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This Very Popular Restaurant Pays Workers $27 an Hour, and Still Makes a Profit

Plus, a fish sauce celebration at Cassia and doughnut collaborations in Culver City

Exterior signage at Bell’s in Los Alamos.
Exterior signage at Bell’s in Los Alamos.
Cathy Chaplin

Michelin-starred Central Coast bistro Bell’s in Los Alamos pays its workers $27 an hour on average, covers health care costs, provides 80 hours of paid time off, and still manages to be economically viable, according to journalist Matthew Sedacca in his piece “Happier employees, higher profits: Restaurant owners spend more, and it pays off” for non-profit newsroom The Counter. Sedacca takes a look at a handful restaurants, like Bell’s, that raised employee wages during the pandemic and are experiencing increased profits, along with improved worker retention and morale, as a result.

Bell’s owners Greg and Daisy Ryan make the numbers work by offering a pre-fixe menu nightly and charging a 20 percent service fee. While serving a set menu allows the Ryans to better control food costs, the service fee guarantees a revenue stream for employee costs. Bell’s achieves its break even point with 65 to 75 covers a night, with add-ons like wine, caviar, and bread feeding into the restaurant’s overall profits. Additionally, the Ryans own the building that houses the restaurant. “Before COVID, in 2019, the restaurant was clearing $1 million a year. In 2021, despite an on-going pandemic, that number surged to about $3 million. And employee retention has been above 95 percent,” writes Sedacca. Click over to The Counter to read this illuminating piece before the pub folds on May 20.

Chef Akira Back pops up at LAX this summer

For those flying out of LAX this summer, swing into Delta’s brand-new Sky Club to sample half a dozen “signature” dishes from chef Akira Back of ABSteak. Back’s food will stick around for just three months as part of the airline’s “local flavor” series.

Doughnut collabs at Culver City’s Platform

Holey Grail Donuts is collaborating with cookbook authors Alexis DeBoschneck and Rick Martinez this month at The Platform. Get a taste of DeBoschneck’s salted maple vanilla pot de creme doughnut from May 5 through 19 and Martinez’s raspberry coconut tres leche doughnut from May 18 to 31.

Red Boat fish sauce takes over Cassia

Red Boat Fish Sauce swings into Cassia in Santa Monica to host a one-night only event on Wednesday, May 25 to celebrate the release of its cookbook. On the special a la carte menu is steak tartare with a Red Boat anchovy sauce aioli, coconut milk mochi donut holes made with Red Boat palm sugar, and more. Now Serving will sell cookbooks and attendees can get them signed by Red Boat founder, Cuong Pham, along with co-authors chef Diep Tran and Tien Nguyen. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Reservations can be made here.

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