Amanda West opened her downtown restaurant two years ago. Her goal: healthy fast food.

Amanda West arrived in Berkeley just two years ago, but already she has become firmly embedded in the fabric of the city. And her achievements and positive impact have just been recognized with the designation “Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in Berkeley”, awarded by the Bay Area nonprofit Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment.

West opened Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food at 2122 Shattuck in the summer of 2008. The restaurant is devoted to making fast food as healthy as possible.

West worked in tech for many years but, she says, she always knew she wanted to run a business with a “social and environmental mission”. She chose food, she says, not because she sees herself as a “gourmet”, but precisely because food is so basic. “I wanted to explore the type of food that is approachable for everyone — comfort food that is economical,” she says. West points out that hamburgers are still go-to the meal of choice for many Americans — she recognizes this and simply wants them to be fresher, healthier more sustainable hamburgers.

The Entrepreneur award recognizes women business owners in the Bay Area who have been successful despite what Women’s Initiative sees as the barriers that exist for women business owners. The group looks for people who exemplify how business ownership and leadership is beneficial for women, have a positive impact on the local community or the community at large and advance their business through innovation.

Community is part and parcel of West’s business strategy. “Everything in our business is based on creating a healthy community,” she says. “For every decision we take we do extensive analysis not only on the impact on our bottom line, but also the impact on the community.”

West — who is on the board of the Downtown Berkeley Association, on the executive committee of Buy Local Berkeley and also sits on the advisory board of the Buy Fresh Buy Local initiative — says Berkeley is an exception in having a significant number of senior women in the food business. “There are not a lot of women in high positions in the restaurant world generally,” she says. “It’s a hard industry.”

West’s path to having her own, eponymous restaurant included a stint as an intern at Niman Ranch whose clients included many of the Bay Area’s most blue-chip eating establishments. But she knew she wanted to concentrate on the less glamorous end of the business. “Fast food is there for a reason — it’s economical and easy. I want to make it healthful too.” That means offering house-made sodas and sourcing meat responsibly. These days, she says, groups from Chick fil-A and Jamba Juice come by to learn from Amanda’s how to be sustainable.

A total of 587 women throughout the Bay Area were nominated for the Entrepreneur award and nearly 50 women in five geographic categories were honored. West took the prize for Berkeley. Visit the Women’s Initiative website for more information about the awards and a complete list of winners.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

32 replies on “Berkeley restaurateur is woman entrepreneur of 2010”

  1. Thomas,

    Arguing with you is like arguing with a flat earther, fact check. what political influence are you referring to? you are a difficult person, a wonderful test case for Berkeley tolerance, I fail.

  2. I’ll only add that I think Ms. Menard has harmful political influence well beyond what might be justified by her positive contribution while, as neighbors go, she’s extremely influential. She seems, under the surface (to me), neither stupid or a person with necessarily evil intent. And so I try, here and there, to either engage or firmly refute her. It would appear that she is disinclined to cry either “uncle” or “peace”.

    I’m sorry that this and a few other threads (with other people) are boring to folks. I have some …. tentative, maybe this works … suggests to berkeleyside.com about some UI improvements that someone (not I) can do on the cheap that would make these problematic exchanges easier to ignore.

  3. Laura,

    I enjoy how reactive you are, which is most of the time despite what your post says. Please keep up with the crazy, and please keep posting your altruistic neighborhood deeds with grammatical errors.

    Maybe Berkeleyside should cut you a stipend. I really only come here to read your hilarious comments. It’s unfortunate you are not more articulate, as I think sometimes you have valid, if not a bit looney, points.

    But whatever you do, please do not ignore TL or engage in civil debate like any other person would do. The entertainment of this blog would be lost.

    Thanks,

    Nessa B

  4. Diane,

    I should have added this tidbit.

    It is common for me to hear from friends after they read a post I wrote containing information most Berkeleyans have little knowledge of saying
    “Oh no, the only problem is Thomas Lord will immediately refute the post and then engage in endless discussion”.

