Now a six-cafe mini-empire, Ritual Coffee Roasters will offer employees shares of stock and the chance to be worker-owners at the company.
The year 2021 had not been a banner year for small-batch coffee chain Ritual Coffee Roasters. The chain suffered a public scandal back in June when owner Eileen Rinaldi’s eccentric character husband “Chicken John” Rinaldi screamed a racial epithet, which riled up the barista community and effectively forced the owner to fire her own husband. Then in October, the Haight Street location was hit by bullet fire in a drive-by shooting, and while thankfully no one was hurt, you can understand staff would be pretty rattled.
But 2021 may be ending on a fabulous note, for Ritual Coffee Roasters employees at least. Mission Local is reporting that Ritual Coffee Roasters will become worker-owned, eventually offering an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) where workers can buy ownership shares of stock in the company.
“I love what I do and I find it endlessly challenging and fulfilling and rewarding,” owner Eileen Rinaldi told Mission Local. “I would love for Ritual to operate for 80 years. To me, ESOP is the answer.”
It’s not really clear yet how this employee stock program will work — after all, this stock does not yet appear to exist. So this is all just in the planning phases. “Rinaldi will retain the majority of the shares — it’s still being decided how shares will be distributed — but hopes her stake will diminish each year,” Mission Local reports. “She can imagine a time when she will no longer own any.”
Of course, there have been times when companies made similar grand announcements and never followed through. Four Barrel Coffee announced they would become worker-owned in the wake of a 2018 sexual assault scandal, but as the Chronicle reported later that year, that shit never actually happened.
But Ritual doesn’t seem to be making this move for PR reasons. And given the degree to which their logo seemingly resembles the hammer and sickle, it seems philosophically in character that the company would make such a proletarian move.
“I think about like, oh, in 2055, there could be a 50th-anniversary party,” Rinaldi told Mission Local. “But I’m not going to be the one planning that party.”
Image: Andrew D. via Yelp