The San Francisco-based chain Café Gratitude just invaded Los Angeles, opening a new outpost on Larchmont Boulevard. For the uninitiated, Café Gratitude specializes in the sort of raw vegan fare you'd rather scrape off your shoe than actually consume. Just kidding. In truth, the food isn't really bad at all.
At most locations we've visited, you sit at communal tables and order dishes saddled with tapioca-brained affirmations for names, like "I am Peaceful," or "I am Fulfilled." The servers beam and generally make you wish Larry David would walk in and make a scene. While we've heard positives--for example, the new location is offering a healthy dish on a loose sliding scale to customers in need--the chain has received some negative press too.
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In 2009, the East Bay Express published a story about Café Gratitude's owners' adherence to the self-transformation philosophy espoused by Landmark Education, which grew out of the popular Erhard Seminar Training program of the 70s and 80s.
The article suggested that Café Gratitude employees were strongly encouraged to take Landmark classes and that managers were practically required to do so. According to the article, repeated refusals were met with pressure, and subsequently demotions and terminations. Even if all the bad vibes were, as they might have been, conjured up by grumpy ex-employees with bones to pick, we can't imagine a more irritating-sounding place to work:
"It's the philosophy, not the food, that appears to drive the company. Managers and the owners often describe Café Gratitude as 'a school of transformation disguised as a cafe.' Managers lead daily 'clearings,' during which employees answer a series of questions before 're-creating' each other in a process aimed at freeing the workers to be present and alive in the moment for the job. Hugging among staff is frequent."
We're surprised anyone ever makes it past orientation.