Are You Ungrateful? Café Gratitude to Close After Employee Lawsuits

Café Gratitude, the popular vegan restaurant chain based in San Francisco, announced that it would close all eight of its Northern California locations after several former and current employees filed lawsuits against owners Matthew and Terces Englehart.

Best known for their affirmation-style menu items like “I am Dazzling” (Caesar salad) or “I am Extraordinary” (a vegan BLT), the chain also emphasizes a sustainable approach to its all organic, animal product-free foods and wide selection of raw foods, superfood desserts, beverages and fresh juices.

A statement released by the Engleharts said, “we believe we have done nothing wrong and our policies are completely legal, it will cost us too much money to defend them in court. Despite telling the attorneys that brought the lawsuits that the current structure and resources of Café Gratitude are insufficient to sustain and defend our community, they have refused to give up and are forcing us to close.”

The suits question the company’s policies and include a claim that the restaurant routinely uses an illegal tipping pool and allegations that the company illegally paid a salaried wage in order to avoid overtime pay of a bookkeeper.

This is not the first issue with disgruntled employees for the chain. In 2009, accusations that the company’s management forced its strong adherence to the Landmark Forum’s self-help system led to an expose by a regional newspaper. The report claimed employees were forced to participate in mandatory Landmark forum seminar regardless of their own personal beliefs about the program.

Café Gratitude opened a Los Angeles location earlier this year and has plans to open a Venice Beach location in early 2012.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: mary jane watson