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Camilla Marcus Transcript

 “"Camilla Marcus Wants to Change the Restaurant World” Transcript

Natasha Pickowicz: Hi, this is Natasha Pickowicz and you're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe. You're the bombe.

Kerry Diamond: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the number one female focused food podcast in the universe. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond. Today's guest is Camilla Marcus, the founder of West-Bourne, a mindful all-day eatery in New York City. Camilla is one of the most dynamic women in the restaurant industry and she's tackling a big issue that impacts not just women, but everyone. The issue of childcare. Today's show is sponsored by Sugar Free 3, the new book by author, Michelle Promaulayko, the former editor-in-chief of Women's Health and Cosmopolitan magazine. It's shocking how much sugar is snuck into the foods you least expect it to be in like yogurt, wheat bread and salad dressing crush cravings and supercharge your health with this simple three-week plan. Sugar Free 3 is available at major book sellers nationwide.

Kerry Diamond: Before we get to today's episode, let's take care of some housekeeping. Tickets are on sale right now for Cherry Bombe Jubilee taking place Sunday, April 5th at the Brooklyn Expo. This conference is the largest gathering of women in the food space in the US. Some great stuff has happened at past Jubilees. We know of attendees who have gotten book deals and distribution deals right on the spot and lots of friendships have been made. Don't miss out. Visit to get your ticket and we hope to see you there. Now, here's my conversation with Camilla Marcus of West-Bourne. When did you first have the idea for this enlightened all day eatery?

Camilla Marcus: So I was thinking a lot about it when I was at USHG again seeing... I think I started really realizing how much people were targeting, especially millennial females and I sort of felt, "All right. You hear it all the time, but none of them are owned or operated by millennial females. They're not financed by millennial females." Sitting in many rooms hearing that language, I'm like, "Okay, maybe I have something to say about that given I am a millennial female and I don't know that millennial females want to continue to be talked at by not their demographic and not their own community."

Camilla Marcus: And then started to think, "Okay, what does my community really want? What is important to us?" I grew up with a very philanthropic family. They're very community-oriented. They're very locally focused in those efforts, and starting to see at that time conscious capitalism super on the rise in retail. It was the early days of Warby, Tom's and a lot of these businesses coming out of Everlane and realizing, hey, it's interesting. On one hand hospitality is super charitable. Most restaurants give a ton. You know owning, Smith [Canteen]. The asks are never ending, and yet again, seeing everyone be so in love with and so loyal to a brand like Warby Parker, yet you make more decisions about food and beverage in your daily life than absolutely anything else.

Camilla Marcus: You have multiple meals a day, you have multiple coffees. We live very socially and out of our homes I think now more so than ever, and no one was planting that flag of, "Hey, you can give back while you just go about your daily routine. And by the way, food and beverage is the epicenter of bringing people together and such a big part of our daily routine." So I started thinking about it then and really was a little reluctant. I don't know that I dreamed of being an entrepreneur. People ask me that all the time. Starting to think about that so much more than what I was doing in my day to day, and my dad finally kind of gave me a kick in the butt and he's like, "It's all you talk about. So it's getting annoying. You have to at least try it. So what? If you try it and you flop, then you've at least learned something, but you'll probably regret not actually trying it. And what better time than the present. You very clearly see some sort of opportunity and something missing."

Camilla Marcus: And so I always share this and it is dead true. One of my favorite books of all time is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. My dad wrote me an email that said just do it-

Kerry Diamond: The founder of Nike?

Camilla Marcus: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Sent me an email with just do it in the subject every day for a month. So I had to get him to stop the emails.

Kerry Diamond: Why is that your favorite book?

Camilla Marcus: I think people don't even realize... Hindsight is 20/20 and I think we live in a world with a lot of revisionist history and a lot of interesting ways, both good and bad. I don't think people even realize he hated the name Nike. He didn't seek out to create Nike. He wanted to be a shoe wholesaler. That was his initial absolute die hard dream. He just put one step in front of the other and really cared about his people and took a chance on other humans, and that led to what we know as Nike today.

Camilla Marcus: So I love his story because to me that's my style of entrepreneurship, and I think the greatest businesses, the greatest brands and the greatest movements are created a lot more haphazardly, a lot more serendipitously and much more by a collective than we kind of tell ourselves, and we believe. I'm a very anti-Steve Jobs person.

Kerry Diamond: Meaning the individual?

Camilla Marcus: I don't think that someone who's a horrible human should be idolized. It hurts my soul.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, that part of it, okay.

Camilla Marcus: And I do think that really embracing and pushing a collective and being open with, I'm not... Phil Knight is the first person to say I'm not the genius. I'm not the only one with ideas and I'm not someone on the mountain that led us to the iPod. There's so many other sort of random steps, and I liked the way that Phil Knight is really vulnerable and open. It was just kind of a crap shoot. A little bit of ping-pong and it leads to somewhere great if you trust your gut and you evolve, and you pick and partner up and grow and develop great people.

Camilla Marcus: I mean, most of his initial team that stayed with him forever had no qualifications whatsoever. And I like that too because I think taking a chance on someone with the things you can't teach is more important. So I just identify a lot with how he thinks about people and his business.

Kerry Diamond: So you have this plans to your restaurant, and it's not just any kind of restaurant, you're flipping the whole model over.

Camilla Marcus: We like to be busy.

Kerry Diamond: So let's talk about the menu first and then we can go into the specifics of the operations. But tell us what the menu is at west~bourne. What was your vision?

