My own private analysis of City Bakery:
1. The law of Real Estate: location, location, location. Chic Brentwood commercial space is costlier than unchic NYC commercial space. The increased rent is offset by the salad bar price hike.
2. There are many people in both NYC and LA who find CB too expensive for self service food. These folks go once or twice and then never again. On the flip side, are the folks on both coasts willing to pay higher prices for premium produce, interesting preparations and tastier offerings. They become the customer base and the 'regulars.'
3. NYC restaurants can depend on major foot traffic business because New Yorkers are used to walking everywhere and are also willing to take public transportation. The same cannot be said for Los Angelenos. We drive everywhere and for the most part, prefer to do everything in our own 'hood.
And that is why LA CB is located on the westside instead of a more affordable part of the city...'cause that's where the customer base lives and/or works. The dining/spending habits of the westsiders fit the profile of the City Bakery customer base.
4. CB (on both coasts) could well be one of those eateries that some folks adore, while others scratch their heads & wonder what all the fuss is about. And both camps are probably right.