Monthly Archives: June 2007

Hopping on the Green Mobile

Frank and I spent some time this past year doing work for a company that provides concessions in various National Parks in the US. I had the opportunity to do some research on building and operating green and although I can’t call myself an avid environmentalist, I have learned to turn the water off while I brush my teeth (but still am the person who recently answered “no, I don’t love the color, to be honest” when asked by a salesperson in an eco-friendly building store if I was planning on going green…i thought she was talking about the 70-esque kitchen display)

Obviously, the practice of operating our businesses and our lives in a more environmentally aware manner is here to stay and I hope to learn more about ways in which businesses can painlessly or reasonably operate in a greener manner. I can’t really get behind processes that require a 4x premium in cost but this movement is here to stay and I think it’s about doing what you can and moving in the right direction. And in many cases, operating green saves vs. costs money so hey….

Some businesses that have really impressed me, and helped jump start my still nascent education include:

Mixt Greens in San Francisco, which has incorporated many eco-friendly elements into their business, including the following items. I love the way their website demonstrates this as well – check it out.

  • To-go packaging (containers, cups, straws, lids and bags) is made from corn, not petroleum, and composts in 45 days (and over 80% of the daily waste is either composted or recycled).  Note that its not all rainbows and raindrops though, as the movement towards corn based products is contributing to higher dairy costs….or so says the dairy guys.
  • Zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint used throughout the restaurant. Here’s more info on non-toxic paints
  • Benches, salad, drink and trash stations are made of Kerei, a reclaimed agricultural fiber (sorghum) pressed with non-toxic adhesives (made in China so sorry, not local).
  • Eco-Timber FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified floors. FSC Certification ensures that “consumers that the wood products they buy were grown and harvested in a way that protects forests for the long term” (see link for more information). Eco-Timber’s product line includes bamboo, Brazilian teak and reclaimed woods, as well as traditional wood such as maple.
  • Formaldehyde-free plywood for benches and tables. Formaldehyde can be toxic, allergenic, and carcinogenic. If used in construction materials, it can cause indoor pollution and lead to symptoms such as eye irritation, headaches, and difficulty in breathing.
  • Tinted glass (to reduce solar heat gain)
  • HVAC dual zone system with computerized thermostat controls
  • Energy efficient lighting: fluorescent lighting and task lighting
  • 3 Form Eco-Resin panel, engineering to incorporate 40% post-industrial re-grind content . Honestly, I can’t figure out what this does or if it is decorative.
  • Pollution prevention: 4 stage air filtration system for cooking exhaust ventilation
  • Energy efficient Energy star appliances. Refrigeration display cases are turned off when not in use and timers and motion sensors are used on all appliances
  • Trash stations for customer use have separate bins for compost, recycling and trash
  • Use of organic, local and seasonal ingredients as-well-as free range, hormone and antibiotic free steak and fowl.


The Kitchen in Boulder, Co also employs many eco-friendly practices in its effort to be a “zero waste” business. In their effort to recycle and reuse nearly 100 percent of their “discards”, they use only biodegradable paper products and straws, give the remaining uncooked food and open bottles of wine to the lucky staff at the end of the night and make all food scraps into compost. The Kitchen relies on wind to power the restaurant and continually supports local and national farmers with a commitment to artisanal products and sustainable farming. They highlight their local purveyors in the restaurant to promote awareness amongst their clientele. Companies that help them achieve these programs include:

  • Eco-Cycle (a local company) provides The Kitchen with recycling services

  • Eco-Products provides the biodegradable restaurant supplies, as does Stalk Market (to go containers made from sugar cane)


General advice can be found on both the national and local levels. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) has guidelines for green building applicable to businesses across the US and example of local resources include PACE, providing local Boulder businesses including The Kitchen with free pollution prevention education and technical assistance, and SF Environment provide checklists (including the San Francisco Green Business Program), eco-friendly vendor lists, recycling information and other great advice for Bay Area businesses.


