What can you expect from a pizzeria whose business model is a collective? Long lines and lack of options? Well, the the Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley has both of these in the most delicious ways and always to the tune of live music.
The worker-owned cheese shop, bakery and pizzeria has an enormous array of gourmet cheeses two doors down at the cheese shop. But the pizzeria itself has only 1 type of pizza per day and only 1 type of salad. Each lunch and dinner they have a different live band playing, fetching in droves of novelty seekers to see what the latest pizza/music/gourmet cheese combination may be.
I heard about the Cheese Board Collective completely by word of mouth from various people in the Bay Area. Fans are enthusiastic about them and plentiful. It was constantly on people's list of best pizza both for their wide cheese variety and their simplicity of making 1 really good, different gourmet pizza each day. With combinations like brussel sprouts and yam or squash and green apple, they are an innovative collective which has left its mark all around the San Francisco Bay.
So what does it really mean to be a worker-owned collective? I interviewed part-owner Ridwan Schleicher in the video below to find out.
Put simply, all 55 owners are both workers and owners of the business. Decisions are made at meetings where each employee gets 1 vote and everyone gets paid the same wage regardless of how long they've worked there. He describes the collective business model as "a great way of sharing this special business" and one that "really works."
The Cheese Board opened in 1967 and has been a collective since '71. Since then it expanded gradually to a bakery with a Friday night pizza crowd to serving pizza 5 days a week for lunch and dinner. They seek to get as many ingredients locally as possible including the water buffalo milk they use to make melt-in-your-mouth soft serve ice-cream. They have also developed their own legendary green hot sauce to sell in-store and give out for free with pizza made with orange juice, poblano peppers and cilantro.