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How restaurateur Camilla Marcus turned her Westbourne café into a showcase for conscious capitalism

The New York City restaurateur created a new model for training and compensating employees.

How restaurateur Camilla Marcus turned her Westbourne café into a showcase for conscious capitalism
[Illustration: Matt Chinworth]

When Camilla Marcus opened the 35-seat vegetarian café Westbourne in New York’s SoHo neighborhood two and a half years ago, she went beyond grain bowls and reclaimed-wood tables. “I wanted to embrace conscious capitalism in the food world—to run a business that stood for more,” says Marcus, who previously ran business development for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. At the end of March, Westbourne became the first restaurant in New York City to receive TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste certification from Green Business Certification, which also administers LEED green-building credentials. In another rare move, Marcus partnered with a local childcare center to provide staff with free childcare. During the pandemic, she continues to pay health insurance for employees who opted in. Here’s a closer look at the Westbourne model.

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Childcare 
Westbourne is piloting a program to offer its 30 employees subsidized childcare from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. when the restaurant is open.

Recycled Waste 
Westbourne pays a hauler to transport some 1,400 pounds of organic waste each month to a farm in upstate New York, avoiding landfills and incinerators.

No Hierarchy 
Restaurant employees rotate to work at every station: washing dishes, cooking, and serving. There is no pay difference between the front and back of house.

Purchasing 
Westbourne assesses each food and wine supplier, ensuring that they pay their workers fairly and use recyclable materials.

To-Go Packaging 
Bowls and utensils for takeout are made from compostable materials and bioplastics. Catered food is delivered on ceramics that are brought back to the restaurant.

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