Merchant will be closing its doors temporarily in September undergoing a state-of-the-art renovation. The restaurant will have new aviation-style windows, new finishes and wraparound seating. The kitchen will be expanded to allow more types of cookery. The renovation is slated to last about six months.
This will be an opportunity to rebuild back not only with new decor and menu, but culture, going back to the “original meaning of the word restaurant: A place to be restored, replenished, revived, refreshed.” says Joshua Berkson, President of Rule No One Hospitality Group. "Merchant is an ongoing experimental endeavor, a restaurant that is also a teaching kitchen, a place for an expression of our craft, and most importantly, a community gathering place.”
“We as a restaurant group, had so much time over the pandemic to think about what we could do differently, and it allowed us the opportunity to approach hospitality with renewed focus to reopen Merchant with a larger mission. What we do is centered around the craft of cooking, drinking and serving; however, the humanity of how we do this is equally important.” According to Berkson, “The new culinary direction will be fresh, celebrating the American Craft Movement, as well as our mission to create spaces for celebrating and treating each other and ourselves well. We are committed to a culture that champions humility, collaboration, respect, inclusivity, and equity across the restaurant.”
Merchant is managed by Rule No. One Hospitality, a Madison-based hospitality group whose mission is to create spaces ‘for celebrating and treating each other and ourselves well.’ RNO has completely changed the way it compensates employees and managers with lead cooks now earning the same as lead bartenders and servers. The mission is centered around mental health, well-being and safety as the company provides free mental health therapy for all employees.
As a community-driven hospitality management organization, they are active in social causes supporting women, Black, LatinX, LGBTQ+, and Indigenous communities everywhere. Cook It Forward is a non-profit advocacy arm of Rule No One Hospitality, Inc. with a mission to address ongoing inequities in our food systems. In July 2021, Cook It Forward started a campaign to support a handful of Madison restaurant owners that have pledged to donate a portion of federal COVID stimulus funds they received to minority-owned businesses that had previously been approved for the same federal funding, only to find out later those dollars had been denied.
Joshua Berkson, President, Rule No. One Hospitality, Founder, Cook It Forward, firstname.lastname@example.org, (646) 221-4022