Log In

Reset Password

MEF manager embraces new minimum wage

First Prev 1 2 Next Last
Aurora staff Victoria Aquino, left, Costanzo DiMeglio, Kristal Cagulada and Luca Giammarchi (Photograph supplied)

Since opening three years ago, seafood restaurant Aurora at the Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort and Spa has been going from strength to strength.

The MEF Ltd restaurant in Paget won Best of Bermuda awards for its first two years in operation.

But one challenge for manager Costanzo DiMeglio has been finding and keeping Bermudian staff.

“We try as much as we can to hire Bermudians,” Mr DiMeglio said. “But sometimes we have a difficult time. MEF has had programmes where we have trained young Bermudians and sent them overseas to work in restaurants in Europe. We supported the Bermuda College when they had kids who wanted to go into the service industry.”

In the end, many of the Bermudian students MEF trains go on to other industries.

MEF restaurant manager Costanzo DiMeglio has made Aurora bright and airy (Photograph supplied)

He does not think it is a question of money.

Mr DiMelgio welcomed the new minimum wage act implemented this month.

The new regulations require employers to pay their employees at least $16.40 an hour, including gratuities, where applicable.

“People deserve to live better,” Mr DiMeglio said. “We know what Bermuda is like.”

He said Aurora is already meeting the wage requirements with the 28 staff members in its kitchen and dining room.

“It might impact porters and people like that,” he said.

Mr DiMeglio thinks it is the lifestyle of the restaurant industry that is the problem.

“It is sometimes hard for young Bermudians to give up their personal lives,” he said. “We work seven days a week. We work every single holiday of the year. When everyone else is having a good time, we have to work. Our busiest time is Friday and Saturday. So young kids don’t look into this type of life.”

He opened Aurora in December 2020 at the height of the pandemic. The global health crisis hit MEF Ltd hard, but had an unexpected silver lining for him.

“It took the rush away and gave us time to grow,” he said.

He said in Bermuda diners will give a new restaurant a chance, but will drift away quickly if things are not up to standard.

“You have to be good right away,” he said. “I think we were. This restaurant has been very successful. I have been very, very happy with it.”

Mr DiMeglio first started designing the concept in the early 2000s when the hotel first opened the restaurant.

He had already designed other MEF restaurants such as L’Oriental Restaurant in Hamilton and the Blu Bar and Restaurant at Belmont Hills.

For whatever reason things just did not work out and another restaurateur took over the space’s management.

When that person vacated the space in 2020, Mr DiMeglio was approached to take it over.

“Because it was a little bit sentimental and I loved the location, I said OK,” he said. “I didn’t even think anything about Covid.”

His trademark is a fusion of different cuisines and styles to appeal to a wider range of customers.

At Aurora we are a seafood restaurant but that does not mean that we stick only to seafood,” Mr DiMeglio said. “We do a lot of things to make the menu appealing to everyone.”

In addition to appealing to hotel visitors and locals, they are also marketing to the corporate world. They have turned an after-hour bar at the hotel into The Cove, a meeting space for business clients.

“Other than the Hamilton Princess in Hamilton there are not that many places where you can go outside the office and have a business meeting,” he said. “We now have a few companies that use this place all the time for their board meetings.”

On Friday, they reopen their seasonal seafood bar, Marea, offering everything from oyster bar and champagne nights, to a DJ and live saxophone and ukulele music.