News

Eateries can't compete with Google's free food

Since he started his North Bayshore sandwich shop with his brother 21 years ago, Victor Jadallah saw the neighborhood double in size, Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics rise and fall and the dot-com boom become the dot-com bust. But nothing really prepared him for Google.

Over the last five years the flow of customers to Country Deli has steadily declined by 10 percent a year, which Jadallah attributes to the displacement of his customers as Google comes to dominate the North Bayshore neighborhood.

"They feed their employees," Jadallah said of Google and its growing number of workplace cafes. "It's hard to compete with free."

From the car traffic, Jadallah estimates there are at least as many employees in the neighborhood as there were during the late 1990s dot-com boom, but he's only seeing a third of the business he saw then.

Illustrating the problem, the Country Deli had been catering regularly to the former Microsoft campus on Villa Street and Shoreline Boulevard, but that stopped last year when Google bought that campus too. And Google has not placed any orders to replace the lost catering business, Jadallah said.

He says he regularly hears from his customer that Google has bought their employer's building and they'll be leaving soon, such as the woman employed by Neuropace who gave him some bad news last week. The medical device company is on Shorebird Way where Google has bought most of the land for redevelopment into new Google offices.

"As you drive up and down the street these are all Google buildings now," Jadallah said. "All the businesses that used to be here, a slew of biotech companies, tech companies -- some have moved out on their own but Google is basically inhabiting all these buildings."

Jadallah had some hopes that things would turn around until the "nail in the coffin" happened early last year. Google bought the building housing the Country Deli at 1674 North Shoreline Blvd. He said he was told by Google to relocate -- his lease will not be renewed when it expires in four years. Jadallah said he asked a Google representative, his contact for the lease, if the Country Deli could serve as an official Google cafe. Jadallah said the reply was, "Not on my watch," from a Google real estate rep.

City records have since indicated Google's intent to build a cafe for employees directly behind the Country Deli at 1015 Joaquin Road.

"We've put our heart and soul into this, my brother and I," Jadallah said. "It's disheartening."

Moving out

Jadallah said he asked Google to "help us relocate in some way," perhaps by lowering the rent, but received "no cooperation whatsoever." Because of this story, Google has resumed talks with Jadallah and he hopes to be able to get out of his lease before it expires in 2016, as it would be "a miracle" if he stayed in business until then, he said.

A Google spokesperson told the Voice that on more than one occasion Google has offered relocation assistance in the past for businesses in "similar situations."

"It's an expensive proposition to move and very difficult to find a location," Jadallah said. He has five employees, all of whom have families to support.

"This neighborhood was good to us for many, many years," Jadallah said. "It doesn't seem right that a landlord can just empty out all your customers and collect your rent."

It's not just the Country Deli that's noticed a decrease in business.

"Google is really killing us," said Dervis Yuksel, owner of Falafel and Kebab on Plymouth Avenue, which he says has seen a decline in business over the last three years as Google expands. He said he's spoken with nearby eateries Hon Sushi and Sunny Bowl, and "all of us want to move out." But Yuksel has 10 years left on his lease.

A new downtown

The situation illustrates the challenges of planning a second downtown on North Shoreline Boulevard with outdoor cafes among the inviting spaces, as proposed by Google representatives and others during the city's general plan update. If the area continues to be dominated by Google, Jadallah said he doesn't see how restaurants, arguably the heart of any such community, could stay in business without a lunch crowd. Even if another 1,500 homes were built in the area, as Google has advocated, Jadallah notes that those residents would be mostly Google employees, who now number over 10,000 in North Bayshore.

A Google spokesperson said Google continues to be interested such a redevelopment plan for housing on North Bayshore with retail on the bottom floor.

"More than 2,000 Googlers and their families live and work in Mountain View, participating in the community and supporting local businesses and schools," said a statement from Google. "In addition to supporting the community through a variety of grants and sponsorships, we regularly engage with local vendors and contractors that are essential to helping the business run smoothly. As we continue to hire in Mountain View, we are committed to working closely with the city and the community through our growth."

The Google spokesperson added that Google cafes mostly serve breakfast and lunch, though dinner is also available at some of Google's cafes. Jadallah was skeptical that North Bayshore restaurants could survive on dinner business alone.