Camilla Marcus: So the vision was, I sort of say it's accidentally vegetarian, decidedly wholesome. I grew up in Los Angeles where when you eat vegetarian, whether it's at a restaurant or in your home, you didn't call it meatless Monday. It was just Monday. Having access to such amazing produce and being so health and wellness centered just as a community, long before it was trendy like today, I realized when you looked around a place like New York or other cities or other communities that isn't the norm and all the vegetarian concepts to me, very alienating, preachy with a lot of artificial ingredients and, quote-unquote, "chicken wings." It's like I don't want, quote-unquote "chicken wings". I don't even know what chicken with an apostrophe is. What is going on? And that's just not how I was raised.

Camilla Marcus: And so starting to see that, realizing how center that is to climate change and changing consumers to thinking about, it's not just about gas and oil in our cars, it's really about our daily lives. So thinking about a menu that minimize food waste and was really thoughtful about incorporating ingredients at restaurants we're throwing out, I mean, again, being raised in restaurants that hunt for the perfect slice of carrot is soul crushing when you see how much is thrown out.

Camilla Marcus: Even in the early days, I remember no one even knew what action was. They were one of the first composters and a lot of restaurants weren't even... No one was talking about composting, and I was like the hippie California girl at 23 years old. Like, "But why wouldn't you? Let's get someone to do it." So really thinking about the menu both on the food waste and changing consumer preferences to support a more sustainable community, and also just being delicious and exciting and representing dishes. Everything on the menu really harks back to things that I grew up with.

Kerry Diamond: There's such a California vibe.

Camilla Marcus: And a lot of nods to LA specifically. LA locals when they come in and they're like, "I know exactly what this is a nod to really," it sort of warms my heart. There's a little bit of odes in every dish to those places that are probably less known, and having a menu that really flew day to night. So to me a lot of it was also being able to say yes a lot of times. I won't name the restaurant, but I was at a restaurant recently and I was taking my brother and we ordered everything and halfway through the meal they came over and they're like, "We can't serve you that dish that you ordered." And I go, "Well, why not?" And they said, "Well, the server messed up and they gave you the lunch menu."

Camilla Marcus: I was like, "Okay. We're halfway through the meal and that was the entree. So can you suggest something? What's going on?" And they're like, "I got really mad at him. He shouldn't have given you the wrong menu." It's those sorts of interactions where I was like, "Okay, but you have the eggs in the walk-in."

Kerry Diamond: That's awkward.

Camilla Marcus: "Just poach the eggs. What's going on?" You can't just custom order everything to make an operation run and have a point of view, but we did try and have a menu that flowed day to night in service of my personal preference, which is sometimes I want an egg sandwich at night with a glass of wine. And sometimes I always tease people like, "We sell a ton of pie before 10:00 AM." It's unbelievable. I mean, being playful in that and sort of blowing. Again, if the goal is to give back and be part of someone's routine, then really being exciting and interesting day to night was really the core premise.

Kerry Diamond: Now, tell us operationally, people don't have specific job titles, right? Everybody is trained to do every job, which is something I always wanted to try to pull off but never could at my place. Tell us more about that and how you do it.

Camilla Marcus: Yeah. I mean, again, I think one of the biggest things I learned at Union Square Hospitality Group actually was really my soul is in the, quote-unquote, "back of house". I'm much more a chef in nature. I've actually never held a front of house position, which most people are very surprised by. They're like, "Oh, but you're so friendly and outgoing." I'm like, "Actually, I'm very clumsy and break a lot of things." In spending a lot of time through all the different restaurants, including Shake Shack in that time a chef would just say to me casually like, "I've always thought maybe I would be a better server or maybe I would be a better som, but there's just no opportunity. How do I switch? I'm like rising the ranks here. I'm a sous chef. How do I tell XYZ executive chef that maybe this isn't the path?"

Camilla Marcus: And a lot were leaving to switch. A lot were leaving and taking baseline back waiter or bar back job to get back into the front of house and vice versa. A lot of servers would say to me, "I've always wanted to cook, but like I don't really have experience and I'm already on the ranks here and so I can't switch." And so I started seeing, "Okay, I feel like we're losing a lot of talent because there's no ground training program, and no one really is paying attention and realizing it." And similarly, I'm lucky, I speak Spanish growing up in California and no one really considers porters and dishwashers part of their team.

Camilla Marcus: A lot of people don't even look them in the eye. They don't know their names. They don't treat them well. Even amongst the greatest restaurants. And that system also is really bothersome to me. There's the lore that there's upward mobility, but we all know that that's very few and far between and not really an encouraged path. So you've career porters, which to me, what are we saying and what are we telling the rest of the team that that's okay? To me hospitality has such a unique place economically and socially across our country.

Camilla Marcus: It is the one of the lowest barriers to entry job opportunities. There's a million restaurants in every single state. They're always looking for talent and people willing to take care of others, and there's real career growth. You just have to really like taking care of others, be hardworking, be focused, show up on time and sky's really the limit. To me, that's powerful. So why do we have this set hierarchy that's really limiting what people can do? And to me sending a really bad message to those who do want to get into the ground floor and really make something of themselves. I didn't like those dynamics.

Camilla Marcus: And so I just decided what if we, similar to other industries, we got rid of porters and dishwashers. So West-Bourne does not have either of those roles. We all rotate on dish, including myself. We all take care of the restaurant, maintenance wise, top to bottom, and then every single employee comes in as a team member and then they rotate through all positions. That includes culinary, that includes guest facing. I've banned the words front of house and back of house. And the goal is that... And everyone gets espresso trained. So we have a real espresso machine. It's not automatic. I love when people come from those types of coffee shops and I'm like, "No, you don't know anything about coffee."

