Despite your professed love for artisanal and local everything, most of you San Franciscans will set foot in a Safeway sometime this Thanksgiving week. But not all Safeways are created equal, and it always feels like the worst one, and the one with the longest lines, is the one closest to my house. So I put this theory to a test last week and yes, some Safeways totally have longer lines than other Safeways, in some cases more than 300% longer.
There are 15 Safeways in San Francisco, all shown and categorized by average line length on the map above. (Green markers represent the shortest lines, yellow represents the median length, and red represents the longest lines). I went to every Safeway during peak weekday business hours (6-8pm), excluding weekends and including only Monday-Thursday data. I added up the total number of adult humans standing in line at each Safeway, then divided this total by the number of open registers. To bolster the sample size, I visited each store twice — once during the week of Nov. 10-13 and again during the week of Nov. 17-20, thereby ostensibly avoiding the statistical skew of the Thanksgiving rush.
I know, this methodology won’t win me the Nate Silver gold star anytime soon. But it’s a structured and fair comparison, and provides useful insights on Safeway wait time variance.
We shouldn’t blame Safeway for these wait time variances.Like the larger crowds on BART, Safeway wait times are influenced by demographic and population shifts that could never have been foreseen when our 15 little Safeways were built. And as hilariously chronicled by Broke-Ass Stuart, San Franciscans love waiting in lines. I’ve seen you people stand in line an hour for an ice cream or a burrito. Compared to that, your 10-15 minutes in line at Safeway are nothing.
Surprisingly, Safeway wait times do not correlate to the relative wealth of your neighborhood (the small Financial District store on Jackson registered the longest Safeway lines in town). Instead, Safeway line wait times appear to inversely correlate with the amount of tourism your neighborhood attracts (the Marina, Castro, and Fisherman’s Wharf Safeways have the three shortest average wait times). West-of-Market residential neighborhoods like Diamond Heights and the Outer Sunset have average Safeway wait times. And Safeway shoppers who live in the Mission are just flat-out fucked.
Safeway stores with self-checkout capabilities do tend to have shorter lines (self-checkout line lengths were not included in this data, but are obviously an important variable because they shorten the manual checkout lines). All five of the Safeways with the shortest lines have self-checkout, though the Potrero Center Safeway has self-checkout yet still ranked with the third-longest wait times.
Here are your San Francisco Safeways ranked by longest average wait times to shortest, and whether they have self-checkout capabilities and, obviously, wait times on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving may vary widely. Feel free to dispute or confirm these results in the comments section below!
Financial District (145 Jackson St.) - 9 people in line on average, no self-checkout
Bernal Heights / Mission (3350 Mission St) - 7.6 people in line on average, no self-checkout
Potrero Center (2300 16th St.) - 7 people in line on average, has self-checkout
Outer Mission (4950 Mission St.) - 6.75 people in line on average, no self-checkout
Sunnyside (625 Monterey) - 5 people in line on average, no self-checkout
Outer Sunset (2350 Noriega) - 5 people in line on average, has self-checkout
Inner Richmond (735 7th Ave.) - 4.4 people in line on average, no self-checkout
Parkside (730 Taraval) - 4.3 people in line on average, no self-checkout
Diamond Heights (5290 Diamond Hts. Blvd.) - 4.25 people in line on average, no self-checkout
Outer Richmond (850 La Playa) - 3.75 people in line on average, no self-checkout
Fillmore (1335 Webster) - 3.3 people in line on average, has self-checkout
Mission Bay (298 King St.) - 3 people in line on average, has self-checkout
Fisherman’s Wharf (350 Bay St.) - 2.8 people in line on average, has self-checkout
Duboce Triangle (2020 Market St.) - 2.8 people in line on average, has self-checkout
Marina (15 Marina Blvd.) 2.5 people in line on average, has self-checkout