additional direct cost to the employer at the time of the benefit to be paid, although they need to find someone to do the work.

Whether the employer would pay more in total compensation costs if these benefits were not mandated is not obvious. If you're going to be picky about pointing out tax incidence of this sort of cost, then by the same logic of market functioning that the firm would face this "tax" incidence, it would be consistent to also believe that other compensation would necessarily be reduced, on average, to compensate for this cost evenly across a labour pool (assuming non-discrimination). In which case the total cost to the employer should be nil (assuming that regardless it is desirable for society to promote parental care of infants by insuring income continuance if they qualify after sufficient time in the market).

I.e., counterintuitively, the same body of market reasoning that goes with your point, if applied fully to the situation, would suggest that the actual effect on employment costs should be nil. So, do we start adding assumptions and/or realities which contribute to just one side of the argument or both? (I think it is safe to assume that standard theory explains at least an importance part of the logic applied by economic agents in such a situation though ...)

So, since that starts to touch into macro stuff, and one might soon wonder what the macro effects are, I think the first point in worrying about the empirical side later on, is to not claim an increase in GDP when you've merely transferred unpaid work of women into the formal economy by means of insurance payouts, additional use of child care for parents who are trying to stay more continuously involved in the labour market, etc.

Much of the accounting effect will be fiction. I'm not sure how to untangle all of that, but certainly much allowance for nuance, etc., would be needed.

How do small businesses deal with customers getting sick from food prepared by sick employees who need the job to survive but can't afford to not work to wait for days for free healthcare?

Yeah, in Canada elective care is rationed, but in the US care for contagious disease is rationed.

This is an empirical question.

Most people who strictly cannot afford a day off would generally qualify for Medicaid anyways, no? So the fact that they can't afford a day off, which sucks unto itself, would not be additionally affected by the cost of health care. In some jobs you can make up hours, not in others.

"How do very small businesses (under 10 employees) deal with mandatory paid sick leave and parental leave in countries that have laws requiring such?"

Isn't the trend in Australia to reduce wait staff and follow the counter model, where the customer orders at a counter, gets a pager, picks up at a counter and buses their own table? (IE Panera Bread)

That's in pubs.

I'd definitely be willing to bus my own table if I could avoid the tip.

"Wooops, excuse me, pardon me, let me just excuse myself for 60 seconds to collect something and save $5". How many skill-free ways are there on the planet to pay yourself $300 an hour?

If you bus your own table, you aren't contributing to paying the living wages of a 35 year old who can't do long division. Thata classist. Long division ability is also unequally distributed by sex and race. So that's sexist and racist too.

Mid to high end restaurants in SF now tack on a 2 to 5% "SF Employer Mandate" charge, and some receipts even explain it as necessary to offset "the cost of doing business in SF." For some reason, seeing this charge explicitly broken out drives some people nuts, but no one complains about seeing that other government mandate (8.75% sales tax) broken out in the same way.

It's very offensive to suggest to leftists that these laws have a cost.

The Employer Mandate charge is an estimate added voluntarily by the business owner. The Sales Tax charge is an exact calculation of the related liability, added by government fiat.

Not hard to understand the difference.

"The Employer Mandate charge is an estimate added voluntarily by the business owner."

It's not an estimate. It's a fee charged by the restaurant to cover their cost. It's no more an estimate, than charging for an entree is an estimate of the costs involved in serving that entree. People that don't like it can obviously go somewhere else.

It reads like the rant of a middle-aged man who did not make it. In the article it is not stated explicitly that workers on these restaurants earn minimum wage, perhaps that piece of information makes the story less compelling. If there's a restaurant bubble, consolidation will come sooner or later, problem solved. Finally, is the rent that high? At least is comparable to NY. It takes a special talent to see problems where there's just business happening.

I don't think it will be the end of the restaurant business in San Fransisco. San Fransisco is a special place no matter what. It will just become a bigger and bigger haven for the 1 percent and the .01 percent.

I think we will see more 40 dollar hamburgers, 80 dollar steaks, 50 dollar fish dishes etc.