Other ways in which businesses can build or operate green include:


  • Selecting gift card made of eco-friendly products vs. vinyl (PVC) plastic, such as corn cards. Email me if you have any trouble locating these cards or would like a source.
  • Recycle your fryer oil into bio-fuel (which can then power cars or things like the Big Green Bus). In San Francisco, Bay Area Biofuel (note: website down as I write this post so phone is 415.686.0541) will pick up your used fryer oils and refine them into diesel fuels (they also do grease trap maintenance). Tell me if you are a GGRA member for a discount.
  • Participate in the 3-cart recycling program – in San Francisco, this means using a blue cart for Blue cart for all glass and plastic bottles, edges, foil, paper, and cardboard, a Green cart for all compostables such as yard trimmings, food scraps, and soiled paper and a Black cart (cart of death?) for all non-recyclable, non-compostable garbage. Go to SF Recycling for information or to sign up for this program in San Francisco; in other areas, contact your trash pick-up service for information on their recycling programs.
  • Boost the percentage of compostable trash you produce by using BPI certified compostable products (some examples already discussed are corn and sugar based to-go and packaging products). BPI has a lot of approved products and vendors on their site.

its a whole new world out there. I just hope nobody comes down on the sheep in the Pyrenees region. Gotta keep Basque cheese coming.


Tipping Out…Pooling Tips. Do’s and Don’ts

I figure it might be useful to put some real information up here. Please note that this is not meant to be advice tailored for anyone’s business situation in particular and these thoughts are my own and not those of AOC SF. for more on that, see this page.

So, I wanted to share some (finally) clear information on tip pooling. I’m not sure if others out there are as confused as I have been on this issue – what is legal, what isn’t…and how it relates to “tipping out”.

Thank you to Julie Chenedes, HR Consultant (email me for Julie’s info – she is great), for providing this recap in a clear and concise manner.

According to a California court, Labor Code Section 351 allows involuntary tip pooling. Therefore, an employer can require that an employee share tips with other staff that provide service in the restaurant.

In this regard, it’s DLSE’s (Division of Labor Standards Enforcement) position that when a tip pooling arrangement if in effect, the tips are to be distributed among the employees who provide “direct table service.”

· Such employees could conceivably include servers, bussers, bartenders, host/hostesses and maitre d’s.

· Employees who do not provide direct table service and who do not share in the tip pool include dishwashers, cooks, and chefs, except in restaurants where the chefs prepare the food at the patron’s table, in which case the chef may participate in the tip pool.

· Additionally, tip pooling cannot be used to compensate the owner(s), manager(s), or supervisor(s) of the business, even if these individuals should provide direct table service to a patron.

A tip is a voluntary amount left by a patron for an employee.


A mandatory service charge is an amount that a patron is required to pay based on a contractual agreement or a specified required service amount listed on the menu of an establishment.

An example of a mandatory service charge that is a contractual agreement would be a 10 or 15 percent charge added to the cost of a banquet. Such charges are considered as amounts owed by the patron to the establishment and are not gratuities voluntarily left for the employees.

Therefore, when an employer distributes all or part of a service charge to its employees, the distribution may be at the discretion of the employer and the service charge, which would be in the nature of a bonus, would be included in the regular rate of pay when calculating overtime payments.

So, it seems that there are different rules which apply based on whether you have a service charge (mandatory) or allow patrons to tip (gratuity). Some restaurants (eg: Incanto in Noe Valley) have opted for a small (e.g.: 5%) service charge in addition to allowing guests to tip at their discretion. The use of the service charge allows restaurants to legally provide additional compensation to the back of house or management employees.

Note that this posting is NOT about the legality of an employer requiring that an employee declare a certain percentage of their sales as tips. Totally different topic.

farina-a pre review

walking thru the mission tonight, we came across the blaring (safeway-esque) lights of farina. we hoped it was open but alas, not yet. “man, those thingies at the end look like sacramental offerings in a church“, said SA. “Me no likey all the different finishes on the chairs“, said SB….my witty addition was something like: “Is THAT where they’re gonna serve bread??”

Then we remembered, what the…???!! We are all excited to come here and admire anyone with the balls (stupidity/guts/cojones/audacity) to open a restaurant in SF these heady days.

So, I hope we all got that dose of cynicism out of us b/c it would truly suck if this came to pass as a reality: the pre-review.

premature schadenfreude. not a healthy thing.

the end of drama

drama is a prettty powerful word in that it captures a whole ton of emotions and ideas, and everyone seems to be done with it. or at least really want to be, enough to declare it out loud. “She has way too much drama in her life“. “I’m so sick of the drama” or today, at the table next to me, “I am DONE with drama” (who is he trying to convince?).

I think the word encompasses angst, overcomplication, the creation of problems where there really are none, high school tactics and of course, underlying it all, total boredom. It just seems like talking about drama and how over it you are is, by definition, overly-dramatic. I’m so over self-fulfilling prophecies.

pass the cheese please.