Our day long excursion to Muir Woods and the adjoining tour of the Sonoma Valley wine country had definitely made us hungry. So for dinner we decided to explore a different area of San Francisco: the area south of Market Street.
We headed into an attractive restaurant called Tangerine SF where we were greeted by one of the co-owners, Peter Goss. Peter was so kind to spend some time with us and sat down with us in a cozy corner by the window and started to talk about the twists and turns that took him into the hospitality business.
Peter Goss from Tangerine SF
Peter originally hails from Boston, and in his early twenties spent some time working for Disney in Florida and then moved to Lexington, Virginia, where he became the director of tourism during a summer employment program. At age 21 he put together group tour programs and spent three years in this role, only to decide to go back to university and finish his degree.
After graduating he spent one year in Key West where he met his partner who was from Montreal. After one year together in Key West they moved to Washington, DC and Peter lived there from 1981 to 1999. In 1991 his partner passed away from AIDS, and to this day Peter still visits his former partner’s mother. For about 15 years in Washington Peter worked in real estate and became one of the top-selling agents in the entire city, but admitted that he hated his life there. By the end of 1999 he had had enough of the rat race.
A view of the restaurant
He was looking around for where he wanted to settle down and became attracted to San Francisco because of its diversity and open-mindedness. He felt that Washington, DC, in many ways was segregated while San Francisco was integrated. To this day he still loves living in San Francisco. Even his attitude towards real estate changed – now his focus is on helping people and no longer on being number one.
After relocating to San Francisco Peter met his new life partner in 2000. Sean Pattansuvoranun had been a web designer who had lost his job in the dot com bust. For a long time his dream had been to open a restaurant. After all he had already run a restaurant in his home country of Thailand and had always been passionate about the hospitality industry.
View towards the front
A friend of theirs was interested in becoming an investor, and so the three of them decided to open a restaurant with Sean as the executive chef. Looking back Peter says that had they known everything that was going to be involved in opening and running a restaurant, he probably would not have had the courage to do it. A short time after opening Peter and Sean bought out their investor, and they have been running Tangerine SF together ever since.
Peter still works as a real estate agent and helps out wherever he can in the restaurant. He meets and greets people, takes away plates and supports his staff in any way he can. During the first two years they both worked 16 to 18 hour days. Peter, a passionate traveler, did not get to travel for two years.
Tangerine SF showcases great art
He explained that the location of his restaurant, just south of Market Street, has had an impact on their business and added that “you are either on the avenue or you are off the avenue”. In their case, they were just off the avenue, and Peter admits it took them longer to get established. In addition, their location had never been a dinner restaurant before, so it took more time to build a clientele for their eatery. Peter frankly stated that they were able to hang on long enough with their business to be able to make it. Today Tangerine SF is doing very well.
One of the small hurdles along the way was a rise in the minimum wage just after they started their business. While Peter fully agrees with the need to raise working people’s wages, their restaurant could not afford any extra financial burden when they started. But through this whole learning curve they persevered and managed to get through the tough times.
More impressive paintings at Tangerine SF
Today their employees have become their family, and many of them have been at Tangerine SF for five years or more. Peter added that the staff is excellent, and his three outstanding servers take really good care of the patrons. One of the servers was a second runner up in the Miss Gay San Francisco contest. Every once in a while he comes to work in drag, to the delight of the customers who cheer him on. All the employees at Tangerine SF have become part of the success story of this dining establishment.
Peter’s partner Sean had already had a restaurant before in Bangkok, but the clientele was very different. People in San Francisco are very sophisticated when it comes to food, and running a restaurant here was eminently more complicated. But with a large dose of good luck and perseverance their entrepreneurial dream survived. Peter explained that this venture challenged them on many levels: physically, emotionally and financially; he is very grateful that it worked out in the end.
Peter and Sean, co-owners of Tangerine SF