Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And you thought the hotel strikes were over

Far from it.

I reported online Tuesday on a strike vote at the W Hotel.

As usually happens in these situations, the workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize union leaders to call a strike if negotiations break down. The union, Local 2 of UNITE HERE, said the margin was 84 percent in favor and blasted the hotel manager, Starwood, for having not "learned" from the recent faceoff between the union and 14 large city hotels, including two run by Starwood.

That confrontation ended in a fairly generous contract for workers, see link above for details. The SF Marriott a few weeks ago signed a deal with the same terms. The union is pushing for the same at the W.

The W San Francisco is actually owned by Starwood, whereas its hotels party to the 14-hotel contract are owned by others -- Strategic Hotels and Resorts in the case of the St. Francis (previously Blackstone), and the Kyoya Corp. in the case of the Palace (which as I reported almost a full year ago has been trying to sell the hotel in part on the value of an entitled condo tower).

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Animal (Front-of-the) House

Seethe with Restaurant Girl as she recounts a recent late-night visit to Sauce. The wine was outstanding, the bisque and the stuffed-and-fried calamari very good, and the martinis strong. But the service?
We felt like we were invading a private party. Although the bartender was only about three feet away from us the whole evening, every time we wanted something we had to flag him down, and I felt rude pulling him away from his co-workers that were finishing up the shift and coming to sit down at the bar and have a drink. When we finished our meal, the bartender came over and said, "So, I guess you guys are all set then?" and dropped the check.
Restaurant Girl explains that most restaurants do not allow staff to hang around after their shift -- and now she understands why.

I had a similar experience at Plouf recently, where after a long, two-glass-of-wine lunch and fruitful conversation with a source, I, like Restaurant Girl, was thinking about dessert. The waiter was, for whatever reason, more interested in closing our tab than offering us espresso and pastry, though the place was far from closing.

And to think that just a few months ago I scoffed at the very notion of a lunchtime dessert menu.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Gay workers support anti-gay snuggling policy; or: New Yorker full of it

The American Airlines story just keeps getting weirder.

Apparently there is a website for gay American Airlines employees,

That's not so odd.

What is odd is that Gleam is backing American Airlines in its alleged policy against any gay touching or kissing. They posted an Editor's note on the home page that reads, in part:
The discrepancies between what was reported by the media and the American Airlines' position were of concern to GLEAM. The GLEAM co-chairs have read the New Yorker article and also reviewed crewmember reports and customer communications to try to more fully understand the situation. Our assessment based on the accounts we have read is that the crewmembers acted reasonably.

The New Yorker is highly regarded for its fact checking and accuracy, so any "discrepancies" would be a big surprise. None are specifically outlined by Gleam.

Still, something is off. American Airlines won a big award from Out Traveler magazine, with readers voting it "Gold Standard U.S. carrier for hospitality and service." The airline has the only GLBT-dedicated sales team in the industry. All this according to

Either the airline industry is just burningly, virulently, extremely anti-gay, allowing American Airlines to be the most gay-friendly airline and still have a no gay snuggling policy, or the New Yorker is wrong. Or something big was left out of that story.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Waiters leapt for $6,000 tipper

A juicy story in October's San Francisco Magazine details the restaurant largesse of convicted embezzler Carol Huang.

Or, as they call her at Chez Panisse, "Berkeley's Robin Hood."

Huang jacked more than $11 million from Edward Scarff by secretly mortgaging his house, cashing in his life insurance and taking out business loans in his name. Scarff is supposed to be enjoying his retirement, but instead he's now bankrupt.

Some East Bay restaurateurs still hold Huang in high regard, however. Former Chez Panisse maitre d' Lee Ann Philips told the magazine that Huang, who dined at the high-minded restaurant before and after her embezzlement came to light, was dubbed "Berkeley's Robin Hood" by Chez Panisse staff. Quoth Philips:
You have no idea how much she did for people, how many lives she changed.
Well, Lee Ann, we can imagine. Especially after reading Gordy Slack's article.

After a 50-head, $6,000 dinner at Oliveto, Huang not only paid the $1,000+ service charge but also distributed checks of $800 to $1,000 to three waiters and "several" people in the kitchen. The checks aroused jealousy, and one waiter resigned. I tally at least $6,000 in tips from this one meal.

She once wrote an unidentified waitress, a single mother, a check for $8,000.

Her reputation at Chez Panisse was such that "the normally unflappable waiters would jockey for the chance to serve Huang." We don't get numbers on her tips there, but they can be imagined. Consider that a wedding bartender -- catering staff -- once netted a $400 tip from Huang, without even meeting her.
"It made me kind of sick, the effect she had on people. It was ugly," says Elaine Smith.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Picketing the pate

No sooner did San Francisco's hotels settle their two-year-old union dispute than a new group of picketers readied themselves for battle in the foodie court at Westfield's Emporium redevelopment.

When the new wing of San Francisco Centre opens later this week, it remains a distinct possibility that members of a union affiliated with the hotel union will be on hand to picket the centrepiece (cough) attraction, the 30,000-square-foot gourmet grocer Bristol Farms, a kind of Southern California version of Draeger's Markets.

As a redevelopment project, the mall has pledged to allow union organizing. What that means, exactly, is unclear. What is known is that Bristol Farms is a non-union shop in the crosshairs of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Linkage: Matier and Ross reported the story Sept. 20, CBS5 picked up the item, and Sunday SFist mentioned the dispute in its Emporium roundup.

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