Brother, can you spare a meal?

Again Facebook makes the headlines, but now for a very different reason in a very different direction. You see, initially one would want to call council member John McAlister an idiot, but he is not. We want to call him all kinds of names, but he is none of those. He is an elected official and he does try to set the stage for the small businesses in his region, all commendable I have to add. Yet, what makes me act out?

You see, I did enjoy 5 star lunches (aka the Google kitchen) for a year. To work, to sit down have an amazing meal and then go back to work, it was for a year an absolute slice of heaven. So when I see that apparently the same lifestyle is offered at Facebook, I rejoice in my choice to enter the high tech workforce in 1988. So when I see “Free food has long been a perk of Silicon Valley. On the campuses of Facebook, LinkedIn and Google, employees have access to high-end restaurants with pizza ovens, sushi counters, freshly baked pastries and ice cream“, I say YAY! It all stops when we see “technology companies come under increasing pressure to deliver more value to the communities they inhabit, cities are clamping down on campus cafeterias in an attempt to support local restaurants“, I am not happy, but let’s face it, in the end council member John McAlister had a job to do and making me happy was not on the charter. The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/25/facebook-free-lunch-banned-silicon-valley-restaurants) gives us more, yet what it does not give us is what I will now impose on you, even though you likely already know. You have to go through this on a regular basis. We all normally get an hour to have lunch, sometimes merely half an hour or 45 minutes, bosses have different settings. So in that time frame, you have to rush to the place, get in line and order food. It is often not that cheap either. So in the luxurious setting of an hour 15-20 minutes are gone and the meal is not served yet. Now, you have to eat, get back, and go to the bathroom, and brush teeth; so you get almost a whole 600 seconds to devour your lunch. So the setting from having almost 2700 seconds to enjoy lunch a mere 600 were left. That is the reality for an employee. This is how McDonalds, Wimpy, Wendy and Burger King got to be so big. So is John McAlister about the smaller restaurants or about the three McDonald’s in Mountain View? I am not accusing John or implying anything. I am merely asking. The article also gives us “The rules for Facebook’s new office are designed to encourage the thousands of tech workers to spend some money in and integrate with the local community, rather than arriving in a bus each day and never leaving the building“, I have nothing against that. It might be a good idea to let the busses leave an hour later, giving rise to take a walk and to look around in the local sector, all fine by me. Yet that one hour, my lunch, I would want to get the best out of that hour and apart from any lunch places right in front of the building, there would be the additional lost time and especially the anxiety and frustration when we need to wait for our food, yet there are other options. In Sweden many places had resorted to buffet solutions. Many of them quite outstanding, good value for money too. I myself would kill for an amazing Pizza (5 cheeses with loads of Oregano) and perhaps there is just that in Mountain View. I do like the response that we see from Gwyneth Borden, the executive director of Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a trade group for restaurants in the city. When we see: ““This is not a prohibition on catering or providing free food,” said Borden, noting that companies could instead give staff vouchers to buy food from local businesses” we like the idea and we are all likely to be in favour of it all, yet the issue is not the food, it is the time allotted, any more time given and we go home later. Some of these working minions decided to get married and get creative (aka children). So the delay of getting home also implies less time with the family. The lunchrooms in the building fix all that. It is not the food (optionally is it about the food quality loss), it is about time and time is not merely money, it represents quality of lunchtime. That is the part that matters and until that gets dealt with, the new places, or as we see it “the measure would alter city planning laws to ban workplace cafeterias in any new developments, but would not be retroactive“, which implies that in regards to new growth John McAlister cut himself in the fingers on that one.

In addition, as we see the change also affects workers. We see this in: “The ban on having a free cafeteria in the Mountain View complex could mean losing well-paid jobs to minimum-wage jobs in nearby restaurants“, it does not change my mind on this, the setting from McAlister is optionally noble, but the backwash is drowning whatever good he is trying to put in place, especially when you fidget with someone’s available time, there was no way to win this and in the end, it merely sets himself up for replacement in 2021 when his number is up. In the end, when we see that the placement of Facebook that moves into The Village at San Antonio Center, a place that was already a Mall in the first place.

So, in regard to the ban, Ian Lewis, the research director at the labour union Unite Here seems to have the proper view. In the end, not only will the restaurants miss out, the setting offers the play where in the end, if this setting moves forward that the McDonalds on 600 Showers Dr, Mountain View, CA 94040, USA might become the only big winner in that end, even as Paul Martin’s American Grill is one third the distance. In the end lunch is about time and John McAlister decided to crunch down on the time that Facebook staffers get to have. Overall it was not merely wrong, it was a miscalculation, someone whispered in his ear and it was the wrong whisper. I do not deny that there is a chance that restaurants miss out, but Facebook is in the middle of a large mall; there is a cinema, a GameStop (an essential need in my life), it even has the one place many of us will try to avoid 24:7 (aka the Veggie Grill).

Outside of the working hours, there seems to be plenty to do, enough to hitch a ride to the office to work Saturday morning and take the afternoon to relax and perhaps try and get some decent clothes (in light of the Facebook 15 expression), so even as the prices at Paul Martin’s American Grill are by Australian Standards not the cheapest ones (at https://paulmartinsamericangrill.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Dec17_LUNCH_PLUS-2.pdf), the Steakhouse Cobb still seems like an adventure to try and if my main man Paul (to coin a phrase) delivers on the images shown (at https://paulmartinsamericangrill.com/specials/), there is no way I will pass that place up with some regularity, whether I work at Facebook or not, because no matter how good the food looks at Facebook, My Thursday and Friday evening are about seeing a movie and having a few drinks, both require a decent meal, but that is just me. So in the end, in my specific case John McAlister overreacted, or better stated, the ones whispering in his ear did and we can already see the backwash that it could potentially form for anyone else going in that direction, which becomes a loss for Mountain View.

And as the direct vicinity of Facebook offers the needs I have, why would I (in the beginning) look outside of the San Antonio Center? So if Luu Noodle, Sushi 88 & Ramen, PAAG, Pacific Catch en yes, optionally the Veggie Grill too, if they have their act together, they might not have the lunches, but they will have optionally 2,000 additional consumers who need some weekly satisfaction, plenty of places had to make due with a lot less.

Even as we do not deny the setting that Mountain View has, in the end when we tally the setting, the dangers and the opportunities, have the city officials cut themselves in the fingers? I personally believe so, but there is a truth, when it comes to the lunches, the weakness and threat that loss of time offers is just too great against the lack of opportunity that is found outside of places like Facebook and LinkedIn. It merely forces us back to the fast food phase where all the players involved lost (unless you invested in McDonald’s and like minded places), so as stated if some of these places revert to buffet’s they do not need to squander on quality and excellence, they merely need to consider that the lunch market is a very competitive one and time is the biggest currency of all.

 

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