Chef/Owner Justin Cucci has announced the implementation of a 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) for Denver’s renowned Edible Beats restaurants, including Root Down, El Five, Linger, Ophelias’s Electric Soapbox, Vital Root, and his stake in Root Down DIA. The ESOP is being established to provide opportunity and financial wellness, while fomenting leadership and ownership for employees across the five locations.
Cucci says, “I believe that Edible Beats becoming a 100% ESOP was the embodiment of a win-win for the employees as well as for myself and my family. It’s a powerful succession plan that provides opportunities for the employees and leaders on this communal journey—putting them in the front seat. Though I will remain CEO, and will be as committed and involved as I have been, I hope to sit in the back seat and let the team drive. I have always wanted Edible Beats to be measured by its worth, and feel that our success should be assessed by the qualities we possess and the positive impact we are able to have. I want the legacy of Edible Beats’ worth to continue into the future, as we continue to evolve, and continue to strive for excellence in everything we do. My hope is that we exemplify our journey as an ESOP in our culture, not just in corporate structure, and I’m grateful to the entire staff and to our amazing city of Denver for the support provided to me 14 years ago when I was a newcomer with a vision.”
Along their journey to become an ESOP, Edible Beats received support from service providers and the state of Colorado to set up their new business structure. To help with their conversion costs, they applied for the Employee Ownership Tax Credit to cover 50% of costs, which they plan to use on next year’s Colorado tax filing.
“Colorado continues to be a national leader in employee ownership, a powerful way for everyone to benefit when a business does well. We are saving employee-owned companies money with up to $100,000 in tax credits on qualifying costs of converting and I am proud to congratulate Edible Beats for taking this exciting step, joining the many businesses and employees who recognize that Colorado is the best place to live, work, and thrive,” says Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
“When businesses embrace an employee-owned model, they see a more engaged workforce and overall higher quality of living. We’re excited for Edible Beats and their new employee owners to experience similar benefits,” says Nikki Maloney, Director of Business Support at Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). “The Employee Ownership Office is here to assist business owners to navigate a succession plan that fits the unique nature of their business.”
The Employee Stock Ownership Plan is a benefit that gives Edible Beats employees an ownership stake in the business. Shares will be allocated to staff at no cost and accumulate in a trust. Longstanding employees are ‘grandfathered’ into the plan and newcomers are eligible after one year. Employees’ shares are based on salary, including tips—which are shared with consideration of position, tenure, and skill level. Cucci’s adoption of this benefit plan is pioneering and rarely seen in his field—amounting to only six restaurants across the U.S. Overall, fewer than 7,000 businesses nationwide are estimated to have established ESOPs as a standard employee benefit.