This $1.7 billion tech company doesn't do free lunches -- here's where the CEO tells employees to eat

Lots of Silicon Valley startups serve free meals to their employees.

But Zendesk, a $US1.7 billion customer service software company, doesn’t do free lunches. Its CEO Mikkel Svane wants his employees to eat at local restaurants.

The reason is simple: he believes it will help support the local businesses around his office, which is in San Francisco’s rapidly gentrifying Mid-Market district.

“We wanted our people to get out of the office and support the little ground-floor retail businesses that are so important to a neighbourhood,” he writes in a blog post.

Svane also shared his favourite restaurants around the area. We stopped by each of them to see what it’s all about.

Zendesk's HQ is in the Mid-Market district of San Francisco, a downtown area that's getting gentrified.

There's construction going on on the ground floor of its building. Chai Bar by David Rio, one of Mikkel's favourite spots, is supposed to move in soon.

Mikkel lists a Vietnamese restaurant called Tu Lan as one of his favourites. It first opened in 1977.

It's a tiny place with only a handful of tables available. The place was packed when we stopped by for lunch.

It turns out there's also a second floor area. With the number of people packed in, it wasn't hard to see why.

This is the second floor area. It was 1:30 p.m. and still full of customers.

The most popular dish by far was this one called Bun Cha Gio Thit Nu Ong (Pork Kebab/Imperial Roll & Rice Noodle). The person who ordered it told us, 'I don't even know what it's called. I just come in and order #17.'

The owner of Tu Lan says he gets about 300 people a day. He says foot traffic and business have improved a lot lately because of gentrification.

Next on the list is a restaurant called Show Dogs. It's right across the street from Zendesk's HQ.

It's a rock-and-roll themed hot dog joint.

Lots of band stickers around.

A long line formed quickly. Show Dogs has been in business for a little over 5 years.

This is one of its signature hot dogs called 'Italian Pork.' It looked amazing.

This is its Mahi Mahi sandwich. It looked even better.

They also sell organic milkshakes and their own ketchup, mustard, and pickles. Beer on tap, too.

It has a nice little outdoor seating area, too. Perfect for San Francisco's warm weather.

Right next to Show Dogs is another one of Svane's favourites called The Hall.

The Hall is comprised of 6 different restaurants. It's almost like an upscale food court.

The owner of the place says it's only open temporarily. Once it gets cleared by the city, a 12-story high rise will get built in its place.

The building used to be occupied by a bunch of peep show shops. But it shut down and remained closed for years, until The Hall opened last September.

There's all kinds of cuisines, from Indian and Vietnamese, to Moroccan and American BBQ. Also, there's an open bar area that serves both beer and wine.

I tried the crab roll by a seafood joint called Fine & Rare. It was really good!

I also had some Vietnamese spring rolls by Little Green Cyclo. They came with a bubble tea.

There's an outdoor smoker, too! Wish I'd tried some of the BBQ.

The owner says the whole block has changed dramatically, especially with all the tech and nonprofit organisations moving in the area. There was a constant stream of people coming in and out of the place.

Next, we went to Farmerbrown, a southern bar/restaurant right around the corner at Market and Mason.

It opened in 2006 by a couple from North Carolina. The menu was very southern. Fried chicken and jambalaya are supposed to be its best dishes.

It has small DJ area, too. A live band comes in to play every weekend.

There weren't any customers because it was getting ready to open for the night. The bartender told us it just started serving lunch again in December, after suspending it for 7 years, because of all the increased traffic and businesses around the area.

The last stop was a bar called The Mikkeller. It has Danish roots like Mikkel Svane.

It's been open for only two years, but the bartender claims it's often picked as one of the top 10 bars in the world. Indeed, it has a diverse line up of beer on tap that changes every day.

There are 42 taps in total, as well as specialty bottles that could cost as much as $75 each.

There's a pretty sophisticated beer management system downstairs.

Even at 3 p.m., it was starting to get crowded. Business has been doing well lately, the bartender tells us: 'We do well because of all the tech companies moving here.'

Now, see how different the neighbourhood used to be....

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