Hell's Kitchen restaurant to become employee-owned

Updated: September 13, 2019 06:11 AM

Hell's Kitchen stands out as much for it's name as it's atmosphere and food.

The beloved restaurant in the heart of Minneapolis is run by fiercely independent business partners, Cynthia Gerdes and Steve Meyer. 


After 17 years in the frenetic restaurant industry, both are looking to slow down, and Meyer is eyeing retirement altogether.

After much thought, talking and research, the business partners announced they are on the verge of selling Hell's Kitchen. And, they intend to keep the whimsical eatery locally owned, incredibly local.

"Actually, that's one of the biggest reasons to not change the culture or the vibe of the restaurant, we've got a good thing going," said Gerdes.

Matt Robshaw has invested a decade's worth of time and energy as a member of the so-called "Hellian Crew." He along with 120-plus other employee's were blown away when the owners proposed selling the business to them, the people who helped build the business.

"I think it goes naturally for most of us, we all take such ownership of this place already, now it's just literal," said Robshaw.

In the unusual move, Hell's Kitchen will be entirely employee-owned by January 2020. And, at no upfront costs to workers. That's possible through a newly created employee stock ownership plan. It allows interested workers to buy-in with the company's future profits. There are tax breaks, too.

In a Facebook post, Hell's Kitchen announced the news Wednesday.

Gerdes wrote that from 2002 and during "the next 17 years, we survived a million ups and downs, including not only our beloved (co-owner) Mitch (Omer)'s death in 2015, but also the restaurant's near-death in 2017 after a string of barely profitable years."

"Rather than sell Hell's Kitchen to outsiders who might change our team or culture, we're putting our money where our mouth is and are turning over the entire company to our employees," Gerdes said.

Gerdes spoke on behalf of her partner when she said they never seriously considered selling to outsiders.

"It's the people who work here that make it funky anyway, now we'll just have more say," Robshaw said.

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Beth McDonough & Rebecca Omastiak

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