Kerry Diamond: That's so funny. I had some at canteen and we would advertise for a barista. Someone would come in and they literally just came from a place where they push a button. And I was like, "Oh no."

Camilla Marcus: Exactly. And I always say to them, "Look, we could have that machine, but then you're not learning about coffee, and then you don't understand why coffee is expensive. You don't understand why it's precious. You don't understand there's a science behind it." We actually use it as the training ground for culinary. I always say to them it's really about wait time and temperature, which in a lot of ways is the basis of cooking. So if you can really understand how to pull a great espresso and how to dial in, and how to taste something and know it's off, that's actually the seedling for can you cook.

Camilla Marcus: So it's interesting to see even that. No one gets coffee trained in restaurants unless you're on beverage. And same with wine. We wine train everyone the exact same. That was something that I personally was always interested in and I would always ask at USHG, "Hey, can I join that wine class?" And they would say, "Well, you're not a som. You're not a beverage director. You're not in the bev team."

Camilla Marcus: I'm like, "I have a palette. I have an interest. Why can't I sit in? I get it. I'm corporate, but why aren't these classes shared? Why isn't all of this an open book?" And again, as someone who likes to learn a lot at the same time, I think I just believed more that the human brain functions better and is optimized more. I think our jobs in the day to day can feel like a grind. And so to me this system is a way to snap the brain out of that and create constant challenge and constant evolution for our own team members to say, "Okay. I can work towards the next station, even on a station." I'm learning something new.

Camilla Marcus: Even if I'm not on beverage yet, I can go to a wine class and learn about something different. And I think appreciating what everyone else does. There's a lot of angst in restaurants and I would always say not only front and back of house, but I think what people don't realize is restaurants versus corporate team, there's a lot of angst. And I was lucky in my job because of development I was with the restaurant teams a lot and I cook so you have a little bit of in a different way.

Camilla Marcus: I always say to them like, "It's just different types of hard. I promise you, yes, it seems ivory tower to have a marketing person in the office 10 blocks away. But you, for example, as a chef, when you leave, your job is done. When we leave, we're on call. We're on calls, we're on text. We're addressing things.

Kerry Diamond: I know. I've done all kinds of jobs. I think restaurants are the hardest jobs. Working in actual eateries is the hardest job.

Camilla Marcus: And I think they're different because there's no such thing as two days off.

Kerry Diamond: Corporate life is easier.

Camilla Marcus: It depends on your job. I think that not having two days off, there's no such thing as travel without work. There's no real checking out. So there is a little bit-

Kerry Diamond: You mean when you have a corporate job?

Camilla Marcus: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: I know, but you can fuck around more than anybody in a restaurant. I think of a number of times like either you'll walk past one of your employees and you're like, "What are you doing?" And they're on the J Crew website or something. No one who works in a restaurant is on the J Crew website. You literally are working from the very second you walk in to the second you walk out. And I think the adrenaline, the pressure, all of that is so condensed in that work period and that's... You can find relief when you have a desk job, let's say.

Camilla Marcus: The upside though is that you also get immediate feedback and immediate gratification, which I do remind our teams a lot. When you serve someone or you cook something and someone comes back and says, "Oh". On our restaurant there's no coming back because it's all in the open. Guests will walk back and be like that was awesome. No one is patting your back on-

Kerry Diamond: The corporate gratification is your paycheck.

Camilla Marcus: Exactly.

Kerry Diamond: Which is a little different from the restaurant paycheck.

Camilla Marcus: Our goal is really just to create much more of a level playing field and to create a lot more cross collaboration. I tell the team I never want to hear, that's not my job no matter what from anyone.

Kerry Diamond: Tell me, how is it working? For someone who's listening who has their own place, who's like, "I do want to break those hierarchies. I want less separation between front of house and back of house." What have some of the hiccups been? If they want to put that into practice, what advice do you have?

Camilla Marcus: Interestingly, I mean a lot of my friends in restaurants said to me, "You're totally unknown. This is a crazy concept top to bottom. Plus, this has never been done before. Who are you to forge this?" And friends, really people who just didn't want me to fall on my face even though sounds kind of mean, they said, "No one will ever work for you. You will not be able to hire anyone." And I said, "Well, I'm willing to take that chance." There's just something in me that tells me there are other people like me. In fact, we have seen that. I mean, our tenure on our team, even with team members is extremely high.

Camilla Marcus: I mean, we have at least half our team there for two years, which is very unheard of through an opening. You usually turn pretty tough. Interestingly for us, it's actually created a really good gating mechanism. I think people who don't fit, don't fit very quickly and it's very obvious. And it's not for everyone. I tell people in interviews, "Look, this is not a regular job. This takes a very certain person. But I do think people who are in it to win it and really love this industry, and are really looking to develop as people, even if this isn't their longterm career, they flourish, and you see so much coming out of them."

Camilla Marcus: I mean, so many people discovered the love of cooking, who had no clue. We've had a ton of people really fall in love with wine who never had any exposure to it. So what I've seen is humans really flourishing into such a fuller version of themselves. And to me as a leader, there's nothing more rewarding than to see someone discover a new talent, discover a new passion, and have that open up a lot of opportunity on our own team to have someone who we didn't know is good at that.

