Haight's long-running Blue Front Cafe strips its hours, citing economic pressures

Haight's long-running Blue Front Cafe strips its hours, citing economic pressures
Photo: Camden Avery/Hoodline
By Camden Avery - Published on December 13, 2019.

Blue Front Cafe, the breakfast and Mediterranean eatery at 1430 Haight St., is one of the Haight's longest-running restaurants: it's been in business since 1961.

But lately, on a block already plagued with retail and restaurant vacancies, the restaurant has been keeping erratic hours and closing unpredictably. That's led some to worry that the business is on its way out.

Hani Khouri, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother, said the business's woes are partly local, and partly systemic.

"It's the construction, yeah," he said, citing the Upper Haight streetscape overhaul that's been intermittently shutting down blocks of the commercial corridor for nearly two years.

"But it's also DoorDash [and other delivery apps]. People don't want to leave the house. If the guy upstairs wants to order online, there goes 30 percent."

It's a familiar lament for many restaurateurs, who've bemoaned the city's increasing addiction to food-delivery apps that snap up huge portions of their already thin margins. 

"What people don’t realize is that companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash take 23 to 28 percent of your gross receipts when they deliver your food," Escape From New York owner Paul Geffner explained to us earlier this year. "Basically, what they’re doing is advertising heavily to steal our business, and selling it back to us at a reduced rate."

The counter at Blue Front Cafe. | Photo: Ed U./Yelp

Blue Front does currently offer delivery through GrubHub. Though it takes a hefty bite out of profits, he said he had no choice but to sign up, in order to compete with other restaurants offering delivery. But it's harming his business.

Once, Khouri said, Blue Front employed a staff of 10. Now, he and his brother have just two employees, cooks who also clean the restaurant. So they're only open when one of them can be there.

"I can't afford it," he said. So for now, "when we're open, we're open. You can buy something if the door's unlocked."

Blue Front's hours remain weekdays from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., but customers can expect them to vary from day to day until the business finds a steadier footing.