    Track back and take a good look to see if your assumption of mutual combat is accurate. I doubt it.

  5. Diane,

    I am hardlyalone in enduring TL personal attacks and marginalization, if you are so inclined you can locate others who have engaged in spats with him.

    Look, TL plays keyboard policy wonk twisting and manipulating statments in which appears to be some strange form of blogging entertainment. Most of the time I avoid reacting to him. In this case he really ticked me off when he attempted to marginalize BAPAC as a prohibitionist funded coalition and reading slanderous statements suggesting APN is funded by Buck Foundation. APN is funded by Alameda county public health for years and identified by the CDE as the technical experts for community work on youth prevention for AOD issues.

    So Diane have your participated in a citizens effort aimed at quality of life improvements for all Berkeley citizens? Do you have experience as a volunteer who then watches some uninformed guy who can’t bother to attend the public meeting recently twist facts to undermine many good folks efforts.

    Are all opinions are equal, are some statements based in direct knowledge and experience while others are coming from keyboard jockeys pontificating.

    Some months back, a similar tiff occurred, TL irritated many people, many pointed out that he was not even a parent with direct knowledge yet he went on and on twisting statements and making character judgments against good people.

    I apologize for being less than patient in this case. I do not apologize for having no tolerance for his games, and have no interest in lunch or coffee with such a person.

    TL asked me to provide evidence about Amanda’s RBS compliance capacity, here you go TL, try this test to determine if Amanda can control minors drinking at her quick serve bar. Take minors out for a burger during her happy hour. Order a beer and sodas for the kids. Drink the soda served in Amanda’s composable disposable cup quickly. In a discreet manner pour the beer into the empty soda and provide it to the minor.

    Regulating alcohol sales and preventing minor access requires understanding how setting affect access and community standards.

    I bet it is equally easy to leave Amanda’s with a beer or wine in a paper cup, and stroll down Shattuck.

    Those you know my years of serious contributions would never fault me for pushing back on such nonsense as I just endured. In fact in any early tread on Berkeleyside several people said such.

  6. @laura: I am not sure why you and TL spend so much time insulting each other in so many threads, but it downgrades the board experience for the rest of us.

  7. Alan (may I?), and Ms. Menard:

    Months ago I tried inviting Ms. Menard out for coffee or some such, roughly for the reasons you (Alan) describe.

    Ms. Menard: thanks for the org. map, yes. I’d pieced pretty much all of that together so far but that’s a good cross check. You’ve yet to address a single factual issue on which you’ve been challenged but your list of presumed political allies is duly noted.

  8. Hi Laura,

    See suggestion about wit…

    No big deal, just suggesting that the debates go on a little too long for my taste. But I will take your advice…

  9. Alan,

    I took the time to help inform those interested in community public health and current policies issues. The question is not about enjoying beer or wine with dinner, as I regularly do as well. Nor is TL informed or accurate.
    The topic was about city planning impacts the downtown environment.

    Have you considered reading only subjects that interest you? that is what I do, especially if you consider policy issues tedious and boring.

    Berkeleyside just covered several stories related to this developments, I suspect some readers actually do want to have a fuller understanding of these matters.

    I find it tiresome to fend of the bs from TL, especially the slanderous crap he last posted.

    Gee, if Berkeleyside is just for those who want BerkeleyLIGHT, I definitely am not interested.

  10. Mr Lord,

    review city council videos during the discussion and vote authorizing the amending of the zoning code you refer to and listen closely to council members and the mayor state that the city could consider such amendments because they could rely on the recently adopted BAPAC ordinances to manage alcohol outlets.

    Believe me when I say, I get it, you have a chronic need to dress me down.

    However the coalition of committed public agencies and good folks who worked for years as the former BAPAC do not deserve such dismissing and uninformed treatment.