Kerry Diamond: Are you still hiring through The Door?

Camilla Marcus: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kerry Diamond: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Camilla Marcus: Yeah. So we hire through our charitable partner. We fund the hospitality training as part of their 360 program and then we hire from them.

Kerry Diamond: And The Door is based in Soho?

Camilla Marcus: it's two blocks from us, right on Broome. And I would say about-

Kerry Diamond: What's their mission overall?

Camilla Marcus: So they are full circle. There's health services, mental health services, arts, career, education, full 360 for youth. So it's anywhere from about 13 to 25 and they service about 10,000 young people a year. And the goal is really to provide anything that someone needs. So someone coming in who has any sort of issue, needs support in any realm, no questions asked. They're there. And one element of that as part of the career coaching and a career track is a culinary track. So they have a small... It's about a six-month program for training in cooking. They cook dinner for the whole building every single night, and then we are one of their main feeders into working in hospitality.

Kerry Diamond: So all of your hires are through The Door?

Camilla Marcus: Not all. It varies. It depends on who's coming in and out. And then we also actually hire from a lot of similar programs. So we've been working with Emma's Torch, Food and Finance High School. It's interesting, once we announced our program, every nonprofit in the city called us and said, "We're dying to please people." And people that understand what's required to get from A to B. Because even if you have been going through The Door program or something like the BCC, even Food and Finance High School, they still had never worked in a commercial professional kitchen before. And again, our system's pretty active at... We have baseline training. And even if someone's come from that program or never cooked or never worked in this industry before, even first jobs, we assume everyone has the same base level and we're ground up training them.

Camilla Marcus: So it allows someone to really ease into in a much smoother way. By contrast, you asked about advice, for the restaurateurs, you have to know who your system attracts and is going to really develop and connect with and who won't, and be okay with that. I always say I think if you're a brand for everyone, you're really a brand for no one.

Camilla Marcus: I think similarly with jobs. If you're an employer for everyone, you're really an employer for no one. I think where we really shine is not the professional servers of the world. And we've had a few come our way who said, "I want to do it differently, and they end up going right back to fine dining where things are structured." They think they want a change and they don't. So to me, I think it's about knowing your own team base and being honest with them, and then also being prepared that look a lot... And probably will leave because they say, "Yeah, we don't want porters and dishwashers," but you also have to be willing to do parts of that job.

Kerry Diamond: The Door is still your main charitable partner though, right?

Camilla Marcus: Correct.

Kerry Diamond: You donate 1% of all revenue to them?

Camilla Marcus: 1% of all top line sales. We have a grant through the Robin Hood Foundation that goes to The Door for the hospitality training program.

Kerry Diamond: That's amazing.

Camilla Marcus: Yeah. We're about to hit $50,000 which we're very excited about.

Kerry Diamond: Congratulations. That's fantastic.

Camilla Marcus: And that's everything. Events, catering, products, in store. Anything we touch or do, anytime you see our name that give back is part of every single element.

Kerry Diamond: Amazing. We'll be right back with Camilla Marcus of West-Bourne after this quick break.

Jess Zeidman: Hello, this is producer Jess Zeidman. You know we have a podcast, but did you also know we have a magazine? We do and we just released our 14th issue. It's all about the intersection of food and fashion. We have five incredible cover girls including chef and activist, Angela Dimayuga, and guess what? You might even see a story or two written by a certain Radio Cherry Bombe producer about which footwear chefs prefer in the kitchen and my favorite vegetable, cabbage. Subscribe now for more information about all things, Cherry Bombe Magazine, visit

Kerry Diamond: All right. Now, we're going to jump to the part that we're really here for to talk to you about, what are you even calling it, your new daycare program that everyone is really shocked and fascinated by.

Camilla Marcus: Yeah. Well you've heard, I think through this, I like to do everything differently and I don't like problems and solved. I know my team is like, "You just never hear the word no. Do you?" I go, "Nope. I definitely don't." What we started seeing in the early days, in the first couple of months of opening was a lot of parents unable to show up on time for work and consistently. A lot of times it was team members, we had already tagged as future management and we're really developing and were really shining in our system and our program. We would work with them and say, "Okay, we'll figure out something for a month. We'll change hours. You can have a specific schedule. Grandma can no longer watch their child, let's figure out something else." But it just never stopped.

Camilla Marcus: That month would turn into two months or another month in a couple months and just didn't seem tenable. And so we got together as a team and sort of said, "All right. One is it us?" Is there something that's not working? Are we doing something wrong? And so we started meeting with a lot of restaurateurs, a lot of groups, both independent chains, casual, fine dining, and everyone said the same thing. They're like, "Yeah, it's a huge problem, but I don't know what to do about it." We just kind of grin and bear it. And I thought, "All right. So it's not just us. Check in a sad way, but check." We said, "Okay, well there's got to be some sort of solution if it's all these people who are struggling and all of these large businesses. Hospitality is amongst the top three employers in the country." There cannot be no solution to this. So we did a bunch of research, we called a lot of large groups including Bright Horizons and their answer was we offer what we-

Kerry Diamond: Bright Horizons being a daycare center?

Camilla Marcus: They're one of the largest. They're a publicly held company, very large market cap. They're pretty much in every single neighborhood. They're considered probably the blue chip before. What I will share is Vivvi amongst the sort of higher end, blue chip daycare centers for more corporate companies. And they sort of said, "Look, we do what we do. It's working just great. Our value is high. Sorry. We're not interested." And so I started talking to a lot of groups and what they did, no one could figure anything out. Restaurants don't have the space to do onsite childcare. Another business book I love is Let My People Go Surfing. I have such admiration for the way-

Kerry Diamond: The founder of Patagonia.

