Cafe Gratitude Employees Grateful to Break Free

Former employees allege they were pressured to take self help classes

By Sajid Farooq
|  Thursday, Aug 20, 2009  |  Updated 2:45 PM PDT
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Cafe Gratitude Employees Grateful to Break Free

Law Geek

A man poses behind one of the happy signs in a Cafe Gratitude bathroom.

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What are some Café Gratitude employees grateful for? To have broken free from the cult.

The raw-food serving restaurant chain is popular for serving organic, vegan friendly food but for some employees the food is not what makes Café Gratitude unique.

Employees tell The East Bay Express the culture at the café is “closely interwoven with a self-help philosophy of personal transformation called the Landmark Forum” and managers are encouraged to recruit new members to the seminars, which promote self-improvement through taking control of one’s life.

Management says the seminars are not required but are encouraged because they create “a better work environment.” But some employees say it actually makes them uncomfortable and one manager says she was eventually fired for refusing to go to the $500 seminar, which employees are asked to pay for half.

"It is definitely a challenge for those people to stay comfortable saying no," Paddy Smith, the general manager of the Berkeley Café Gratitude, told the paper.

Ash Ritter, a former manager of the now closed San Francisco Sunset location of the café, said she was asked what her resistance was to the program and told to “lean into that discomfort and see where you can grow."

Ritter grew her discomfort right out of the restaurant.
 

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