Cooperative restaurants: chimera or practical solution?


Miguel Rubio, one of 14 worker-owners out of 28 employees at A Slice of New York pizzeria in the Bay Area, was one who was terrified of the responsibility that came with his new role as owner. For years, before the two-unit pizzeria became a cooperative in 2017, Rubio spent his days largely shaping the dough, baking pizzas and calzones, and managing the cash register. But when he returned to the business to become a worker-owner earlier in June, he had to make decisions far beyond baking his pizzas. “I’m supposed to have an opinion, to have a say in everything,” Rubio said. “In our food orders, in our recipes, in the quality of the food, in everything.”

For the store’s 15th anniversary event last September, Rubio reflected with colleagues not only on the cost of the pizza slices and the number of people they would need for the event, but also on marketing ideas to generate future income, including a dough cutting ceremony. with local elected officials, and whether the free distribution of cannoli would attract new customers. He regularly texts his fellow owners around the clock and has conducted recipe research for bi-weekly meetings that go far beyond determining the right way to chop peppers or the right amount of sauce for a stromboli. . “If you only bake pizza, all you have to worry about is stretching your dough,” Rubio said. “You don’t think about the cost of food. You don’t think about work. You don’t think about the rent. You don’t think about advertising or marketing or stuff like that. But being an owner, you have to think about all that.

ASONY worker-owners have much more to learn – and in some cases, unlearn – as managers of their pizzeria. They need to feel comfortable giving constructive criticism and intervening in situations their former employers might have handled in the past, such as when an employee recently needed help while losing blood. -cold with a difficult customer. Yet Rubio recognized that owning and running a business was the next step in his career, which made membership in a worker co-op, especially one whose logo he had previously inked on his arm, far too perfect. .

“You basically jump on a moving train. As the business is established, the recipes have been established, you don’t buy thousands of dollars of equipment to start your own business, ”said Rubio. “Believing in A Slice of New York and all that it means and wanting to own it, I think that’s exactly what I wanted.”

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