The idea that normal upper middle class people will actually dine out regularly in San Fransisco will become laughable.

However, for the Corey Lee's of Benu fame and Joshua Skenes of Saison fame how much on the margin is it going to effect business raising prices from $450 a person to $500, probably not that much.

In short, with sky rocketing rents and labor costs brought on by increased regs, San Fran is poised to become a public country club for the mega elite. It already is. Any more regulation will just make it all the more a polity of the modern gilded age.

I 'd be surprised if increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour will have a significant effect in San Francisco. It will have an effect on the state of CA.

How many hours of labor will go into that $40 burger?

Fish in California I can understand being expensive, given the impact of heat on the Pacific coast fisheries.

Lets assume that with it being San Fran, the burger will be a whole muscle grind and probably done in house or by a boutique butcher.

Well marbled beef starts at about $6 a pound for chuck, $10 for short rib etc. However, if you are paying a boutique butcher or an in house guy to grind a 20 patty run will cost about 15 dollars assuming one hour of cutting, trimming, grinding and forming patties. If the guy really busts ass you can probably cut, trim, grind and form patties for a 40 patty run in an hour an a half. There is a certain fixed cost in time investment to preparing hamburgers and times per patty get reduced as the total batch grows.

So lets say 50/50 ratio between chuck and short rib equals $8 pound for the beef so an 8 ounce patty basically costs 5 bucks when you factor in waste and spoilage. Then you have 75 cents in labor per patty. So now you are 5.75 per patty. But now you have the San Fran rent which is heavily influenced by the psychotic land use regulation. So maybe instead of the industry standard ten percent of revenue to rent in San Fran it may be 20. That premium has to be factored into the burger as well.

You can see how you can get to a 40 dollar hamburger in the near future quite easily.

I realise that this may be terribly controversial, but I like frisée and quails eggs. And I like tapas too. But they are a bit old-hat, aren't they?

This encapsulates the current Stalinism of the left. Pure fear of talking straight. It's like why no principle based argument involving Donald Trump doesn't begin with "of course I don't like Donald Trump, but..."

"I am all in favor of San Francisco’s $13 per hour minimum wage (which rises to $15 by 2018), plus mandatory paid sick leave, parental leave and employer health care contributions. But labor costs at restaurants are inching past 50 percent of total expenditures, an indicator of poor fiscal health."

I swear to God I miss Moldbug when I read this stuff.

What portion of prices do you believe should go to the people who do zero work? 70% 90% 100%?

Do you believe Trump is referring to America in 1850 as the last time America was Great? Except he doesn't seem to like the South and the plantation lifestyle.

I can't figure out who buys gdp other than the workers paid wages to produce gdp.

Care to explain who buys gdp if 90% of the population is paid only 50% of gdp, a share you seem to consider too high.

I'm not sure if you put this in the wrong place but I can't understand what you are saying. I made a 2 part observation:

1. The person writing this article wanted to say something about how regulation has bad effects but couldn't just do it without a bunch of genuflections and equivocations to prevent the inquisition from sending him/her to the pyre; and
2. Trump is an amusingly similar subject.

What's 'Moldbug'?

Some kind of rash?

Very much so. Caused by reading Ayn Rand at a young age and being a bit, as the kids say, spergy.

California doesn't allow the tip credit to minimum wage. So in practical terms the restaurant minimum wage in CA is already several multiples of the baseline federal minimum wage. Does California suffer from a restaurant deficit? Are its diners stingier tippers? Do CA servers declare more income to the IRS? Surely there must be literature on this.

In order for “small plate sharing" to work for the restaurant, customers must be willing to vacate their tables quickly as the restaurant still needs to generate the same revenue per table per hour as they would with larger, more expensive portions.

But, do they actually do so?

I think if you spend less time eating then you spend less time occupying the table.

But it's not like you'll necessarily order less food. You might then order 10 dishes across 6 people order something, because now that it's $30 a main, you decide hey, why not, order a bunch of smaller dishes and share.

