Our Collective Model

The number of worker owners and employees fluctuates. Generally, we are comprised of about half owners (members), half workers. Every worker has the opportunity to explore membership after working a minimum of 6 months. There are several tasks to complete before one becomes eligible for membership. This includes shadowing worker-owners to learn about different facets within the business. As part of the process the worker will also attend meetings and complete a self-directed project. We intend each component to familiarize the worker with how the collective operates so that their decision to join is an informed one. Each new worker owner buys into the business to solidify their ownership.

There is a saying amongst cooperators that every worker-owner has two full time jobs: one is to sustain a thriving business, the other is to maintain a healthy democracy. We find this to be true that we need a varied skill set and endless stamina to meet the demands and nourish the complexities of each of these branches of the business.

Each worker-owner takes on responsibility outside the restaurant in addition to doing shift work. We designate “coordinators” for many aspects of the restaurant. We have coordinators for arts and entertainment (music and art shows), back of house (kitchen systems and food ordering), financial (bills, payroll and taxes), front of house (training, dining room), human resources (schedule and hiring), human relations (evaluations, mediation), maintenance (building repairs, inspections), public relations (advertising). Coordinators have autonomy to make certain decisions and spend money without consulting with the group. There are several committees through which worker-owners and workers can support coordinators and take on more responsibility incrementally.

We meet as a membership twice a month. This is time when we go over our financial reports, check in with new hires, make announcements, introduce ideas, set the dates for other meetings, create committees, and make a wide range of decisions. Anyone can add items to the agenda. We use rolling facilitation. We work on a consensus basis, though we can approve something with an 80% majority. If an owner opposes a decision, they retain the right to block the decision until the next meeting.

We also meet regularly to discuss non-business issues. Many area professionals have worked with us regarding our interpersonal skills, including Ron Copeland, Kai Degner, Larry Hoover, Dr. John Glick, Tim Ruebke, and graduate students from EMU’s Center for Justice and Peace. Our longest standing form of meeting to maintain our interpersonal health is a council, or “honesty meetings”. Here we use circle process. The rules are to be brief, be honest, and listen from the heart.

Our structure, our membership, the process by which we come to decisions, and the way we parse out responsibilities is constantly in flux as our the people who comprise the collective. So take this as a description of one incarnation of the LGC!

Our Sustainability

We at the Little Grill are constantly trying to find ways that we can act responsibly with our current and future social, environmental, and economic resources. Here are some examples of things we have implemented so far:

  • Fair trade coffee and tea
  • Local produce seasonally/as often as possible
  • Organic products: ketchup, tofu, grains and rice, carrots for juice, pinto beans, salad mix
  • Dr. bronner’s fair trade soap in restrooms
  • Recycled thrift store t-shirts for some of our screen prints
  • Non-bleached paper products
  • Stevia natural sweetener available at tables
  • Natural sodas
  • Supporting other workplace democracy projects around the nation including the producers of our Session beer and Slingshot organizers
  • Dishwashing by hand to save on water and dependency on expensive technology,
  • Building a network with local producers of breads, jams, maple syrup, t-shirts, etc. to keep money invested in the local economy,
  • Experimenting with food preservation and seasonal menus,
  • NO high fructose corn syrup needed to eat here,
  • Real maple syrup available for pancakes,
  • Free range chicken and eggs,
  • Free range grass-fed local beef,
  • Everything made from scratch,
  • Alternative proteins to help reduce meat consumption,
  • Bike racks out front to encourage pedal-powered customers,
  • Waste vegetable oil used to power vehicles,
  • Compost coffee grounds, egg shells and onion skins,
  • All leftover food waste used for compost at a local farm,
  • Support fundraisers regional environmental justice organizations,
  • Love,
  • Daily lunch specials designed to help minimize wasting leftover food,
  • Use of re-usable containers wherever possible instead of disposable (on our tables: sugar, jam, half&half, ketchup),
  • Buy and store in bulk to eliminate container waste (grains, beans, spices, etc.),
  • Re-use jam jars for smoothie glasses and beer,
  • Thrift store coffee mugs,
  • Donate at least 5% of profit to charity yearly,
  • Recycled paper napkins,
  • Compostable to-go containers, straws, and cups!