    The former coalition members included:

    ABC representative
    UCB public health dept
    PIRE Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
    City of Berkeley manager staff Taj Johns
    Alameda County Public Health
    City of Berkeley director of Alcohol and other Drug public health dept
    Alcohol Policy Network director Ed Kikumuto
    numerous Berkeley neighborhood leaders
    Berkeley Safe Neighborhood Committee board of directors
    UCB Party Safe
    Students for a Safer Southside
    City of Berkeley planning and economic development dept directors

    This list does not include the various representatives from northern California cities who have successfully implemented monitoring and enforcement programs from Oakland, Santa Rosa and Vallejo.

    The Mayor of Santa Rosa and several of the city council members attended our kick off meeting because Santa Rosa had just implemented an Alcohol Education, Monitoring and Compliance Program managed by code enforcement and the city attorney, similar to Oakland.

    see Santa Cruz website for description of their program
    http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=251

    BAPAC technical expertise, Alcohol Policy Network a nonprofit funded by county public health assisted all the cities listed above with the development of their policies, ordinances and program procedures.

    BAPAC is gratified that the city of Berkeley formerly adopted the set of ordinances, we await the full program implementation complete with evaluation and measuring of outcomes.

  11. Mr. Lord and Ms. Menard,

    I think you two should set up a regular lunch date where you can debate the merits of all the issues raised on Berkeleyside! While you are both well (over?) informed on these issues, I must admit I find it a bit boring to read through the endless tit for tat with all the footnotes, citations, etc… Can you make your points with a bit more wit and brevity?

    In this case, it sounds like Amanda has opened a nice, if somewhat slow, restaurant. Personally, I enjoy having a beer or a glass of wine with dinner and see nothing wrong with a restaurant having a license to do that.

    Signed,

    A (somewhat weary) Berkeleyside fan

  12. Ms. Menard,

    I call you “Ms. Menard” as a default approach to civility. You use your real name here (quite respectable). You seem pretty aggressive towards me (ok, fine, so I won’t presume familiarity). For me, the default then is “Ms. Menard”. If you’d prefer some other form of reference and address, you haven’t said so.

    You write.

    1. MacDonald’ s is a quick serve restaurant.

    Indeed it is (should we fix your spelling — not that mine is much better :-). Less clear is your point.

    2. RBS is Responsible Beverage Service, which is law in Berkeley thanks to BAPAC, how quick serve establishments conform with these requirements and operating standards is the issue, monitoring will be difficult with the self service model opposed to traditional table service, which is why the distinction in restaurants use permits.

    You are presumably talking about the rather mild language of Berkeley Municpal Code chapter 9.84 which any interested reader of Berkeleyside can look up and read in its entirety by going to

    http://codepublishing.com/ca/berkeley/

    and following the links at left to chapter 9.

    How you think that an establishment like Amanda’s would have trouble conforming is, I’ll politely say, a mystery for the ages.

    As for your cites, yes, I’m glad that that in some recent messages you have begun to expose some of what appear to me to be BAPACS hidden conflicts of interest, connections to the Buck fund prohibitionists, etc. BAPAC’s input to Council on the particular council action and ordinance change that applied to quick serve restaurants downtown is particularly instructive. Please, take as much rope as you need — you’re on a roll.

  13. Ms. Menard,

    You wrote:

    there lies your confusion, the notion of a running tab is inaccurate.

    Please observe:

    Exhibit A: Berkeley Municipal Code 23F.04 (“Definitions”)

    Full Service Restaurant: An establishment which serves food or beverages for immediate consumption primarily on the premises, with only a minor portion, if any, of the food being taken out of the establishment. A Full Service Restaurant is characterized as an establishment in which food is cooked or prepared on the premises on a customer-demand basis, which requires payment after consumption, and provides seating and tables for on-premises customer dining with table service (waiters or waitresses). [emphasis added]

    Exhibit B: (Same part of the municipal code)

