Women take helm at the Richland waterfront

The women overseeing two popular waterfront restaurants in Richland didn’t intend for their jobs to become their careers.

Kassandra Bell of Anthony’s at Columbia Point, earned a degree in psychology (which comes in handy interacting with staff and guests), and Cara McDonald of Budd’s Broiler spent two decades in real estate (making her savvy in sales and marketing).

In November 2021, the women were promoted to general managers at their respective restaurants.

Both are owned by Seattle-based Anthony’s Restaurants, which has a mission of promoting women to leadership roles. Of Anthony’s 26 restaurants, seven are led by women.

Women also make up 48% of Anthony’s “front of house” management, said Amy Burns, company president. The term is used to describe all the work outside the kitchen.

Burns, the daughter of founder Budd Gould (namesake of Budd’s), is a driving force behind women in leadership roles in the company. She points to data from the National Restaurant Association that shows more than half of the restaurants in the U.S. have women as full owners or co-owners, with 45% in the role of restaurant managers.

That statistic is higher than the percentage of female managers in other industries (38%).

“We believe in promoting from within and have done a lot of rebuilding since Covid hit the industry. Both Cara and Kassandra in Richland are strong leaders who were more than ready for these roles,” Burns said.

The women stepped into their new positions when their longtime general manager, Mike Tvedt, became an operations manager, overseeing eight Anthony’s restaurants, most in the South Sound. He opened Anthony’s at Columbia Point in 2004 and led it – and Budd’s when it opened in 2015 – for 17 years.

Bell and McDonald share many of the same goals in running their restaurants: providing guests with a relaxing, welcoming atmosphere and serving the freshest food.

And when they get it right, something magical happens, McDonald said.

“There are nights when I’m in here and the restaurant is full, and the staff is completely on point, and it just has this happy glow and buzz and sound about it. As a general manager, it’s just like, ‘We did it, we’ve done it.’ I get chills just even thinking about it,” she said.

Stable staff

Bell oversees a staff of 57, most of them full-timers. As the weather warms and Anthony’s patio beckons with its view of the Columbia River, the ranks swell to 80 employees.

McDonald’s team numbers about 35, many of them longtime employees.

“They don’t look at this as a job, but as a career choice. They thrive on knowledge and training and guest service and hospitality. In my opinion, they’re the best in the business,” she said.

The pandemic shutdowns hit the restaurant industry hard.

Budd’s, a happy hour- and dinner-only restaurant, closed, while Anthony’s partially opened to offer to-go orders.

“It didn’t make sense as a company to have both of them open,” McDonald said.

During the shutdown, McDonald worked to keep her team connected with calls, texts and parking lot tailgate parties. “I guess I’m the restaurant mom,” she said.

The strategy worked. About 90% of her employees returned when Budd’s fully reopened. The closure served as a reset of sorts, McDonald said.

“It’s always been a company of high standards and five-star service, but it really allowed us to focus on that as a team. And we did, and I think we’ve done very well with it, honestly,” she said.

Cara McDonald Budd's Broiler

Cara McDonald, general manager at Budd’s Broiler, makes sure the tables are ready for guests. “It’s all about taking care of the guests and making sure they have best experience they can,” she said. (Photo by Kristina Lord)

McDonald said business has been steadily improving, as people seem to be excited to dine out again.

“We ended up with more guests coming through. People discovered us. Maybe it had to do with some restaurants still weren’t open and there were limited choices,” she said.

Bell said finding quality employees hasn’t been a challenge at Anthony’s because the pandemic prompted the hospitality workforce to be pickier about where they wanted to work.

“In the Tri-Cities, I feel like we’re a premier place and we’re known in the industry for that, and people want to work here,” she said.

Rising through the ranks

Bell said building relationships with customers is best part of the job: “I really think that’s what makes us different.”

“You get the chance to be a part of people’s traditions and memories. People who come here every single Easter with their families, and you get to see their kids grow up and their grandkids grow up.”

Instead of pursuing a counseling career after earning a psychology degree in 2014, Bell, 34, opted to double down at the restaurant, as it proved to be a good fit schedule-wise for her young family.

The Columbia-Burbank High graduate said she grew up at Anthony’s, starting there as a second job in 2005. Her first gig, there T.S. Cattle Co. in Kennewick, was as a busser, hostess and expediter (the person who makes sure everything on the plates is correct before it is served.)

She got her first management position at Anthony’s in 2018.

“I kind of rose through the ranks, became a lead, which is the person who greets and organizes table seatings,” she said. She continued to work her way up – to banquet serving, lunch serving, dinner serving and supervising a few nights a week.

Bell said being named Budd’s general manager in April 2021 was a good move as it gave her a chance to manage people she didn’t know. “I grew up in this restaurant,” she said, gesturing to Anthony’s dining room. “They all know me. The regulars all know me. I know the menu like the back of my hand. It was a challenge.”