Camilla Marcus: The way Patagonia always solves their own problems and no matter what the obstacle, he always did the right thing and what he felt was important. But in restaurants it's tough. How do you open up childcare when you can barely afford to pay the rent for what you do? We have to make money to be able to take care of our employees in the right way. So I knew that was out. None of the income and childcare centers would give us the time of day. A lot of people have asked me about informal networks. Probably informal networks is one liability. As an employer, you can't just send a random person who's totally unqualified or uncertified or uninsured to someone's home with their children. God forbid something happened.

Camilla Marcus: And two, I don't think people should have to depend on informal networks. I think just depending on an aunt, a brother, and this hodgepodge of people, not only who don't have any obligation, they're not properly trained. Children are very high stakes, but also it's far away from work. Most people commute to work, 45 minutes to an hour. If your child's an hour away and they're sick that day, are you really going to be able to be focused and engaged in your job? No. You're worried about your kid who's an hour away all day. You can't check in on them. You can't stop in. They need to be picked up early. You not only have to leave your job, but then you're another hour away.

Camilla Marcus: I just felt like all those dynamics don't seem fair and didn't seem like an adequate solution. So we started putting feelers out there and I really started beating this drum and probably complaining too much to anyone who would listen. And true story, I was at Manhatta with Dana Cowin and going on and on about this and she said, "I have a contact at the city. They might be able to help you or at least brainstorm some options and ideas. Would you meet with them?" I said, "Absolutely."

Camilla Marcus: And their first suggestion was to meet with this startup who was in business plan phase. They had just signed LOI, the letter of intent for a space in Soho who basically saw what we saw, which is childcare is broken and it was created too long ago and doesn't really accommodate the way the workforce and workplaces have changed, and a new generation if not two generations who are demanding different things from that and want work-life integration, not just work-life balance and certainly are refusing to choose. I met with Charlie and Ben and they told me about Vivvi and because it was at such an early phase-

Kerry Diamond: They're the founders?

Camilla Marcus: They are the founders of Vivvi. They were willing to look at the program with a new lens and to adjust it and augment it to accommodate hospitality workers in lower Manhattan. So it was totally serendipitous and truly amazing. And again, timing is everything. The funny thing is actually I originally connected with Charlie and we set a meeting and when he walked in he said, "I have a funny surprise for you." I said, "What?" He goes, "My partner is Ben Newton." Ben Newton and I went to college together.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's crazy.

Camilla Marcus: And was one of my friends from college. He's dedicated his whole life to child development. He did teach for America right out of school, worked with avenues, created a charter school. So I said to him, "I don't know that I would have dove head first with total strangers so quickly. I mean a year and a half probably feels like a long time, but it feels quick to me when you're talking about kids."

Camilla Marcus: Again, similar to how my thinking was with West-Bourne, but there are two millennial men who saw, again, a different generation needs to come in and solve the problem for their own generation. And Charlie had his daughter a couple months into forming Vivvi. So again, new dad, younger generation and being able again to see the system at a totally different level and in a different way and being willing to take that risk of maybe this whole model can be thrown out the window and we can forge a new one.

Kerry Diamond: So one of the radical things about what you're doing in addition to the fact that you're paying for it, but is night care? No one has talked about night care before you.

Camilla Marcus: Well, also daycare isn't daycare. Daycare, you drop your kid off at 9:00 or 10:00. There's no hospitality shift that starts at 9:00 or 10:00. I don't care where you work. Pickup is at three. It's very similar to traditional schools. Even the daycare element isn't daycare for our business. And for us we, obviously, have a very different pain model and different team structure. But in traditional restaurants, night jobs are higher paying. If you want to stay extended hours, you get paid more. Working an event, you get paid even more. So really when you look at actually earning potential and how to grow in any traditional hospitality business, not being able to work at night is the biggest step back and the biggest hand-tied behind your back that there is. So having hours from 7:00 AM to 1:00 AM is unheard of and to me hopefully will transform our business.

Kerry Diamond: And how are you helping your team pay for this?

Camilla Marcus: So we decided to subsidize it 100%. We have what's called drop-in care. So again, one of the reasons Vivvi is pretty extraordinary and how they're thinking about it, most childcare facilities, you have to have more like a membership. It's more like a gym membership and you have to say, "Okay. My kid is going to be there three days a week at minimum," and you're really committing to a set schedule, which again, welcome to hospitality. Even in the greatest organizations, it's two-week look ahead. But we can't tell someone in a month, "Okay, you're going to be working Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM." That just doesn't exist. And again, an event will come up. If an employee wants to take advantage of that, they really have to be strategic and figure out last minute care.

Camilla Marcus: So what Vivvi has set up is credits. So you're able to really just call them day of, day before and say, "Hey, tomorrow there's an event. I don't have childcare because it's the day before. I just want to drop in." So we've decided to cover all of the drop in credits and then our team can use them as they want and it's fully subsidized by us. People have asked me a lot about that financial model and to me it's similar to healthcare. You have to find budget. I know people who spend more on florals in their restaurants than this cost.

Kerry Diamond: How many of your employees have children who will be taking advantage of this?

Camilla Marcus: Again, it depends, but it's usually about half.

Kerry Diamond: Wow, okay.

