Quick Take:

A walkout by about half of Cafe Gratitude’s staff earlier this month does not appear to have been successful. Four workers refused to come into work, seeking an explanation as to why a fellow employee had been fired. Ownership let them go in response, and the cafe is now open one fewer day per week.

A walkout and protest by former employees of Café Gratitude has so far been unsuccessful.


As of Thursday, none of the former employees had regained their positions, and they were beginning to look for other jobs. “Unfortunately [there’s] no movement at all. People are pretty discouraged,” a former manager told Lookout. “I just updated my resume as well.”

On Nov. 6, a group of ex-employees posted to Instagram and Facebook calling for the public to boycott the downtown Santa Cruz restaurant over the unfair firings of five former managers. The group called for owner Matthew Manzo to demote a general manager, whom the group accused of improper scheduling practices, and for the workers who had been fired to be reinstated. Manzo refused.

Lookout Santa Cruz reported last week on the turbulence, which comes during a severe, historic labor shortage in the restaurant industry. Employees are in high demand in the service sector nationwide, and the squeeze is being felt by local businesses as well.

Café Gratitude was previously open seven days a week but is now closed on Mondays. Management could not be reached to explain why the change occurred.

The Café Gratitude in downtown Santa Cruz is independently owned but is associated with a chain of restaurants, all of which serve organic, plant-based food, that was founded in 2003 by Matthew and Terces Engelhart in San Francisco. Manzo is the Engelharts’ son and opened the Santa Cruz location on Lincoln Street downtown in 2011.

Lily Belli is the food and drink correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Over the past 15 years since she made Santa Cruz her home, Lily has fallen deeply in love with its rich food culture, vibrant agriculture...