"How would I survive on a customer base that would not come in my store?" Jadallah said.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by me
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:33 am

Sounds like the Walmart of High Tech.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:38 am

Google is evil.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mary
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Maybe the deli should talk to owners of Mountain View Market on Castro, now Ava's, they're looking for a deli setup.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by former mv resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm

How ARROGANT of Google to "... build a cafe for employees directly behind the Country Deli at 1015 Joaquin Road." CONTROL, CONTROL, CONTROL..... why can't they WORK WITH the current eateries instead of run them out of business!!! SO TACKY! Hey, Mtn. View City Council - how are you liking Google now??!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by andrea
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm

What a bummer. I love Country Deli. And I also love Google. Both are great for Mountain View. It seems like Mountain View has need of a good sandwich shop, the location question should be surmountable. Maybe an alternative to Subway near the train station where all those new homes are going up, or near the new PAMF building on El Camino near 85.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PeaceLove
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm

This article lays out a very interesting problem. Google is no Walmart; they are not subsidizing giant eateries with the intention of killing off the competition. They are simply providing free, high-quality food to their employees. Should they really be condemned for that?

Should Google be punished or demeaned just because they have been successful, expanded, and now provide so much high-quality free food to so many people that independent eateries can no longer survive?

Put another way, do large companies have a responsibility to DENY benefits to their workers so other neighborhood businesses can benefit? Should companies deny healthcare so insurance companies can have more customers? Should Google cancel their free employee shuttle so local private taxi companies can stay in business?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 15, 2012 at 2:49 pm

While I empathize with the interviewed restaurant owners, the 2,000 Googlers living in Mountain View probably generate more than enough local business revenue to outweigh the 2-3 restaurants under threat. Things always change and all businesses, including Google, have to adapt. The Sports Page seems to do a good job of it; it has been jam-packed every time I have gone there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ham
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 15, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Martin Omander, The Sports Page is packed only because its a bar and Google doesn't give out free booze on a regular basis. But I do agree with your sentiment. While its unfortunate, I don't see this being some sort of evil being carried out by Google. In fact, the less free meals they have to give out, the better for their bottom line.
Hopefully the deli owner can work something out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I suggest that Google work with the deli and bring it up to to Google Standards, then Google could give their employees vouchers for this deli and do the same for other nearby places to eat. Google needs to rethink the eat at Google rule now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by corporate
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm

For Google it's largely about productivity and keeping employees on site.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Evans
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I can't believe this article was even published. To insinuate that a tech company owes a deli anything is ridiculous. We live in a free market. Other restaurants and caterers are thriving. Perhaps this Deli's food is not up to par, or maybe should get out there and WIN some new accounts, there are many start-ups in this area that provide food to employees on a daily basis. The Google employees who spend their hard earned money in our town are the reason why businesses in Mountain View is doing so well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Davan
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 15, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I thought Google's motto was "Do no Evil"? This sounds pretty EVIL to me!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV Mama
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Oh, this makes me sad. I worked off of Shoreline throughout the 90s and the Country Del was always PACKED. You had to get there for lunch early because the line literally went out the door. The brothers who ran is were so friendly, and the food was amazing. I still remember the spaghetti and the manicotti. I haven't been over there in at least 10 years but I still think fondly of it, no one else makes the sandwiches as good. I'll have to stop by for lunch one day.

Sad to see that Mountain View is becoming so singularly focused on Google. We aren't, and shouldn't be, a company town.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bex
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Hey, where is the share link for Google+?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by AsamCay ArSay
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Change is bad. Adjusting to change is bad. Boo Hoo.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Similarly free newspapers like the Mountain View Voice have contributed to the closing of great local daily newspapers like the Peninsula Times Tribune.

Netflix is responsible for closing that Blockbuster Video on El Monte.

Is this journalism or just Google bashing?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by useful
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm

The GOOGLE local lunch voucher idea has some merit. If it's so close you can walk there, hey - you are not driving away, you are probably talking with a couple of your work mates along the way, you get good-free-cheap exercise.

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX (opps - that's another firm's line). One Google property management type needs to "have his job in jeopardy" unless he very quickly proves to THE MOUNTAIN VIEW COMMUNITY that this is not going to be a concern for small business operators 'going forward". OR ELSE - ha North BayShore Plan - you have to be kidding.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Seer Clearly
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm

As some have pointed out, this isn't really about Google being "evil" though it begs for that label with its clearly fake "do no evil" puffery. Instead, it's more about the fact that it obviously creates an environment that is hostile to restaurants, which not only interferes with its plans to create a "new downtown" on Shoreline, but also with the interests of Mountain View. The immediate solution would be some kind of compromise, with support for Country Deli leaving and breaking its lease.

On the other hand, large corporations are by their very nature psychopathic: self-centered, arrogant, sociopathic, conscience-free, cruel or even inhumane, and untrustworthy. The reason is simple: absolute power corrupts absolutely AND with individuals shielded from responsibility by the laws governing corporations, the corporation effectively acts out the shadow side of its leaders without any constraints on their behavior. Google is clearly no exception, as much as they like to think of themselves as different: you can't escape the psychology of the human ego, no matter how much lipstick you paint on it.

