Late-Night Transit and Workforce Challenges for the Restaurant and Hospitality Industry

Paradigm General Contractors, San Francisco, Bay Area, Workforce Development, Hospitality Industry, Restaurants, CREW East Bay
Photo by Angie Sommer
Paradigm General Contractors, San Francisco, Bay Area, Workforce Development, Hospitality Industry, Restaurants, CREW East Bay
Photo by Angie Sommer

By Molly Jans, Paradigm General Contractors


Paradigm General Contractors, San Francisco, Bay Area, Workforce Development, Hospitality Industry, Restaurants, CREW East Bay
[dropcap]I[dropcap]t is the lifeline of industry: getting goods from place to place to be purchased and consumed by the public. More vexing is how we get people from place to place—to our companies, construction projects, and restaurants—so they can work or purchase goods and services. San Francisco’s challenge is to provide reliable transportation to potential employees who commute from increasingly distant origination points throughout the Bay Area.

Of course there are cars, and highway, and road systems. But in the Bay Area there is no land for new roads to be built, or for more cars to be driven, or to create parking lots. We have a transit system—BART, AC Transit, Muni, SamTrans, and Golden Gate Transit—that operates on existing infrastructure, but it was not designed for the population that we have today. Nor was it designed to run 24 hours a day. The gaping hole in our transit system is most apparent where it affects the early-morning and late-night entertainment, hospitality, and restaurant industries.

Almost three years ago this January, then–San Francisco Supervisor Scott Weiner called for a review of late-night transit options. “We need to be sure that people leaving bars or getting off work late at night have reliable and accessible transit options, so they don’t drive drunk or end up waiting in the dark for a bus that comes once an hour.”

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) participated in Weiner’s two-year study, which was jointly led by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the San Francisco Entertainment Commission. This working group included representatives from regional transportation providers, small business owners, industry groups, nightlife advocates, labor unions, and other stakeholders.

The top three recommendations of the working group regarding all-night transportation were as follows:

  1. Fast and reliable transportation choices that serve the needs of residents, visitors, and workers
  2. Twenty four-hour rail service complemented by local and regional buses
  3. A transit system based on both coverage and demand

(More of the working group study can be found at

As a result of the working group’s research study and recommendations, there are now in place an additional 20 bus routes, which comprise the all-night service and run every 30 minutes from midnight to 5am. This is key if you do not own a car or cannot afford a taxi, Uber, or parking and need to get to work by 4am to bake bread or if you’re a server leaving at 3am with a pocket full of cash. Prior to the all-night service, workers, patrons, and visitors alike relied mostly on private transportation options.

To plan a trip, users simply go to, click on All-Nighter Routes and follow the links to Planning Ahead for their next trips. The trip planner will indicate bus routes and schedules to connect for the early-morning or late-night commute.

Workforce Development
The demand for workers in this industry is staggering and competitive. According to GGRA Associate Director Donnalyn Murphy, the current number of restaurants in San Francisco is 7,500, up from 5,500 just a couple of years ago (this number is comes from the Department of Public Health, which issues food service licenses). This includes traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants, food trucks, 7-11s—basically any retail or restaurant outlet that is inspected by the health department for handling food. This increase in establishments in San Francisco alone has created job growth, and therefore also challenges in recruiting and retaining workers to fill these positions.

With the rise of companies bringing food services into their facilities, it is even harder for traditional restaurants and food retailers to hire good talent. Higher wages, tip pooling, and promotion strategies are just a few of the ways restaurants compete to retain talent. But an even more essential tool to combat the crisis is workforce development.

The GGRA plays a key role training industry workers and restaurateurs. Among the workforce development programs it has implemented is a Hospitality Boot Camp, hosted by the restaurant 1300 Fillmore, in partnership with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the nonprofit Success Center San Francisco, and the CCSF Culinary & Hospitality Studies program. The GGRA was able to take 22 trainees and utilize the entire restaurant during off hours, focusing on front-of-house and barista skills, bussing, and safe food handling.

When you look at how much the San Francisco nightlife industry brings to the area, the statistics are impressive: San Francisco’s economy realizes $4.2 billion annually, including more than 50,000 employees and about $50 million in city tax revenue. Providing reliable transportation and a skilled workforce will be an ongoing challenge if the city wants to retain momentum in this vital sector.

1 “Weiner calls for review on late night transit options,” by Joshua Sabatini, The Examiner, 1/31/14,

Molly Jans has worked in the construction industry since 2001 and is operations director for Paradigm General Contractors. In her role there she oversees the construction process for the duration of the project. She works with the owner, architect, subcontractors, and suppliers from project conception through completion. Her management of Paradigm’s operations includes business development, human resources, and safety. She holds a bachelor’s degree from CU Boulder in psychology with a minor in business administration and a Certificate of Construction Management from UC Berkeley.

This article will also appear in The VIEW, the quarterly publication jointly curated by the three Bay Area chapters of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW)—CREW San Francisco, CREW East Bay, and CREW Silicon Valley. CREW is a nationwide business networking organization dedicated to the advancement of women in commercial real estate. For chapter news, events, and membership information, visit the Bay Area member organization websites at,, and


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