Daily Californian & Zachary's Chicago Pizza

Daily Californian

The Upper Crust

Food & Cuisine 2012 - Thursday, September 20, 2012


With three branches in the Bay Area — two of which are located on the south and north sides of Berkeley — and a fourth one to be opened in Pleasant Hill later this fall, Zachary’s is run under an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, in which 150 employees across the company are all able to place stock in a central pot and benefit from it when it comes time for retirement.

According to Loren Rodgers, executive director of the National Center for Employee Ownership, an ESOP is not about ownership but about management and the rights and roles specific to employees.

“Zachary’s is more likely to treat its employees like owners and have them get involved with the company,” Rodgers said. “They do this because it is the right thing to do, not because they are required to do it legally.”

Every year an employee continues working at Zachary’s, he or she gets an increased amount of Zachary’s stock in their individual account, and the value of this employee ownership account increases each year, according to Rodgers. When somebody leaves the company, the stock value turns into cash that can be doled out. If an employee chooses to stay for a long period of time, the stock has the possibility of turning into a retirement plan.

UC Berkeley alumna Leandra Schuler began working at Zachary’s while she was still in school and worked her way up the chain of command to her current position as vice president and general manager of the company. Schuler said when founders Zach Zachowski and Barbara Gabel opened the first restaurant in 1983, the employee-owned business model was born in 2003 when Zachowski and Gabel retired and sought to keep the business quality consistent.

“The (ESOP model) was the very best way to carry the Zachary’s legacy on, and it is a big mojo of what we do here,” Schuler said. “One of the fears in opting for a different professional plan and outside buyer is there is always the possibility that a corporation will want to change things fairly drastically.”

The general Zachary’s structure on the operational side involves a group of two to three managers who work at each branch daily, while they also function alongside store level management, a floor level manager, and a human resources department, according to Zachary’s president and CEO Kevin Suto. Suto said though these positions exist, all employees such as dishwashers and kitchen clerks have a chance at upward mobility in the company.

For Schuler, who said Zachary’s quenched her thirst for practical and hands-on work following graduation from UC Berkeley, Zachary’s is about keeping the workplace a positive environment for everyone involved.

“We set high standards for employees — we encourage them to have fun doing a great job and we achieve that well,” Schuler said. “We take our products and customers very seriously … we attract people from ages 3 to 90.”

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Zachary's is Editor's Pick and noted for Honorable Mention for BEST PIZZA in DAILY CAL BEST OF BERKELY 2009 picks.

Daily Californian Online
Daily Cal's Best of Berkeley 2008Zachary's is Editors' Pick for Best Pizza in THE DAILY CALIFORNIAN Best of Berkeley 2008.

The Daily Californian Best of Berkeley Best Pizza Award 2007

Zachary's chosen by the Readers of THE DAILY CALIFORNIAN as Best Pizza in 2007 Best of Berkeley.

The Daily Californian Best of Berkeley Best Pizza Award 2007

Read the DAILY CAL Sep 8, 2004 Daily Californian Online, Berkeley, California article about Zachary's Pizza and the transition to employee ownership.

Daily Californian Online

A Slice of the Pie

Zachary's Pizza Begins Transfer to Employee Ownership
By Betty Yu
(excerpt from article)

Chunky deep-dish pizza, thick crowds and long lines spilling out the door are hallmarks of two popular East Bay restaurants.

Zachary's Chicago Pizza has been a growing success since husband-and-wife team Zach Zachowski and Barbara Gabel opened their first store on College Avenue in 1983. Over the span of 21 years, they have tripled the square footage of the restaurant and more than doubled the number of seats. A second store opened on Solano Avenue in Berkeley in 1984.

Now the pair are retiring and giving Zachary's staff a piece of the pie-making the restaurants employee-owned through a program known as the Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

"We wanted to give our long-term employees a future," Gabel says. "We wanted to get out, and the ESOP is the best way to accomplish that and carry it on to the next generation. We think our employees deserve that."

Zachary’s is part of a small group of 11,000 businesses of every size, both publicly held and privately owned, that participate in ESOPs. In 2002, the plan covered over 8.5 million employees nationwide, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership.

A Few Other DAILY CAL Awards

  • 2004 Featured in DAILY CALIFORNIAN ONLINE.
  • 2002 DAILY CALIFORNIAN Newspaper, Best Pizza.
  • 2001 Awards Voted Best Pizza in DAILY CALIFORNIAN Newspaper Readers' Poll
    DAILY CALIFORNIAN Newspaper, Best Pizza.
    DAILY CALIFORNIAN Newspaper, Best Restaurant, Honorable Mention.
  • 2000 DAILY CALIFORNIAN Newspaper, Best Restaurant, Honorable Mention.
  • 1999 Voted Best Pizza DAILY CALIFORNIAN.
  • 1998 Winner Best Gourmet Pizza DAILY CALIFORNIAN Readers' Poll.

The Daily Californian is an independent, student-run newspaper published by the Independent Berkeley Students Publishing Company, Inc. The newspaper serves the UC Berkeley campus and its surrounding community, publishing Monday through Friday during the academic year and twice a week during the summer. Established in 1871, The Daily Californian is one of the oldest newspapers on the West Coast and one of the oldest college newspapers in the country. Daily Cal staffers have the unique opportunity of gaining daily metro news experience in the lively city of Berkeley. The newspaper has consistently covered the city and its institutions since its establishment, allowing student journalists to report on campus as well as city news.

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