Camilla Marcus: I would say with most restaurants I spoke to, it's at least 30% of their teams. It's not a small number. And again, it's that you know of who have shared that. If people want to keep their families to themselves, sometimes they do. And a lot of people traditionally have hidden that because they worry they're going to be docked for it. And in the past they have been. So I also hope this becomes the norm so that people also don't feel that, that has to be something that you have to hide. And if we talk about sort of bringing our whole selves to work, it's a huge part of it that's been out of that equation. And for me, even more importantly, the more I dug into this issue and thinking about it on a deeper level, healthcare 10 years ago is not the norm in our business. Now it is.

Kerry Diamond: You think it is?

Camilla Marcus: Well, federal rules have made it so. Obamacare has made it so. Not necessarily at the level it should be, but no one was providing healthcare for their employees even 10 years ago. I mean not even the greatest companies. Now, parental leave is up for discussion, which to my very strong disappointment was not even talked about five years ago. I remember being at USHG when they were first talking about parental leave. I remember it came up as one of the biggest items in one of the company's surveys. And I said, "Well, yeah. The corporate office is 90% women who are over the age of 30. They're all wondering what happens when everyone of us gets pregnant.

Camilla Marcus: Hello. Even in kitchens, so many more kitchens are run by women. So many business owners are now female who are going to be carriers of their children. The dynamics have changed in the business, but even with parental leave. FMLA doesn't kick in until 27 weeks, which means you have to be on your job for vast majority of your pregnancy, which I think is very unfair. And two, federal rules are not that generous. So you have to be at your job for a certain amount of time, but even more so, okay, say you qualify and say your hospitality company happens to have a really great policy. If you can't go back to work, it doesn't really matter. Then great, you got that leave and you still lost your job.

Camilla Marcus: Similarly with healthcare, you have to keep your job to get it. So if you can't keep your job, and the biggest gating issue for parents is showing up on time and consistently. So it's ironic that we're actually not talking about childcare as a nation when really it's the gating issue that is equal if not more important to health insurance-

Kerry Diamond: And so that leads to my next question. In an industry filled with all these incredible men and women and big thinkers and big picture thinkers, why did it take a young woman in her 30s to get the industry to start talking about this?

Camilla Marcus: I wish I knew the answer and it's interesting actually. It's been true talk and real talk. It's been really hard to get large publications to run this story. It's been really hard to get them to talk about it because they've said, "Well, unless more people are doing it or if we can get a larger organization that's doing it, then we'll run a story." And I said, "But that's backwards." The point of the story is-

Kerry Diamond: Is that no one is doing it.

Camilla Marcus: ... exactly your question. Why has this not been discussed? Why are there no other alternatives on the table? Why is there no other solution out there? Isn't that the story? Not the other way around. Why wasn't parental leave talked about more than five years ago? And to your point, health insurance is not totally buttoned up, but at least it's part of the conversation. Parental leave is now part of the conversation. And even then there's still a debate. Does the restaurant team get the same as corporate? Which I think is ridiculous. Do men get the same as women?

Camilla Marcus: How do you deal with carriers, non-carriers? How do you deal with surrogacy or adoption? We're still really behind in where that conversation should be. And yet no one still has realized. Great, but what happens after?

Kerry Diamond: Have any of the big folks in the industry reached out to you to talk more about this?

Camilla Marcus: Yes, and I actually put Charlie on the stage at TechTable and every major restaurant group, including USHG has been meeting with them.

Kerry Diamond: Fantastic.

Camilla Marcus: Yeah. And it's funny. That was a question I got a lot when we first announced it was, "Well, what do you hope?" I go, "Are you kidding me? I want every employer in this nation to help expand Vivvi across the country and to all sign up for this. I don't know. A lot of people kind of thought I wanted to keep it to myself, which I thought was hilarious.

Kerry Diamond: They just don't know you.

Camilla Marcus: And it's funny. It was in the works well before I was even thinking of conceiving and actually had nothing to do with me. And ironically, because my son was three weeks early, the announcements all came out the day I had him. A lot of people are like, "Oh, you timed it." They go, "Do you know anything about having kids? I go no.

Kerry Diamond: Camilla, it's not that strategic.

Camilla Marcus: And the solution really wasn't for me. It happens to now be for me because I'm a new mom. But it really wasn't even about that, so I asked myself the same question, which is why didn't every parent ask this question and demand more? And look, like I said, I think we are really serendipitous in how he connected with Vivvi and that they were open-minded enough to see that this is such a missed opportunity. Amongst the largest employer to be totally ignored by a massive industry, even just on a capitalist scale, this is a win, win, win.

Camilla Marcus: And it's wild to me that no one thought to put the pieces together. But hospitality businesses are hard businesses to run. You know as well, and I think adding one more thing that's complicated, that's regulated, that's high risk, that's expensive, it's a hornet's nest. And I think for a lot of operators it was just, "You know what, I can't take one more pebble on the scale," which I 100% empathize with.

Kerry Diamond: So how are you affording all this? Because I know I tried to do the right thing at my place. When I took it over, I put our two senior people, I gave them health insurance. We tried to do the right thing in terms of recyclables and composting, and giving people a discount to get them to use reusable cups. But all those things-

Camilla Marcus: Those programs don't work.

Kerry Diamond: All those things. Wait, what do you mean those programs?

Camilla Marcus: Reusables?

Kerry Diamond: Yes, they do. It worked for us.

Camilla Marcus: Not financially.

Kerry Diamond: Oh no, not financially. That's what I'm talking about. Not financially. But we actually did get people to change their behavior.

