Dreamforce opens in San Francisco with 1,000 in-person attendees, 1st convention since 2019

Amy Hollyfield Image
ByAmy Hollyfield KGO logo
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Dreamforce opens in San Francisco with 1,000 in-person attendees
1,000 people will join Dreamforce on-site and more than 160,000 will join online.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Salesforce's annual convention, Dreamforce, opened in San Francisco Tuesday morning for the first time since 2019. The event is scaled back from its usual 170,000 attendees because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Dreamforce is famous for being such a large event. This year, 1,000 people will be here on site and over 160,000 will join online," said Colin Fleming, the senior vice president of global brand marketing at Salesforce.

RELATED: Dreamforce 2019 in full swing at San Francisco's Moscone Center

Salesforce still went big on presentation. Howard Street between 3rd and 4th Streets is shut down and has been transformed into an outdoor convention floor, complete with a stage that will host big names like the rock band The Foo Fighters.

"We have Will Smith, Emmy award winner Jason Sudeikis... Dreamforce magic is back here in San Francisco," Fleming said.

But it isn't quite the magic businesses in the area need.

The owner of The Grove Restaurant, located at Mission and 3rd Street, says the 170,000 attendees in year's past really lifted his business.

"It was incredibly important for us and everyone up and down the block. They (Salesforce) would buy out the restaurants, parts of the museums. It was a major part of our annual budget, our ability to exist. That three days was equivalent to three weeks," Kenneth Zankel said.

He went on to say, though, that 1,000 people sounds good by COVID standards.

WATCH: Here's what Bay Area transit leaders are doing to prepare for return of San Francisco workers

Before the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people would get in their cars, pack BART and Muni, and crowd the ferries to get into the Financial District. When people come back to the office, how do we find a path forward that will get them there safely?

"If last year didn't exist, it would be really disappointing but 1,000 is better than zero. And hopefully this is the beginning of moving forward," the restaurant owner said.

He said business started picking up Monday as people arrived in San Francisco for Dreamforce.

"If you look around at the people walking around. This has not been happening down here," he said, surveying Mission Street.

In a cruel twist, he will not be open for the happy hour or dinner Dreamforce crowd. He closes at 3 p.m. because he can't find enough workers to staff the evenings, another lingering effect of COVID-19.

"We're getting them bit by bit but it is a struggle. It's the ultimate weird dichotomy, you have demand and then you can't meet it," Zankel said.

RELATED: How will San Francisco's Union Square, downtown businesses recover from COVID-19 pandemic?

The number of people isn't the only change at Dreamforce this year. Those in attendance will also face pandemic safety protocols.

"We'll have multiple tests on site, vaccination requirement of course, with testing on every single day we attend the conference," Fleming said.

Dreamforce will run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

VACCINE TRACKER: How California is doing, when you can get a coronavirus vaccine

Having trouble loading the tracker above? Click here to open it in a new window.