Then again, other organizations - like government including city governments - also are subject to the same psychopathy. Really, the only solution is more local democracy. What do YOU want Google to do? What do YOU want Shoreline to be like? What do YOU want to have happen to Country Deli? Get together with your fellow citizens and take action. That's the only way you'll get what you want.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jan winks
a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm

It's too bad Country Deli doesn't have a fighter jet.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sabrina
a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm

"Jadallah said he asked a Google representative, his contact for the lease, if the Country Deli could serve as an official Google cafe. Jadallah said the reply was, 'Not on my watch,' from a Google real estate rep."

This is a horrible way to deal with other local businesses, Google seems to be showing their true colors. No empathy whatsoever. No heart, no soul.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve J
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I loved Country Deli (awesome cookies) and Falafel and Kebab when I worked in that area. I will pay them a visit next time I'm working from home.

Google seems like an attractive place to work (I'm in software), but behavior like this is a big turn off.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Duane...B
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2012 at 12:15 am

Its in the scheme of things,, offer free breakfast and lunch ,buy up all the land,drive all the private restaurants out of the area then charge 5 bucks for breakfast or lunch and six fifty for dinner........and you can not leave the campus until the end of your shift....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2012 at 6:48 am

Well, given they don't have a jet as mentioned above, the Deli owners just need to provide the City Council a few free lunches and things will change dramatically.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Will
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 16, 2012 at 9:58 am

Mountain View should follow the French. Tax the new business models to support the old business models: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jes' Sayin'
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm

The main thing that's wrong is our obsolete tax structure. Google doesn't make a tangible product and so don't sell anything and as a consequence don't owe us any sales tax. Of course we all know that's not true -- they sell huge amounts -- but our government hasn't figured out yet how to tax it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NowImHungry
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

Maybe the Country Deli just needs to relocate to a neighborhood who would really appreciate it. Go over to Santa Clara where there are a lot of businesses that don't have corporate cafeterias. Employees have to scour the neighborhood every day in search of fresh and interesting new eats. Google - find at least one beating heart cell and release them from that lease!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DCS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 17, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Google bought our buildings and I lost my job too......I miss that job!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Nice
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 18, 2012 at 8:18 am

Money talks, BS walks, GOOGLE RULES!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 18, 2012 at 10:26 am

It's just like 1964, in Flint, Michigan. San Jose would be Detroit. Silicon Valley is going to go down just like Detroit did. Think of Google as GM, Apple as Ford, and you get the picture.

It's going to be fun to watch. I'm glad I have a front-row seat. The Greeks knew it: after Hubris comes Nemesis. Always.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 19, 2012 at 8:43 am

More like Google provided Mountain View public employees with some of the highest salaries and retirement benefits around. The last thing I read was that the city was in a pinch over retirement liabilities and was seeking to raise fees on everything. I would call that lining pockets with gold. Mountain View was actually really nice before Google came along. Downtown and a lot of the other major improvements were already upgraded. And very little returned to the city at large from the Shoreline redevelopment area. If anything, the schools has declined since Google came to town. Stew on that for a while.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 19, 2012 at 10:10 am

GM and Ford were immensely beneficial to their respective locals back in the day, contributing to success and welfare of those communities. What happened in Detroit was that those same companies failed to innovate and maintain leadership in their industries. They assumed their dominance in the industry would go on forever, and forgot their customer's ever-changing needs and wants.

Though this may happen with Google and Apple eventually, its not a done deal by any measure. Besides, the valley has shown a healthy ability to adapt to changing times: first came the military, then semiconductor, and now biotechnology, green technology, and search and social networks.

The key isn't having the right companies in town. The key is having the right mix of people and infrastructure that foments the innovation that attracts companies like Google to locate here. Google didn't locate here to be close to steel foundries, or access to waterways, or to be close to customers. They located here primarily for a qualified workforce.

That's why supporting the local infrastructure in terms of education, cultural, and business development is so important, and that requires a long term view and long term investment by the City.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 19, 2012 at 10:46 am

At the risk of getting back on topic, I look up Country Deli on Yelp and its gotten good reviews. I'll be trying them out soon.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer C
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:15 am

COUNTRY DELI: Why not change your hours? My husband (a Googler) complains that there's no decent place to get a sub sandwich on the weekends. I'd also love it if he could bring home sandwiches for dinner on his way home from work. Why not do home deliveries? We're sick of pizza and Chinese!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jaleah
a resident of Gemello
on Mar 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I've eaten at Google... wouldn't call it high quality.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Right now Google is growing, it needs to add space, the only way it to buy other buildings, they throw sitting businesses out. It is their buildings but we need to find a way to allow Google to grow, but let people add space, let other business to thrive. We are going to be a one employer city.


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