Camilla Marcus: Totally.

Kerry Diamond: But I wasn't making money. I mean, so that's the question. Are you actually making money yet or are you subsidizing your business?

Camilla Marcus: Yes. What I will say is-

Kerry Diamond: Yes to both questions or yes to are you making money?

Camilla Marcus: Yes, to we're making money.

Kerry Diamond: Okay.

Camilla Marcus: Part of it is we started out with these multifaceted mission of could we do it better? And so the system was really designed, priced, costed to do that. It's a lot harder. It's a lot harder to change. And that's the same, I think with any system. You've looked at businesses with hospitality included, we've been hospitality included and cashless since day one. It's very different to change the entire operation in one day and make that work. Not to say it can't be done, but I think it is a lot harder. Same with the way we run our team, same with our give back model and training model.

Camilla Marcus: As far as childcare, we had a year and a half to financially plan for it. I mean, this has been a long program in the making. I think people kind of thought we snapped our fingers and there it went. And similarly with Vivvi. They had to figure out how did they make their pricing model work so that this can be accommodated and vice versa.

Camilla Marcus: Like I said, I've run a lot of P&Ls for a lot of restaurants and a lot of owners. I know people who literally spend more on florals in a year than this program would cost. And there's a lot of tax subsidies associated with it. Vivvi will help you. It's actually very easy to apply and obtain. It's not difficult. The city wants to give it. So everyone keeps asking that question. We say, "Look, if you want to Elysian Farms lamb, how do you do it? You make it work." You price it, you source it, you plan for it. Why should that be any different than taking care of your people?

Camilla Marcus: I actually do think it's immensely possible, but you have to do the numbers and you have to plan for it and you then have to decide. Do you want those XXL florals or do you want to invest in childcare? And I think the biggest element that people don't consider is what happens if you don't? there's immense cost in finding, hiring and retraining new talent. Even just finding talent. Recruitment costs are astronomical.

Camilla Marcus: No one does the numbers and factors in that. No one factors an opportunity costs. No one factors in how hard it is. There isn't a dollar amount on how hard it is to find top tier talent that you can keep and grow with and who are going to groom the next level of your organization. And those are all the things that don't go into that budget.

Kerry Diamond: So we always ask people on the show how they make money and how they funded their businesses. Did you raise money to open west~bourne?

Camilla Marcus: We did. I self-funded.

Kerry Diamond: You self-funded?

Camilla Marcus: I've been an angel investor for over 10 years now.

Kerry Diamond: And you're your own angel investor.

Camilla Marcus: I am my own angel. I didn't intentionally. I had a lot of people who asked me if I was raising. I wanted the concept and the V1 version of this vision to be totally untampered, uncompromised and I know as an investor that there's compromises along the way if you take money from outside as they should have control over their capital. I definitely was putting money into a rainy day fund should I end up wanting to do something. And especially with West-Bourne, it's very important for me to have really ultimate and singular control to be able to show what this could be and not have to compromise at any level. So I am fortunate and was able to self-fund.

Kerry Diamond: For those listening who are interested in Vivvi and who... I mean, Vivvi is only in New York right now, right?

Camilla Marcus: They're currently in New York. Again, the TechTable, it was amazing to see people from all over the country raising their hand saying, "We want to bring you to our city." They just launched a couple months ago. Our program launched weeks ago. You can go to their website and reach out to them. There's a parent portal and an employer portal. And I did want to mention that because it's different. I mean, their goal is really to double down on the employer sponsored, whether that's with a Google, a big retailer or even someone like West-Bourne. I think to them, similar to health insurance the goal is that it's more running through an employer. It's more efficient that way. Pricing is better. The time and effort it takes to negotiate those contracts is easier and frankly should be running that way. But you can reach out as an individual parent, but it's a very different process.

Kerry Diamond: So knowing you, I would imagine, or maybe not that you are a little frustrated that you only have one business because you talked about people staying with you...

Camilla Marcus: True fact.

Kerry Diamond: You talk about people staying with you for a long time, And I know as a business owner it's hard when you just have one business and you don't have somewhere for your truly exceptional people to move onto within your own organization. So I'm sure you're thinking about that.

Camilla Marcus: Yes we are. We have been from the start and I think while working on external growth and how to expand the business in the right way, we do a lot internally to push that boundary and to grow. So for example, we do a lot of events and catering. We do a lot of buyouts.

Kerry Diamond: You do? I wasn't even aware of that. Okay.

Camilla Marcus: We do a lot of buyouts. We do a lot of offsite. We did the wing Soho opening party for a thousand people. We just did an offsite 70-person seated four-course dinner at Hudson Yards. So we do fashion week parties, everything in between. And that started really just from incoming inquiries and we had an amazingly talented guy named Ryan. He was our very first hire. We found him on Craigslist. It was love at first sight. Before we opened, He was already a shift leader and a couple months after I said, "Look, you're unbelievably talented. I don't know how I found you. I feel like the luckiest person in the world. You're never allowed to leave me. What do you think about building out an entire events and catering department?"

Kerry Diamond: Wow.

Camilla Marcus: I'll teach you everything I know. We'll do stages with different groups. I have friends at a bunch of different organizations thankfully. What do you think? And he jumped into the deep end right away and has been growing our business tremendously. We use that also as a big growth vehicle for our team. So if you're cross-trained on one guest facing and one culinary position, and you're in good standing with employment, you're allowed to take catering shifts. We pay at market catering rates. Any cater in the city, we pay the exact same. And it's a chance for them also to... We do all off menu stuff. It's usually custom. It is a wild range of things that we do.