After seven months at Budd’s, she stepped in to oversee Anthony’s, and McDonald stepped up at Budd’s.

Raised in restaurants

McDonald, 57, grew up in the Tri-Cities, graduating from Richland High. Her parents owned Fran’s Place on Lee Boulevard. The mom-and-pop restaurant is now a tire store next door to Mandarin House in Richland.

Her dad was a line cook, known for his buttermilk pancakes and homemade cinnamon rolls, and her mom was a waitress. She and her sister grew up in the kitchen.

In high school, she worked at the A&W restaurant, also on Lee, and got her first serving job at the Shilo Inn, then King’s Table.

Cara McDonald, general manager at Budd’s Broiler, stands in front of a popular painting for selfies in the restaurant’s entryway at 450 Columbia Point Drive. (Photo by Kristina Lord)

She even owned her own restaurant for five years, Grill on Gage, across from Costco in Kennewick. She closed it about eight years ago to spend more time with family.

“I got my master’s degree at that restaurant,” she laughed.

McDonald spent most of her career – 23 years – in residential real estate, primarily in new construction.

She interviewed for Budd’s front house manager position in 2017, though she really wanted to be a server. But her personality and skill set always led her to manager roles.

Seasonal fare

It’s no secret local chefs love to get their hands on the freshest ingredients. And for Anthony’s Restaurants, it’s a core belief.

The restaurant group operates its own seafood company, flying fresh fish to Pasco several times a week.

“They call us when it gets there. The head chef or sous chefs typically pick it up and bring it back and process it all, cutting and portioning it,” said Bell, explaining the kitchen has a cut shift every day to skin, fillet and process the fish.

Kassandra Bell, general manager at Anthony’s at Columbia Point, talks with Head Chef Matt Nobbs at the Richland restaurant’s exhibition kitchen. He was named head chef in January 2020 and worked as head chef at Budd’s Broiler before that, starting in 2015. “Exhibition cooking is part of experience at Anthony’s. We love that part. We love inviting people to sit up there and watch the show. It’s entertainment value in itself watching these guys put their heart and soul into the dishes,” Bell said. (Photo by Kristina Lord)

McDonald and Bell relish their long-term relationships with local farms.

Budd’s lamb comes from Martinez Farms outside Pasco. LoveJoy Farms of Eltopia supplies strawberries. Ice cream comes from Country Mercantile in Pasco. Peaches come from Douglas Fruits in Pasco and asparagus from Middleton Six Sons Farms in Pasco.

“We get a lot of farmers in because they know what we offer is seasonal. We’re serving things at peak freshness, which is what they believe in,” Bell said.

The beer comes from Washington breweries, including Kennewick’s Ice Harbor Brewing.

All the wine – save the Oregon pinots – is from Washington.

“It’s kind of unique for us when people ask, ‘What do you have from Napa Valley?’ and we say, ‘Nothing.’ ‘What do you have from New Zealand?’ ‘Nothing,’ ” Bell said.

Bell said a bonus of running a restaurant in the heart of the state’s wine country is that her team gets to know local winery staff and can share personal stories with customers.

Cult favorites

Anthony’s answers calls throughout the year from people wanting to know when certain fish arrive.

“The sturgeon has a cult following,” Bell said.

People who love crab cakes adore Anthony’s version. “We’re also one of the only places that serves crab cakes that are all crab, no fillers. They have their own cult following. People who love crab cakes become connoisseurs of crab cakes,” she said.

Then there’s oyster (the restaurant’s oyster festival featuring all kinds of varieties and preparations runs through March) and halibut seasons.

“In the Tri-Cities, we’re the only restaurant that serves a lot of these things,” Bell said.

At Budd’s, the most popular steak is top sirloin, and its meatloaf has a devoted following.

“It’s house-ground beef, spicy Italian sausage and topped with chipotle barbecue sauce. It’s got a nice spice to it,” McDonald said. “It does have a cult following. People love our meatloaf. It’s always on the menu. It’s one of our staples.”

Guests also love Budd’s wild-caught walleye with its sweet potato crust and mustard butter, pork chops with fresh ginger sauce and fruit compote, and crispy calamari (“You see it in reviews as the best in town,” McDonald said.).

Lane Hoss, vice president of operations for Anthony’s Restaurants, envisions a bright future for the Richland restaurants. “I think our theme going forward is leading with optimism. We are projecting growth. We are really focusing on who we are and being ready for that additional growth. We are optimistic about tourism in the Tri-Cities,” she said.

So are Bell and McDonald. “I love that there is so much family feeling between the two restaurants and that we get to stand up in the community together,” Bell said.

Though the general managers’ restaurants are a five-minute walk from each other, it’s usually after work on their commute home that they catch up on the day’s events. “We have a standing drive home meeting,” Bell said.

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