    Quick Service Restaurant: An establishment which serves food or beverages for immediate consumption either on the premises, or to be taken out for consumption elsewhere. A Quick Service Restaurant is usually characterized as an establishment in which food is cooked on a customer-demand basis, payment is required prior to consumption, and seating or other physical accommodations for on-premises customer dining, with limited or no table service (no waiters or waitresses), is provided. Examples of this type of facility may include, but are not limited to, establishments selling primarily hamburgers or other hot or cold sandwiches, hot dogs, tacos and burritos, pizza slices, fried chicken or fish and chips.[emphasis added]

    Note that there are only a two elements in the definitions that very clearly distinguish “quick serve” and “full service”:

    1. Table service (yes or no).
    2. Pay in advance vs. after consumption for on site meals.

    There is one main fuzzier distinction:

    In full service, only an (undefined) “minor” amount of business can be take-out. Quick serve lacks that restriction.

    You wrote:

    Knock yourself out correcting me, but remember you missed 6 years of policy work with local regulatory experts leading the meetings.

    You refer to BAPAC, I gather.

    Yes, I’m sorry, but I’ve spotted enough serious mistakes and oddities in BAPAC’s work that, no, I don’t particularly trust you to characterize the Municipal Code correctly.

  14. Mr Lord ( since you love to call me Ms Menard, which nobody but you does)

    1. MacDonald’ s is a quick serve restaurant.
    2. RBS is Responsible Beverage Service, which is law in Berkeley thanks to BAPAC, how quick serve establishments conform with these requirements and operating standards is the issue, monitoring will be difficult with the self service model opposed to traditional table service, which is why the distinction in restaurants use permits.
    3. Strict enforcement works, read study entitled,
    “Strict Enforcement Reduces Underage and Binge Drinking on Campuses.” The study finds that stronger enforcement of a stricter alcohol policy
    may be associated with reductions in student heavy drinking rates
    over time. Also, an aggressive enforcement stance by deans may be
    an important element of an effective college alcohol policy.
    Read the entire study here: http://www.substanceabusepolicy.com/content/5/1/18.

    The last reference was lifted from a local officials email thread. If you want more studies check with Bob Salk, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE)
    http://www.pire.org/detail2.asp?core=351&cms=95

    One thing I have certainly learned from my years as a BAPAC member, alcohol legal issues are complicated, you should have attended the recent meeting at UCB I posted about.

    One way to solve the California budget woes, would be for the state to control distribution/sale of alcohol.

  15. TL wrote:

    Before the ordinance change, it was already possible (and done) to serve beer and/or wine in what normal people would regard as “fast food” places throughout the city under an administrative permit – just so long as you had some semblance of table service and let people run a tab until they were ready to leave.

    there lies your confusion, the notion of a running tab is inaccurate.

    The distinctions are relevant regarding compliance with RBS requirements for quick serve restaurants.

    Knock yourself out correcting me, but remember you missed 6 years of policy work with local regulatory experts leading the meetings.

  16. Ms. Menard, to quote the relevant portion of the City staff report of March 9, 2010, staff’s recommendation read:

    Amend BMC 23E.68.030 for the Downtown (C-2 ) Central Commercial District to require an AUP (rather than a Use Permit Public Hearing) to establish beer and wine service with meals in quick-service restaurants that are more than 200 feet from a residential district and allow no sale of alcohol for off-site consumption (full-service restaurants are already subject to this discretionary threshold);

    That states, quite plainly that so long as a restaurant was classified by Berkeley as “full service”, only an administrative permit – not a hearing – was required. For a “quick serve” restaurant, prior to the change, a hearing was required.

    The differences between a “full service” and a “quick serve” restaurant are not quite the same as the difference between what ordinary people think of as “fast food” and other kinds of restaurant.

    As Berkeley code has it, roughly speaking, full service and quick serve have in common “cook to order” (which is pretty loosely defined) and tables. They differ in table service and whether you pay before or after you consume your meal (if dining in rather than doing take out). What’s normally thought of as “fast food” can (and does) easily take the form of what Berkeley calls “full service”, “quick serve”, “take out” etc.

