Andrea Borgen is the owner of barcito - an LA restaurant with a no tipping policy. I read Andrea's story on medium and instantly knew we were soul sisters! Not just because she had implemented a no tipping policy at her restaurant, but because she wrote a post for medium explaining how hard it has been, what she's learned and why she isn't giving up on the idea. I'm a big fan of vulnerability and sharing the ups and downs of a world-changing life, so I reached out to her! I'm thrilled to share her interview below, and you can read the medium post here.
Website: barcito Instagram: @barcito
Tell us about your business. What do you do? Who do you serve? How long have you been at it?
We are an all-day cafe and late-night bar in Downtown Los Angeles, with a focus on coffee, cocktails and community. Being an approachable, affordable, neighborhood hang is our number two priority. Number one is our commitment to our employees - providing a vibrant work environment, with stable wages, and health insurance benefits, so they can take better care of our locals and regulars we love so dearly. By eliminating tipping, we've managed to do away with the (oftentimes sexist and racist) practice of tipping, while creating a more equitable workplace for both kitchen and wait staff alike. This September, we will have been in business for three years.
Why did you start your business?
I think that's a bit of a moving target and evolves as I, and the business, do. Initially, I felt there was a need for a more casual, more approachable dining experience, that wasn't burgers and beer. Over time, I've realized that building community - both inside and outside the four walls of the restaurant - is what gets me out of bed every morning, and inspires me to continue to push the envelope in this industry.
What does "social good business" or "values based earning" mean to you?
More often than not, for-profit business feels like a zero-sum game. Someone has to be taken advantage of, in order to improve the profit margin. I'd much rather come up with a business model, that not only works, but improves the living and working conditions of its employees, its consumers, and its community.
What is your favorite part about running a social good business or your favorite experience since you started?
I'm incredibly proud of the environment we've created, the relationships we've developed with our locals, and the dynamic that exists inside barcito on a daily basis. Even on the worst days, my staff and my guests are sure to cheer me up and remind me why I do what I do.
What is your biggest struggle in running a social good business?
It's...expensive. And so, the stakes are higher. If we don't hit our projected sales targets, a model like this becomes much more challenging to manage.
What would you like most to accomplish in the next year? 5 years?
I'd like to see more business continue to eradicate the antiquated and problematic practice of tipping. With minimum wage continuing to increase both here in California and across the nation, it's time the restaurant industry reconciles the fact that it was built on the backs of minimum wage earners and come up with sustainable ways to continue to do business, without leaving their employees behind.
Who are your business icons or mentors?
Working for Danny Meyer's restaurant group was certainly an influential time in my career, and I continue to look to his leadership when charting my own path. Most other "influencers" are writers I follow closely, whose work often picks apart food in the larger context of labor reform, social justice, and cultural impact: Ryan Sutton, Kat Kinsman, Helen Rosner, Besha Rodell, just to name a few.
What's your #1 tip for someone just getting started running a values-based business?
Do your homework. There is a reason this is not the norm. It's challenging. Very, very challenging. But, with the right due diligence, it can be equally rewarding.
What are your favorite conferences or retreats to attend?
Can't say there are any that I attend with any frequency, but I recently went to the United State of Women conference here in Los Angeles, and (WO)MAN WAS I INSPIRED. If you're unfamiliar, check 'em out!
What is the last book you read?
Oof. I've been horrible at books lately, just trying to keep up with my New Yorker and Atlantic subscriptions has felt like a full-time job!