Worker-owned restaurant flips restaurant industry on its head

Jared Blustein never thought he’d open a restaurant, until one day he thought to open a restaurant where every single staff member was also an owner. Thus, The Allium, Calgary’s first worker coop restaurant was born. 

The restaurant launched in mid-August of 2019 in the heart of Downtown Calgary, boasting a locally-sourced vegetarian menu including mushroom spaetlzle, buckwheat polenta, and spaghettini, with portions big enough to share. 

“The menu is meant to open discourse,” Blustein says. “To encourage our predominantly meat-forward city to see vegetarian food differently.” 

Blustein and a handful of the founding coop members began hatching their plans through Thrive’s Incubator program in 2018, a free program where start-up and aspiring entrepreneurs go in with an idea, and after 24 weeks of one-to-one coaching and classroom time, come out with a full-fledged business plan and a goal to launch their social enterprises within the following year. 

 “Incubator has been paramount to the creation of this cooperative,” Blustein says. Not just to write the business plan but the measured steps to take before making this dream a reality.” 

“It helped me take that leap, I don’t think we would have made it this far without Incubator.” 

An avowed anti-capitalist, Blustein took issue with the pecking order of the restaurant industry. By running The Allium as a worker-owned enterprise, where everyone has a say in the operations and a share of the profits, he and the 12-member team are turning the industry on its head.  

Blustein hopes The Allium serves as an example for future social entrepreneurs and restauranteurs that there’s more than one way to run a business and succeed.