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Nov 30, 2011 06:06 PM

Cafe Gratitude - I am closing

I am blaming it on my employees.

The owner says he can't afford all the lawsuits so he is closing all the restaurants.

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  1. indeed, though the plaintiffs' lawyers say the amounts shouldn't be enough to have to completely close and sell off

    see Update 3 at the bottom

    4 Replies
    1. re: drewskiSF

      That's pretty passive agressive on the part of the owners.

      " the lawsuit number is under $200,000 and this is not a class-action suit, "[t]hey are not closing these restaurants because of these lawsuits. There’s something else."

      Gracias Madre is also closing ... don't mess with the Virgin.

      There is a real lack of respect for your employees, especially the ones currently working for you to not even tell them. They learned about the closing in the press.

      Then that goodby cruel world posting on facebook ... really ... so, so CG. Some of it

      "We have come to realize that it isn’t how we serve that is most important but rather that we serve.

      Our mission will survive this, as love cannot be threatened"

      What? You are closing and no longer serving. How about loving your employees enough to have the courtesy to tell them you are closing.

      1. re: drewskiSF

        Restaurants have very narrow margins, there may be more lawsuits than that one attorney is aware of, if one lawsuit is successful more ex-employees would probably file, and if the facts regarding tip pooling and requiring employees to pay to attend EST-type seminars are true, they have little hope of winning.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          According to this article in SF Weekly, tip pooling is legal so they would have won that.

          Whew ... gotta read the Grub Street article though. It is priceless

          As it states they buy most of the food from their own ranch and while they may not be growing their own rice, charging $10 a bowl for it ... they ain't suffering. Buying some super epensive rice lately retail I doubt I'm paying more than $1 per bowl.

          From the article

          "He notes that they don't plan to close their farm in Vacaville — where owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart live (Terces is "secret" backwards, by the way, apropos of nothing) — or the central kitchen operation, near Rainbow Grocery on 14th Street, which supplies the restaurants with their vegan pizzas and "live" mac and cheese. With those two operations still running, he asserts they will likely just look to sell their foodstuffs to a new operator, in order to skirt further litigation or investigation into their other businesses"

          AND it goes on that tip pooling wasn't the real issue as much as having to share tips with that off site kitchen supplying grocery stores or taking the choice of losing employee health insurance. Nice folks.

          From "Sacred Commerce" a book written about CG in 2008

          ""because the perception is that we 'make' people be grateful. Apparently the god of materialism, the Hungry Ghost, finds thankfulness threatening. But we are not threatened."

          I don't find thankfulness threatening, but I find the whole Gratitude attitude threatening. I probably would have eaten there more often if I didn't always choke on those smarmy dish names insisting I be grateful.

          I remember sampling something from the Oakland Farmers market when they had a stand there. I said I liked it and mentioned I'd eat at the restaurants more often but I really didn't like dealing with the ... um, gratitude aspect. Those people's faces changed from smiles to frowns quicker than if you told a Hari Krishna that orange wasn't their color. The whole thing was just so ... Stepford ... to me.

          That Grub Street article is packed with lots more like the three week vacation in Hawaii at the CG compound where they took ALL the managers. Man, I am so surpressing a joke that would get this post deleted.

          And while chanting "I am broke" they went out and hired the most epensive labor law firm in the country.

          I am skeptical.

          1. re: rworange

            Here's the Grub Street article:


            "Covering the losses from the restaurant's take"? *Three* industrial-size paper shredders?

            "Our sacred enterprise, Cafe Gratitude, is sometimes accused of being a 'cult' ...." Yeah, calling it a "sacred enterprise" is really going to help counter that impression.

            I hadn't heard of Etheridge v. Reins. I guess CA tip pools can now include kitchen staff. Service charges a la Chez Panisse are the restaurant's to do with as it pleases.

      2. Holy S- , that is hilarious! Thank you for the laugh, Cheers

        1. per sfweekly, the newly opened branches of cafe gratitude in southern ca. owned by sons of the owners are not affected.

          3 Replies
          1. re: shanghaikid

            Does that include the one in the Cupertino Whole Foods?

            1. re: Tumkers

              no word yet on cupertino, so far santa cruz and venice beach are excluded from closing.

            2. re: shanghaikid

              Per the liquor licenses, the the San Francisco, San Rafael, Healdsburg, and Santa Cruz branches and Gracias Madre are owned by the same LLC, the Berkeley branch is owned directly by the Engelharts, and the LA branch is owned by another LLC. They said eight, so presumably the two Whole Foods outlets are closing as well.

            3. "In addition to not receiving her rest and meal periods, Stevens alleges that she is required to participate in an unreasonable and uncustomary tip pooling scheme that leaves her with a very small percentage of the tips she earns as a server. Specifically, Stevens alleges that after tipping out 20% of her daily tips to the 'central kitchen' — an offsite kitchen on 14th street — Stevens must then split the remaining 80% of her tips equally with all of the Café Gratitude staff, including the 'shift leaders' and retail employees."


              1. I am a flouter of labor laws.