Gainesville, Florida's Worker-owned Restaurant: Civilization

Civilization opened in Gainesville in 2009 serving ethnic comfort foods from around the globe, many vegetarian entrees, sourced locally and organically whenever possible.  Civilization is a restaurant where all the workers, chefs and bus boys partially own the business.  Service is friendly and caring, perhaps aided by the fact that everyone shares in the profits at a worker-owned cooperative.  (Yelp reviews)


An interview of members Anny Murray and John Proser, copied below, explains what being a co-op member means to them. Also posted are some basics on their bylaws and steps to starting a worker cooperative. 

"This is the first time I actually feel like an adult working in a business. My opinion matters and I have a voice. So even though I am forty, I never have really felt like an adult in a business type situation before."  Ann Murray wears many hats at Civilization. Often times she waits tables, preps food for Terranova catering jobs, bakes food for the Famer's Market, helps calculate pay roll, and her newest venture: trying to get a dishwashing shift. With over fifteen employees/owners many take on various roles just like Murray.  "Right now I try and help out as much as I can" Murray says.

Similar to Murrays approach to the business, John Prosser, the main person for organizing this cooperative, tries to figure out ways to best help out at Civilization.  "I am the guy that tries to coordinate the different areas of the business and tries to facilitate everyone's getting along. I try to help people better communicate with others as to not cause anger, resentment or strife" Prosser says.  Prosser describes qualities’ needed in order to be a successful co-op member. For instance, being honest and open-minded are imperative attributes to acquire. Prosser worked many years in traditional restaurant models as a cook and did not like how most decisions that were made did not involve the workers.  "I don't like the way the economy is so undemocratic. At Civilization we let each person be heard and hold weekly meetings for members voice their opinions. The point of meetings is to share ideas and complains and to figure out how to solve the problems."

Murray also believes that you must being willing to listen to everyone's opinion and from there come up with a superior answer.” Understand a decision made by a group is often times a better thing than by a single person."