    An example: Consider two hypothetical burrito places. Both have, let’s say, 50/50 of take-out business and people eating at tables. They make identical burritos and serve them up just as fast in either place. At one, if you’re eating in, just have a seat and someone will ask “what’ll it be?” At that one, you pay at the register on the way out. At the other you order “for here” on your way in and pay as you order.

    Tell us, please, your considered opinion about why exactly these two restaurants should be treated differently in Berkeley vis a vis a City permit to sell beer and wine for on-site consumption.

    There is a national movement sponsored by the alcohol industry underway pushing this trend permitting alcohol sales in quick serve establishments. Florida made the legislative leap this past summer.

    There’s also a nationwide business trend of decent quality “quick serve” places pulling in customers who are being lost from “casual dining” places in these economically trying times. Amanda’s seems like it is in part reflective of this trend.

    There are lots of explanations for the trend besides “a national movement sponsored by the alcohol industry”.

  17. Before the ordinance change, it was already possible (and done) to serve beer and/or wine in what normal people would regard as “fast food” places throughout the city under an administrative permit – just so long as you had some semblance of table service and let people run a tab until they were ready to leave. “Quick serve” is not synonymous with “fast food”.

    Wrong, TL since you have so much time for researching issues, try again on this one, your likely to eventually get the policy change right, but unlikely to understand the over-concentration and prevention issues.

    There is a national movement sponsored by the alcohol industry underway pushing this trend permitting alcohol sales in quick serve establishments. Florida made the legislative leap this past summer.

  18. If she wants to compete in fast food, guess what, Amanda, fast food joints don’t sell booze.

    You are mistaken (if by “booze” you mean “beer and wine”).

    I think most of these are “quick serve” in the sense of Berkeley code and, to varying degrees, count as “fast food” in the vernacular: Cheeseboard Pizza Collective, La Val’s, Chipotle, Poulet, the Cafe at Berkeley Bowl West, the cafeteria at the other Berkeley Bowl, Espresso Roma, Viva Taqueria, La Palmita, Burgermeister, …

    And probably others I didn’t list. And that isn’t to count businesses that are competing in what you might think of as the fast food business but which happen to have some incidental feature (like table service) that causes them not to be technically “full service”. And I didn’t count existing business that serve take-out food and take-out beer and/or wine — but that don’t qualify as “quick serve” places.

    Selling booze downtown in a fast food joint will degrade the already degrading downtown environment.

    Before the ordinance change, it was already possible (and done) to serve beer and/or wine in what normal people would regard as “fast food” places throughout the city under an administrative permit – just so long as you had some semblance of table service and let people run a tab until they were ready to leave. “Quick serve” is not synonymous with “fast food”.

    It seems to me that if you think alcohol and “fast food” are a bad mix – aside from the fact that it’s fairly common in Berkeley and throughout the region – your complaint should be less about cutting “quick serve” places the same deal as other fast food joints and more about, say, eliminating alcohol AUPs for for all types of food service places.

  19. Jesse Arreguin also showed this kind of self serving duplicitous logic.
    After years on the ZAB as a a commissioner he was completely aware of how difficult it is to revoke a use permit and the lack of operating standards for such permits especially alcohol sales, yet he chose to make the problem bigger not more manageable.

  20. Also, I agree with Laura. Amanda helped push changes related to regulating alcohol that do not serve the community in the manner Amanda claims she cares about. It seems to me that she does not really weigh the community’s wellbeing, that such comments are green wash, near-empty rhetoric. If she wants to compete in fast food, guess what, Amanda, fast food joints don’t sell booze. Selling booze downtown in a fast food join will degrade the already degrading downtown environment. If Amanda cared about the community as well as her bottom line, (i.e her aiblity to compete with bars selling booze?), she might remember that many thousands of real human beings live downtown and if downtown turns into a late-night booze neighborhood, it will be a nightmare to live down here (as I currently do). Amanda pushed to limit public input into permits for booze . . . . there is not enough public scrutiny of the permitting process already.

