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Jul 4, 2012 12:21 PM

I will not be eating or drinking at Searsucker, Burlap, Gingham, Herringbone, Gabardine

Based on what I have read in an article in today's UT (Restaurants Feel Squeeze on Insurance), James Brennan, owner of Searsucker et al, is clearly a swine. Somehow Phil's BBQ manages to provide health insurance to their full time workers (32+ hours/wk), and thrives. But for the Brennan/Malarkey team, it means a change in business plans.

“The restaurant industry is really affected by this,” said owner James Brennan.

Since 2009, Brennan and partner Brian Malarkey have created 600 jobs among their five trendy restaurants, a nightclub and catering company in San Diego.

Beyond raising prices to pay for employee health benefits, Brennan said, all of his new restaurants may be smaller, with fewer than 50 employees.

Each of his restaurants now is about 8,000 square feet, which requires about 75 employees. That was the original plan when he began scouting for a location to open a restaurant in Los Angeles. But after the Supreme Court ruling last Thursday, Brennan said he called up his leasing agent to say he wanted to look at smaller properties over the weekend.

“Instead of looking for that 70- to 75-employee size, I’m looking for square footage for 49 employees,” he said. “This is not the way I should be forced into thinking.”

Brennan said that if he had limited his staffing starting in 2009, he’d be employing 400 people today instead of 600.

“Some of these people who are applauding (the employer insurance mandate) need to be asked, do they want to be guaranteed insurance or do they want a job? Because that’s the choice,” he said. “This is real.”

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  1. Thank you for reading the U-T so I don't have to and for passing this along. I have only ever eaten at Herringbone. The manager told me that the entire staff is working BOTH shifts. Way it's gotta be, the young man said. Guess it's so cool to work for the Malarky machine that employees will suffer anything management dishes out. (As far as Brennan's business model of bigger, faster is better and its long-term fiscal success, the fat lady hasn't yet sung.)
    I will venture to say, traditionally, restaurants (unlike hotels) often do not provide health care for employees. Starbucks was a pioneer in that regard.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pickypicky

      I agree that the fat lady has not sung yet. And working BOTH shifts? Sad.

    2. Good update on that!

      The more 'LAWS' you have the more loopholes there are...d;^(

      1. I have the feeling this guy never has to worry about health care for his family. I bet he has a really nice health insurance policy in fact. But those peons who work for him....a job should be good enough. I won't be eating there either.

        1. I was pretty shocked at Brennan's attitude when I read this in the "newspaper" (I use the term lightly). I understand weighing options to maintain a profitable business, but his across the board, sweeping rationale is disturbing and pretty mean spirited.

          6 Replies
          1. re: foodiechick

            I agree, FoodieChick. It's the angry tone of his comments, and that he blames health care for affecting his brilliant business acument. Excuses, not problem solving. His model is based on huge drink revenues and only keeping a restaurant going as long as it's profitable. Make a killing and move on. Not the greatest for job security. Love to know what drove Chef Chad away. . .

            1. re: pickypicky

              "Love to know what drove Chef Chad away" - That's no secret as he mentioned on twitter and in intereviews (and Malarkey also mentioned it in interviews a few times) that his dishes were too ambitous for Point Loma (and most likely for SD in general). That's also the reason why Malarkey is taking over and dumping down the menu significantly.

              1. re: honkman

                thanks. I might have known you'd know.

              2. re: pickypicky

                Isn't Mr. Brennan the one who went bankrupt on all those downtown club venues when the economy tanked and was the object of a fairly large lawsuit on the old Top O' The Cove location?

              3. Are you going to boycott every other restaurant that doesn't (or hasn't to this point) provide insurance too? Or just the Brennan places (since he was the one who happened to be interviewed by the paper)?

                13 Replies
                1. re: DougOLis

                  exactly, good luck finding many non-chain restaurants, pubs, bars, etc that includes health insurance in their compensation packages.

                  1. re: MrKrispy

                    The places you are talking about - small, no-chain restaurants - won't have enough employees to fall under the law anyways. I guess nobody is interested in actual facts before they post on public boards nowadays. Very little restauants locally will be affected by the law, and the ones that will can afford the cost.

                    1. re: mjill

                      Thanks for pointing that out, mjill. I remember in my state in the early 1980s there was a controversial bill requiring motorists to carry auto insurance. People were outraged, hands on hips and shouting as with one voice, "Well I'm sorry, but I can't AFFORD car insurance!" The bill passed, thank God. Everybody adapts. It's a much better, safer place now because of that law.

                      1. re: mjill

                        So morally/ethically it doesn't matter that a place with 30 employees or 40 employees doesn't need to provide insurance, because the law doesn't say they have to? The moral/ethical dilemma of a boycott against no-health-care is only associated with a new standard set by law? I find restaurant size to be a very flimsy argument in regards to what DougOLis is saying about the OPs "boycott". Funny that consumers didn't get their panties in a bunch when a business keeps everyone at part-time to avoid paying benefits.

                        1. re: MrKrispy

                          What bothers me about this argument is that taken to its logical conclusion we should also be decrying OSHA regulations, labor laws, environmental regulations, etc.

                          And what's particularly stupid about agreeing with this greedy SOB is that I would imagine any thinking person would want the people handling and serving their food to have access to health care. Seems kind of important from a self-preservation standpoint, no?

                          Doing business costs money, and I'm sure Mr. Brennan ain't broke.

                          1. re: Josh

                            I wish there were a way to quote posts as favorites

                            1. re: Rodzilla

                              I agree with Rodzilla. Josh is spot on!

                          2. re: MrKrispy

                            I think a successful restaurant should do their best to take care of their employees regardless of size. Someone in the Brennan/Malakrey situation who are producing a lot of profit is in the perfect position to just do this and not be forced to - and this is what I have a problem with, the crocodile tears.

                            The reality in restaurants is very few people are actual full time employees anyways (dinner service is less than 8 hours in most cases and few waiters/bussers/expos are going to want to work lunch, and sit around for 3 hours waiting for dinner to start), so it isn't a case of keeping people less than full time - that's just how the business works. But, I still think if they are small and highly profitable they should take care of their less than full time people anyways - places like Cucina Urbana or Banker's Hill come to mind. Work a year and you are entitled to getting limited benefits that you help pay into type deal. They can afford it and its going to keep their best people but also attract top talent. Seems to be a no brainer.

                            Great post Josh...

                            1. re: mjill

                              Very well said. I am only concerned about the former post the the servers at Herringbone are being forced to work double shifts. Sounds full-time to me, but then again Brennan has until 2014 to figure out another way to screw the system.

                              1. re: foodiechick

                                Not sure anyone can be 'forced' to work beyond their scheduled shift. A double in a prime time shift can be serious tip money.

                            2. re: MrKrispy

                              who says we don't get mad about it? I just got done posting about "no overtime pay" on a thread on amusement parks. (12 hour shifts, nearly minimum wage)

                            3. re: mjill

                              Neither will Brennan's new place, as he says he'll keep it to 49 employees.

                              1. re: mayache

                                I highly doubt any of his places have 50 full time employees already anyways.