We are firing up the blog once again. Twice in a week! We want to proactively address a huge piece of legislation that we endorsed / co-signed this week in the city of San Francisco. We know we can't hide our stance on this given the press conference was at Boba Guys!
To catch some of you up, yesterday, SF Supervisor Katy Tang and her fellow colleagues authored an ordinance where the City of San Francisco will prohibit "the use of single-use plastic foodware items such as straws, lids, stirrers, utensils, condiment packages, sleeves and beverage plugs." It's all over the news. You can read about it here:
First off, we know it's a big f*cking deal. If you're reading this, you are probably familiar with our ethos. We don't do anything half-assed. We do our homework and we are transparent with our rationale. That's what we've done since 2011. It's possible that there are those of you who hate us right now. We get it. I just want you to hear us out.
It's About Changing Culture
We always think about the long game-- one in which our society is sustainable and always pushing toward progress. It's why we chose to use organic milk before anyone else. It's why we spend more money on our team than almost anyone in the entire industry. It's why we're throwing a massive cultural festival, Heritage SF, this Saturday. As stated in our mission, we are committed to bridging cultures... sometimes, that means strictly means changing culture.
We understand this law would change the landscape of cafes in San Francisco forever. Let me actually make a bolder statement, because it's San Francisco and people watch what we do, this will change the landscape of food & beverage for the ENTIRE world. We went on record a month ago with Grubstreet to talk about Taiwan's proposed plastic straw ban. In the article, we said, “No single boba shop or manufacturer is going to take on the risk of converting over to compostable when the price premium is so high." I want to add to that statement-- no single boba shop can take on the risk, but one single boba shop (and their community) can surely start the movement. It's what we did for our industry in 2011. We'll do it again for the food & beverage industry in 2018.
We've been in close contact with Supervisor Katy Tang and the team putting this bill together. To be frank, we're not in 100% alignment on the ordinance. We've talked to them about it. We think some of the timing and roll out requirements are too strict and it'll hurt small businesses too quickly. This includes the 10% mandate for reusable cups-- not compostable, like ones you wash and re-use-- for events on city property (we think it'll drive up costs and make events too expensive for everyday people). We'll sort out the ordinance in the coming months, but we need dialogue.
Sidebar: not sure if everyone knows, but we work very closely with the local and federal SBA along with the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). We are used to thinking about things both from the government and small business point of view.
Getting to the (Boba) Straw Point
So, what does this mean for you? At Boba Guys, we've had a semi-secret project to either work with or start a compostable boba straw company that we can fold under our manufacturing company, US Boba Company. We aren't gonna lie... no matter what we do, these straws will be more expensive than regular straws. That being said, given that it's a city-wide ordinance, every food & beverage operator will have to comply, so while it may add some cost, it'll still be marginal (current straws are about $.04/straw). We hope that in the long run, economies of scale will drive the price of compostable boba straws down.
As with Boba Guys drinks, in which our costs are nearly 50% more than an average chain boba shop (damn f*cking organic milk, organic matcha, and Oatly is expensive), we've figured out a way to absorb a lot of the costs. That's why the actual price of your boba drink isn't 50% more. But we understand the immediate impact-- yeah, it'll increase prices a tiny bit when it rolls out.
We know the main gripe is that it's just plain inconvenient. There's no doubt that this sucks for us the most as our entire company is founded on the premise that we use big straws in which viable compostable ones don't exist. And we've tried those metal straws that'll chip your tooth. And those paper ones that melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. It's going to be a hard transition. But we remember when we started charging for single-use plastic bags. We got used to it and studies showed it worked.
It's about the big picture.
The Big (Ball) Picture
I remember when the 2016 election happened, I came across this article that explains how our society is fractured based on the idea of "I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People." But as entrepreneurs, we're doers and problem-solvers. Bin and I don't know how else to address crazy sh/t than proactively engaging on the topic. For us, there are many topics that we use our platform to address: discrimination / abuse of power, equal representation, shady business practices, automation, lack of dialogue and empathy and today, sustainability.
The underlying belief against banning single-use plastic straws is that we simply don't care about the future generations. We kick the can down the road. That's an incredibly miopic view of humanity. You might as well be Thanos and fall into the Malthusian Trap. To us, it's pretty simple. There is no denying that plastics and excessive use of fossil fuels are bad for the environment. Or remember Straw Turtle and his marine life friends? Anyone who disagrees with us can stop coming to Boba Guys and any of our family of businesses. It's just bad juju. Or you can come, but you gotta debate us and have dialogue! ;)
Silver Linings Flavorbook
To end, we're all trying to do what's best for us. We get it. "Boba Guys suck for being so idealistic." This world is a crazy place and it feels unfair at times. Why help others when they don't help us? Why do I have to care about you when I got my own problems?
I have a take, if you'll indulge me. Those views are short-sighted. To get people to care about bigger problems, you have to change their perspective. And since it's a lens shift, it takes time and baby steps. In this case, we need a culture of progressive optimism and proactive problem-solving.
I wrote before about how you don't always get what you want. You can ask our team-- we practically lecture them on having a positive outlook on things. No entitlement. If it's a problem, you have the power to fix it. If it's too daunting, find help. Then together, go back and fix it. Like Matt Damon in The Martian says, "You solve enough problems, you get to come home." (Sorry, one of my favorite movies.)
Let's solve these problems one at a time. Or you can sit there, complain, and be on the wrong side of history. ;)
Have a nice day and a pleasant tomorrow,
Andrew (and Bin)