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Thursday, Sep 29, 2022
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Restaurateur Offers Tip to Patrons: No Gratuities

When the California minimum wage jumped from $9 to $10 on Jan. 1, Susan Disney Lord decided the time was right to introduce a new policy at her Bel Air Bar + Grill: no tipping.

But as a means to buoy wages for employees in the kitchen and dining room, she has instead raised menu prices.

“I think the price of food should reflect the cost of doing business,” said Disney Lord, explaining her decision to increase prices rather than add mandatory service charges, as other restaurants have chosen to do, such as Bill Chait’s Barrel and Ashes in Studio City and Karen Hatfield’s Odys + Penelope near Miracle Mile.

Bel Air Bar + Grill is the latest in a modest wave of L.A. eateries doing away with tipping as they figure out how to stay in the black ahead of a rising city minimum wage that will hit $15 an hour by 2020. With her new policy, Disney Lord said she is able to already offer a base wage of $15 to all employees.

Yet Disney Lord, grand-niece of Walt Disney, is discovering that the no-tipping solution is not without challenges, such as convincing customers to give up the idea that they control service through their wallets.

“Servers tend to perform about the same, no matter what,” she said.

She must also find servers who value stability over once-in-a-while tip bonanzas. On one rainy day last week, that philosophy paid off.

“We had no one in the restaurant, yet our servers were smiling because they knew they were going to get a payday and they knew what it was going to be,” said Disney Lord.

Watts Welcome

South Los Angeles is so saturated with fast food that in 2011 the Los Angeles City Council, concerned by rising obesity rates, banned the construction of any more traditional fast-food joints in the area.

But now celebrity chef Roy Choi, who won fans by sending fusion tacos to L.A. streets with his Kogi BBQ trucks, is launching a healthy fast-food restaurant in Watts on Jan. 18.

LocoL, which carries the motto “fast food the slow way,” aims to be inexpensive as well as healthy, although Choi has not yet released menu prices.

For the Watts opening, which will fall on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first 100 customers will get a LocoL T-shirt and a free food item.

Choi plans to open LocoL branches in other cities as well.

Animal Action

When musician Moby (Richard Melville Hall) opened his vegan restaurant Little Pine in Silver Lake in November, he told the Business Journal that making money was a low priority.

“A traditional entrepreneur would never ever in a million years want to open a vegan restaurant that serves organic food that’s open for 15 or 16 hours a day,” he said.

Now it seems he won’t be making any money at all – at least, not to keep.

The longtime animal rights supporter said he will donate all of the restaurant’s profits to animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Fancy Chef, Casual Eats

Michelin-starred Mélisse in Santa Monica is one of the most expensive restaurants in town. But you can now find easier to digest prices from the same chef, Josiah Citrin, at his new eatery, Charcoal Venice.

“Mélisse is your special occasion restaurant, while Charcoal Venice is an every-night place for a refreshing beer and a perfectly grilled entrée,” Citrin said in a press release, adding that the menu features dishes he would make for friends in his backyard.

For example, foods such as porterhouse steak and collard greens get the smoky treatment with wood and charcoal fires. Some items go straight into the coals, like a head of cabbage that turns black from the heat.

Even the drinks will get the smoky treatment, including a margarita made with tequila, elderberry liqueur and, yes, charcoal.

Board Stiffed

Hoverboards might have been one of the hottest holiday gift fads, but the gadgets are now being treated less like toys and more like vehicles under new California regulations that could slow speedy sales.

Prompted by safety concerns, lawmakers decided that riders on “electrically motorized boards” most be at least 16 years old and wear a helmet to scoot around in public to avoid a $250 fine.

The upside?

Hoverboards, which are made by a number of manufacturers, can still be used wherever bicycles are allowed – as long as they don’t go any faster than 15 miles an hour. The boards cost between $300 and $1,000.

Staff reporter Daina Beth Solomon can be reached at dsolomon@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 263.

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