Laura L. Bliss is an entrepreneur and restaurant management expert celebrating nearly 25 years of sharing her passion for food with diners and four years as the owner of the South Bend Bistro. She entered the food and beverage industry in 1999 as a server, and moved into fine dining two years later as a member of the staff at the Trout House, an upscale riverside dining room that had become a fixture of the community. Ms. Bliss continued to work in restaurants over the next decade, noting that she often “fell into” leadership roles, building a comprehensive background in hospitality management. As she continued to develop her diverse industry skill sets, Ms. Bliss began to dream of eventually opening her own restaurant.
Well-known as a savvy manager and a versatile team member, Ms. Bliss was hired as a part of the opening crew of several popular Sunriver-area establishments, including the Sunriver Brewing Company and Jonathan’s Steak & Seafood House. She left Jonathan’s Steak & Seafood House inspired and confident in her ability to launch a new concept, and decided to take the plunge when she saw a local restaurant up for sale. After purchasing the restaurant that would become the South Bend Bistro, Ms. Bliss set to work modernizing the kitchen and decor and infusing touches of her personality into the menu and atmosphere. By the time it reopened, seating 120 across an upscale casual dining room and luxe patio, South Bend Bistro featured an all-new menu of French-inspired, locally-sourced dishes and drinks.
Ms. Bliss credits her business success and the continued success of the South Bend Bistro to her creativity and intuition, which she describes as having a “fisherman’s gut” for the fine dining industry. She explains her management style as “less driven by books and numbers,” and more willing to take creative risks and work to connect with patrons than many in the industry. Ms. Bliss regards her staff of 12 as “like an extension of [her] family,” and is a strong believer that the energy around the food she serves makes an impact on its quality. As manager and owner, Ms. Bliss is responsible for handling reservations, marketing, and maintaining a seamless flow during service. She strives to keep the restaurant environment as positive as possible, keeping music and lighting upbeat and working to support her employees’ successes both personally and professionally.
The South Bend Bistro has collected a number of glowing reviews and has been featured extensively in area magazines and newspapers since its launch four years ago. Ms. Bliss considers reviving the restaurant space to be among her greatest professional accomplishments, building on her lifelong passion for food and cooking and the strength that she drew from to manage a childhood dyslexia diagnosis. In the coming years, she hopes to open several more locations throughout the region, bringing her unique menu and positive energy to more diners. Outside her work, Ms. Bliss is happily married to her husband, Sean, who she calls her “#1 cheerleader,” and is a parent to three children: 8-year-old Paisley; Mechai, 19, who is a five-year cancer survivor; and Mersadies, 21, who followed her mother into the restaurant industry to work as the South Bend Bistro’s pastry chef. Her children are among Ms. Bliss’ greatest inspirations, and she hopes to demonstrate to them that no matter what struggles life presents, it is possible to succeed and thrive with optimism and hard work.