La La Land Kind Cafe employs and mentors foster youth
By Kamala Kirk
A new cafe has opened its doors in Santa Monica and does more than just serve coffee. La La Land Kind Cafe, which originated in Dallas, was founded with the sole purpose of empowering foster youth by providing them with employment and mentorship opportunities while setting out on a mission to normalize kindness.
“La La Land is not in the business of coffee, we’re in the business of kindness,” said founder Francois Reihani. “We want to normalize kindness and we believe that starts with showing that a business can do more than just focus on making profits. It’s about balance. By practicing kindness and encouraging our customers to spread love and positivity, we hope to set the example that all businesses can and need to care for our people, planet and society. Additionally, with kindness at the core of our values and business model, we truly hope to normalize kindness and create a model that provides to people and businesses what kindness can do.”
Reihani, who is a 2021 Forbes 30 under 30 honoree, founded La La Land in 2019. The first location opened in the Lower Greenville neighborhood in Dallas, and since then, two more locations have opened in Dallas. The Santa Monica space is the cafe’s first location in Los Angeles.
“La La Land is on a mission to normalize kindness and LA was the natural next step for us,” Reihani said. “I also spent some time growing up in LA; in fact, one of my first jobs was at a car dealership in Santa Monica so I have firsthand experience of what it’s like to work in this city. With that experience in mind, I believe that LA is a city where La La Land’s kindness-focused culture will really resonate with and impact the community.
“Beyond that, La La Land’s opening in LA serves to empower the foster youth community here. We were very purposeful in choosing our Santa Monica location to ensure easy access to public transportation. Many of those in the foster youth community and those who have aged out of the system don’t have their own methods of transportation, and La La Land’s neighboring train and bus lines make it easier for our foster youth employees to get to and from work.”
La La Land is an all organic cafe and everything on their menu, from the coffees and teas to the toasts and pastries, are sourced from all organic ingredients. Their signature coffees include the La La Latte (La La froth, honey, organic espresso and milk) and the Perfect Latte (secret sauce, organic espresso and bell milk), while their Matcha offerings are the La La Matcha Latte (La La froth, honey, organic matcha and milk) and the Butterfly Matcha Latte, which tastes like Fruity Pebbles (blue butterfly pea flower, organic matcha and milk).
Their most popular and recommended food items include the La La Classic Avocado Toast (avocado mash, chili flakes, lemon and cilantro garnish), La La Dream Toast (burrata, pesto, avocado mash, crunchy chili oil and chili flakes) and the La La Cookie, their signature chocolate chip cookie.
“Our menu also features a detailed tea list so our customers know exactly where their organic teas are coming from and how they differ,” Reihani said. “The California and Texas menus differ slightly. A signature drink item available only in La La Land’s Santa Monica location is the La La Iced Tea (blue butterfly tea with honey). Additionally, the California menu also features a vegan food menu, which offers several different tasty and vegan toast options. The remainder of our signature items – both drinks and food – are available at all locations.”
Customers can purchase unique merchandise in store including hats, sweatsuits, t-shirts and more that sport the “Don’t Be A Dick” slogan and other “kind-inspired” messages. A percentage of all profits will go to the We are One Project, a nonprofit organization that was founded by Reihani to provide the right tools for businesses to come together and employ foster youth.La La Land’s Santa Monica location recently launched its youth mentorship program and each of their foster youth employees start by participating in a eight-week paid internship where they come into the cafe to observe and learn the basics. At the end of the internship, the cafe works with them to strategize the best next step for themselves personally.
“In the past, we’ve had employees choose to stay at La La Land to help others in the foster youth community, but we’ve also had many who we’ve helped match with mentors so they can find a job they’re passionate about,” Reihani shared. “For the time being, we’re hyper focused on making sure our foster youth employees at our new location are getting the right resources and guidance they need to start to build out their lives. That said, we do hope to expand La La Land to more locations in the future so we can continue our mission of spreading and normalizing kindness while also empowering the local foster youth communities.”
La La Land Kind Cafe is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.