Tom and I have an idea for a business model and we’d like to run it past you all and see what you think. We’ve been thinking how great it would be to open a restaurant. We’d need to get funding for the venue, and to buy all the eatery gear and set up a kitchen. We’ll need to pay for raw materials, for waiters and bar staff, cleaners, managers, someone to take bookings, maybe some publicity. Where this really gets clever though, is our vision for the chefs.
We think chefs should be paid a percentage of every meal they sell, rather than paying them a wage. It gives them opportunity to earn a great deal more, of course, but if their food doesn’t sell, it reduces our financial risk. We’ll only start paying them that cut when we’ve covered the cost of the food and the waiting staff and taken something towards the rent, too.
If we’re taking on new chefs, who won’t automatically attract eaters, then we think they ought to pay for their own ingredients. We, after all, are taking most of the financial risk here, it’s only fair to ask them to contribute to that. We think it would be helpful if chefs made some effort to promote their food, too. We envisage them going out to people’s houses to cook sample meals now and then in order to attract customers. If a chef already has a TV program, they’ll get a better deal and we might be able to consider paying them up front.
We’ll pay the chef their percentage every six months. Well, we say that, but in practice the six monthly cheque will arrive when we get round to it, and could be a month or two late. However, such will be the contracts that if chefs don’t like this, about their only option will be to take their skills and recipes to another restaurant and try their luck there. To really make this work, we will get all other restaurants onboard, so that these are the only terms available for wannabe chefs.
We realise that with this model, the chef will probably need to work a regular day job in order to make ends meet. However, as being a chef is such great work, and it’s really a hobby job, this seems perfectly fair and reasonable to us. They ought to be happy doing it for love. Given the glamour and reputation of being a chef, we’re also confident that there are so many people who want to do it that we’ll never struggle to find people willing to work for us on these terms. After all, everyone has a meal in them.
If this business model made you a bit uncomfortable (and I really hope it did!), please consider that this is how the publishing of art, words and music tends to work, and that this is standard as a way of treating creatives in those industries. We’re wondering if the idea of ‘fair trade’ could be extended across the creative industries. All creative industries depend on the ‘product’ but usually the people making that product are the last to see any money from it. Editors, managers, in house designers, and the person who cleans the editor’s office will all get paid long before the creator sees a penny, in the vast majority of cases.