The norm in much of Asia is to order a large number of dishes and everyone shares, but people are certainly not eating less food. I guess the price aspect of the question is not the same as the SF case though.

Some men eat to live, others live to eat, some do both, and just have to tell us all about it.

California restaurants, including high-end ones in SF, make heavy use of the "reserve army of the undocumented" to avoid issues like excessive minimum-wage laws. There may be a few ultra-premium places that actually have their full staff on the books, but the vast majority of restaurants are operated by families + undocumented workers + possibly a few waitstaff paid on-the-books.

Attempting to go after these places would require a titanic bureaucracy to find the offenders and a whole lot of new prisons to hold them - and would crater much of the California economy.

So, our politicians to pass laws that make people feel good but don't really matter much, and make darn sure undocs stay highly available...

This is fairly accurate.

Undocumented Chinese at that.

Back in the 70s lots of young people who really really liked good food wanted to be academics because, inter alia, the wives of professors, as a general class, were well-known for preparing exciting foreign meals. An un-nostalgic optimist on the subject of cooking, I have long preferred my modern Swedish meals far from any campus. San Francisco was less homogenized then than it is now, I believe (I was there in 75 but I was a kid so my powers of observation were rather limited, but I do remember the phony but exuberant little stalls where you could buy recently cultured pearls right from the water tanks, and the nice-smelling fish restaurants near where Dimaggio's dad had worked up until, allegedly, just a few years before). People are often mockingly superior about independent films but if you want to communicate with people from other cultures it helps to know a few quotes from independent films - most foreign language speakers like it, I think, when you tell them, with a decent attempt at a non-humorous accent in the target language, things like "God loves you the way you are but loves you too much to let you Stay that way." (June bug) or "Those who have reason in common must have right reason in common. And since right reason is law, we must believe men have law in common with God, who in turn has law in common with us." (a quote from Cicero, for Bella, unproduced, the previous name of my cat, who is now called by the Ethiopian name for queen, which she is not - she is merely a well-liked house animal - which is all she wants to be, the dear creature - but it is a name Cicero might recognize); or "[I hope they] appreciate[s] the strangeness of this [panning shot of ice skating couples] - because if [they] do not - there is no sense in ... notes to poems ... [it is now summer: those who were skaters are now dancing in a green twilight field] ...or anything at all..." (an interpolated quote from Pale Fire, also unproduced, which in a better world would have been better edited, from both the moral and aesthetic point of view, of course, as even the author would gladly admit, I guess).

What's a "modern Swedish meal far from any campus"?

IKEA?

I was thinking of IHOP Swedish breakfast pancakes with lingonberry-style syrup. Unfortunately my local IHOP has slid a little downhill lately (in our world of entropy it needs more frequent and more successful cleaning of the furniture and utensils). I plan to try IKEA soon.

Tapas are not some kind of recent trend due to rising costs. Restaurants featuring small plates have now long been in demand from a public which has gone through a cultural shift in their relationship with food. They are looking for more tastes of a chef's best and/or most recent dishes, and they have the money to pony up to eat at the latest and greatest and to make it even difficult to get a reservation. Right now, the incentive is to offer more rarified dishes with more expensive ingredients, a smaller menu, and smaller plates to avoid mouth fatigue. Places doing that are hoping to get noticed with great reviews and devoted followers and maybe even national recognition. The stakes are too high now that food is the new rock n roll, and in fact undercharging or using pedestrain ingredients, or not changing the menu often can lead to lower respectability and a media blackout. Costs could be lower that way, but it will lead to decreased respectability and a view of staleness form the public, no matter how good the food is.

Food is the new rock n nroll, and we have entered a reverse price war paradigm in which the object is not to run the best business model (unless you are Olive Garden), or even to make the most delicious food but to go after the bigger prize of fame and fortune. You can do that with $15 sandwiches and $15 tapas or even more expensive main courses.

And the punchline is.... at least you guys haven't started on pintxos yet.

The San Francisco Zoo cares for a total of about 250 animal species, 39 of which have been deemed endangered or threatened.

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