    which reminds me. . . . did Saturn Cafe get their outrageous request to stay open until 3 a.m.? What kind of downtown environment will we have if drunks stagger around downtown when the bars close looking for food? people live downtown, real ones with families and real lives . . . and guess what? we hear downtown drunks on the streets

  21. I echo Dogfud’s observation that service at Amanda’s seems super slow. It does take a few minutes to grill a raw meat patty but everything seems to operate in very slow motion at Amanda’s. I’ve only eaten there a few times and the main reason I don’t go more (I live right downtown and tend to go to Bongo Burger instead just because of the very slow service at Amanda’s . . . and Bongo has no magic. . . Bongo needs a few minutes to grill raw meat patties but Bongo does it much faster and ordering the food is much MUCH faster at Bongo’s). Sometimes I have to wait a long time just to order. . .JUST TO ORDER? it’s like the clerks are tranked down or something.

    So Amanda misses out on my business . . even though I quite like their chicken burgers, I end up with a Bongo burger instead just cause of the slowness.

    and this: it bugs the heck out of me that Amanda charges for their homemade sparkling water. I get charging for the plastic cups, which go into landfills and cost money. And I know charging water costs a few cents per cup but every other restaurant downtown will fill a water bottle, even with charged water, for free but Amanda charges the quarter, even when I am buying food.

  22. I would change Amanda’s in only one way. Currently, they ask you for your name, and it usually takes some time for them to get it right. Other restaurants with similar service generate a number for your automatically and give you the receipt with the number on it, which is quicker and easier.

    Thanks to Amanda’s for improving this key location in downtown.

  23. Mike,

    I was present during the meeting, not sure if any of the other news stories at the time quoted Amanda.

    Thanks Amanda, I already read the page. I am referring to the alcohol environment, and how over concentration of alcohol sales negatively impacts cities.

    The mayor intends to make downtown an entertainment zone, how well that works is primarily determined by how well cities regulate alcohol sales. Recently there was considerable opposition to Walgreens’ obtaining a beer/wine permit with at least one council member grandstanding, yet the council embraced this zoning change without even requesting the chief of police provide a report of alcohol related incident data.

    Amanda claimed she could not compete without alcohol sales. Kris Worthington told the Berkeley Safe Neighborhood Committee that the idea was to draw the UC students into downtown Mon-Thurs, the dead nights.

    In the coming years we will see how well this haphazard planning impacts downtown and southside.

  24. Thank you, Berkeleyside, for the nice article, and Deirdre & Dogfud for your kind words.

    We are so excited to be in Downtown Berkeley and celebrating our Second Anniversary this Wednesday, September 8 from 5-9pm with live music, food & drink specials, free raffle prizes, and a few celebratory words. Hope you’ll join us!

    Dogfud, I’d love to hear more of your feedback on what we can do better, if you have time to e-mail me at feedback@amandas.com.

    Laura, I’d be happy to speak with you about our commitment to the community and the environment. If you are interested, there are a lot of details here:
    http://www.amandas.com/community.html#environmental

  25. West says “For every decision we take we do extensive analysis not only on the impact on our bottom line, but also the impact on the community.”

    She sure spoke differently at the planning commission meeting when petitioning the city to alter the zoning code allowing quick serve restaurants the right to bypass the pubic hearing process and obtain an administrative use permit for alcohol sales.

    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-02-04/article/34584?headline=Alcohol-Permit-Process-Eases-for-Downtown-Quick-Service-Restaurants

  26. Great restaurant, but the food prep is slower than it should be. This seems to limit their capacity (and bottom line, I’m sure). Definitely need to take a look at their process, how many motions it takes, etc. Some of it is a problem with the kitchen layout, but seriously there have been times when there were more people in the kitchen than customers and it still takes 10 or 15 minutes to get out a burger.

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