Camilla Marcus: So it's a way to learn something new. Again, challenge yourself, operate in a totally different... Running a four-course seated high-end dinner with a very high touch clientele is totally different than what we do in the restaurant. And so again, we use those as really special development experiences for the team and learning experiences.

Kerry Diamond: Where's your commercial kitchen?

Camilla Marcus: We do it all out of the restaurant.

Kerry Diamond: You do? Wow. Okay.

Camilla Marcus: I almost laughed when you said that as like the team. I know people always come in too. They're like, "Your kitchen is huge." I'm like, "No, no, that's it. When you come in, it looks like it opens up into some fancy big kitchen and indeed it is not."

Kerry Diamond: I'm impressed.

Camilla Marcus: We do it all out of the store. Wild, massive scale stuff. We're just crazy enough. I'm lucky I have a team that also doesn't hear the word no. So we do try and do a lot of those things to push really the boundaries of what we can do within our space and with our team and with our ethos and mission that expands beyond the four walls. So we have packaged goods. We make our own granola and Togarashi Chex mix. We're just about to release an amazing custom chocolate bar that we created with Valerie chocolates and designed ourselves. So we're always sort of on the hunt for the next thing we can do to expand and grow the team and give that next opportunity. So you're definitely right. My mind is always on how do we keep them? How do we grow them? How do we keep them excited? And how do we expand our impact both socially and environmentally? In a lot of wild and crazy ways. So stay tuned.

Kerry Diamond: You mentioned briefly that you had a baby.

Camilla Marcus: I did. Six weeks. He's sitting right here. His name is Gray.

Kerry Diamond: Hi, Gray.

Camilla Marcus: Yeah. I know, it's wild.

Kerry Diamond: So you had your baby early.

Camilla Marcus: Three and a half weeks early. Yes.

Kerry Diamond: So how are you doing?

Camilla Marcus: I'm doing good. I had an emergency C-section, which was totally in the opposite spectrum of my birth plan. I wanted an all natural, non-intervention birth. While we make plans, life laughs. So much for being a planner. Exactly. He threw us for a loop, decided to pull the fire alarm the day after the New York Times Festival.

Kerry Diamond: Good timing, Gray.

Camilla Marcus: Oh, hi baby. He does these funny, spontaneous cries while he's dead asleep and you look and you're like, "I don't know what's going on. I think you're talking or you're dreaming." So he threw us for a loop and it's been wild. I think after C-section, around week four to five, you start to feel, okay. It's my first week without taking aspirin. I couldn't hold him until week three, which is really hard as a new mom and being able to yesterday worked out for the first time in seven weeks. So you know, you got to take it day by day. I'm lucky, weirdly a very large group of my friends, half of whom are in the business, a couple of whom are also cooks and restaurateurs.

Camilla Marcus: We all had kids weirdly in the same two week span. So there's a lot of breastfeeding FaceTiming happening and like, is this normal? How stressed are you? Do you feel like you're in a dark hole and it makes each day just that much easier. So I think having a real village of new moms, especially those who are working and dealing with similar things and things that they have to balance and integrate has been very fortunate. Lifesaving.

Kerry Diamond: All right, Camilla. So tell me, what do you think you were put on this planet to do?

Camilla Marcus: Oh my gosh. I don't know. I'm just trying to figure that out. I really don't know. I think what gets me up in the morning for me personally is trying to make the next day better than the last and anything and everything that is in my possible power or grasp to change, to move forward, to make a difference in, I just don't want to let a day pass that I couldn't make a step forward, and I genuinely believe that every person can make tomorrow better than today. And whether that's for my team or my family or my son or the environment the team always laughs. I'm very iterative, probably more so than most. I think most people in hospitality are very afraid to change the status quo. It's like it's working. The business is hard. We're making money, why would we change anything?

Camilla Marcus: And I'm really the opposite. I'm like, "All right, it's working. Now, what could be better? Okay, this is working. What are we not doing enough of? Okay, this is great. How could it be even better?" And even with my team, I always check in and say, "What do you want to do? How are you feeling? What would challenge you next?" I never want someone to feel like, "Oh, I've got this." I actually kind of want them to constantly be pushed back into the deep end and learn to swim again, which again is not for everyone. I'm a very... I crave that. And again, definitely not for everyone. So I think really probably continuing to push all the barriers that exist relentlessly so.

Kerry Diamond: All right. Well, thank you for all this time.

Camilla Marcus: Thank you for coming over.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to, Camilla and her team at West-Bourne. If you are in New York city, go visit them and have a bite to eat. Thank you to today's sponsor, the new book, Sugar Free 3 by Michelle Promaulayko available at major booksellers online and nationwide. We'd love for you to subscribe to Radio Cherry Bombe wherever you get your podcasts. We'd love if you could rate and review the show. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited, engineered and produced by Jess Zeidman. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Thanks for listening, everybody. You're the bomb.

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Laura Scherb: Hey, Bombesquad. My name is Laura Scherb and I'm a food blogger at Page & Plate in Chicago. Want to know who I think is the bombe? Emily Nejad, owner of Bon Vivant Cakes. Emily makes the craziest, most beautiful cakes on the planet, and she also teaches workshops on how to decorate out of the box. Emily's style, sass, and positivity make every creation special and she's a role model to bakers and entrepreneurs everywhere. Emily, you're the bombe.