NYC restaurant subsidizes employee childcare, other parents can only dream

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A former coworker of mine once calculated that he and his wife could go to Hawaii every four months with the money they were spending on childcare. For those working in the restaurant industry, it can be hard to afford the equivalent of one trip to Hawaii, let alone three trips per year. And many of those restaurant workers have children who need supervision while they’re working—200,000 in New York State alone, according to one recent study, 35,000 of whom are single mothers. An extra complication: most restaurant shifts don’t fall neatly between the standard corporate office hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. when daycare facilities tend to operate.

The owner of West~bourne, a cafe in Manhattan, has figured out a way around this problem, Eater NYC reports: the restaurant has teamed up with a local childcare center to provide fully subsidized child care for all employees during all restaurant hours, that is, between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. You might be unsurprised to learn that the owner of West~bourne, Camilla Marcus, is a woman.

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“When Marcus opened her restaurant last year,” Eater’s Amanda Kludt writes, “she quickly realized child care was one of the greatest challenges facing her employees. Star workers kept missing shifts due to child care falling through.” Through restaurant consultant Dana Cowin and city officials, Marcus got in touch with Charlie Bonello and Ben Newton, the owners of Vivvi, a new childcare center in lower Manhattan. Vivvi operates on a system in which employers buy credits that can be traded for a day of childcare; these credits can be distributed among employees and used whenever they’re needed. With tax incentives, each credit costs between $50 and $75. Marcus says she’s worked the cost into her yearly budget: “Hiring someone new costs three times the amount of keeping someone.”

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Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.