The Trendy Oakland Wine Bar That Celebrates Its Staff

As the world returns to a new sense of normalcy in the aftermath of the global pandemic, restaurant owners are struggling to define their own. According to Forbes, staffing shortages have continued to affect every level of the industry, causing delivery delays, minimalist menus, shorter operation hours, and fewer business days. It's a critical moment that many restaurant owners have shied away from. But a daring number have also stepped up, using it as an opportunity to address the many shortcomings of their traditional business structure.

Among those daring few are Stella Dennig and Finn Stern, co-owners of DAYTRIP, a trendy Oakland wine bar that, non-coincidentally, made it to the list of 2022's 10 Best New Restaurants in America, per Bon Appétit. While restaurants around the country have struggled to hire staff, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the restaurant received more applications than they could handle — and it's no secret as to why: Applicants sensed that DAYTRIP's workplace culture empowered its employees, finding that their happiness was central to the restaurant's business approach.

DAYTRIP prioritizes its employees

Employees at DAYTRIP are celebrated — that much is clear as soon as you open up their menu, where the names of each server and cook are printed on the corner (per Bon Appétit). But it's actually much deeper than that. Finn Stern, one of the restaurant's co-owners, told the San Francisco Chronicle that in order to build an equitable, sustainable future, the food system has to change. He originally moved from Washington, D.C., to California to do just that while working for an agricultural legislative organization. Eventually, he decided there were other ways to make an impact, which is where his vision for the restaurant began.

Given his background in farmworker sovereignty, Stern knew that they'd support farmers by partnering with sustainable growers and emphasizing the veggies on their menu. But, when it came to providing the employees with fair pay and benefits, they looked towards other local restaurants as role models. By including the staff in these discussions, they eventually decided on a transparent pay system — beginning with an above-minimum wage base pay, plus an equally distributed tip pool generated by a 20% service fee instead of traditional tipping, averaging out to a starting pay of $31 per hour.

Additionally, by raising their menu prices by 5%, DAYTRIP's full-time workers receive health care. The transparency makes employees feel valued and provides a sense of accountability that traditional restaurant structures don't provide, which are two factors that only lift the overall customer experience.