Dishwasher now a partner in restaurant Noma: 5 other examples of staff with stake in company

 Employee Ali Sonko poses in the kitchen of Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, Feb 28, 2017.
Employee Ali Sonko poses in the kitchen of Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, Feb 28, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

Ali Sonoko, a dishwasher at world-renowned Michelin-starred restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, was made a partner of the lauded restaurant.

Sonoko, an immigrant from Gambia, has toiled in the restaurant's kitchen since it opened in 2003.

Noma has ranked No. 1 on the annual much-watched World's 50 Best Restaurants list, organised by Britain's Restaurant Magazine, on a several occasions.

Employee-ownership programmes are popular in industries such as finance, engineering and manufacturing. But there are also employee-owned grocery chains as well as architecture firms.

In the United States, the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO), a non-profit organisation, provides information on Employee Stock Option Plans, which are better known as ESOPs.

In some cases, companies also offer profit-sharing and other types of equity structures.

Here are five other restaurants and food and beverage chains that have given their employees options to be part of their business.

1. RELISH AND WILD OATS, SINGAPORE


Chef Willin Low of Wild Rocket. PHOTO: ST FILE

Chef-owner Willin Low of Wild Rocket restaurant in Mount Emily offers loyal staff opportunities to become shareholders in his restaurant group that includes burger restaurant Relish at Cluny Court in Bukit Timah and casual bar-eatery Wild Oats in Punggol Park.

Employees are given a choice to buy shares at a discounted rate and if they are unable to pay the full amount upfront, it can be deducted from their monthly pay cheques.

He started this programme in 2006, a year after he opened Wild Rocket.

In an interview with The Sunday Times in 2011, he said: "The whole point is to give people who make the business happen a stake in it. It is important for people who work hard to see tangible benefits."

The shareholders also receive dividends.

2. RAM RESTAURANT AND BREWERY, UNITED STATES


PHOTO: FACEBOOK/RAM RESTAURANT AND BREWERY

The former family-owned restaurant and brewery chain, which has 23 outlets across six states in the United States, is now fully employee-owned.

The chain began in Lakewood, Washington in 1971.

In 2014, some 2,000 Ram employees acquired ownership through a then-newly formed Employee Ownership Stock Plan.

Stock is allocated to team members over time at no cost to them.

Go to its website and you'll see a banner that says "Proudly Team Member Owned".

3. ZACHARY'S CHICAGO PIZZA, UNITED STATES


PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ZACHARY'S CHICAGO PIZZA, INC

The restaurant, which has four outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area, started in 1983.

It began its employee-ownership programme in 2003 and in 2011, became 100 per cent owned by its employees.

The founders had used an ESOP as a means to sell the company.

Employees receive company shares based on their pay and how long they have worked in the company.

The company also has a dedicated ESOP committee of employee owners who work to educate the crew on the programme, benefits and responsibilities of being an employee owner.

4. ARIZMENDI BAKERY, UNITED STATES


PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ARIZMENDI

Arizmendi Bakery is a chain of worker-owned cooperatives with four outlets in the greater San Francisco area. Each cooperative is owned and run by a different group of individuals.

The first Arizmendi Bakery opened in Oakland 1997, and expanded into San Francisco three years later.

Each outlet makes its own breads from scratch and also serve pizzas at lunch time.

The bakeries are part of the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, which was founded in 1996.

The association comprises seven member businesses: six cooperative bakeries, and a development and support collective.

Members share a common mission, ongoing accounting, legal, educational and other support services, and support the development of new member cooperatives by the association.

5. HARPOON BREWERY, UNITED STATES


Employee owner Shaun Pate. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/HARPOON BREWERY

The craft beer brewery's shareholders sold 48 per cent of their shares to start an Employee Stock Ownership Plan in 2014.

The brewery was founded in 1986 in Boston, Massachusetts, and currently produces more than 10 types of beers, ales and stouts.

It was started by three friends who, after travelling through Europe and experiencing the myriad types of beer available there, wanted to nurture a craft beer-drinking culture in the US.