Tofino, British Columbia, Canada
Tofino, British Columbia, Canada
Meet Bravocados Tofino, a mouth-watering vegetarian restaurant and our latest featured business at Tailor Brands!
Bravocados was brought to life by couple Sharie and Colin, and it has flourished with the help of their incredible Chef Dave. With an ethically-conscious menu and an adorable Tailor Brands logo to boot, one of many restaurant logos made by our online logo maker, we knew this had to be the next business to put under the spotlight.
This entrepreneurial pair have a string of achievements under their belts, from being in the final stages of opening a second restaurant to Sharie’s simultaneous appointment as the mayor of their city. To find out how they manage to balance it all while running a successful restaurant, read on for the full interview!
A. Sharie and I met working at a restaurant in Victoria about 12 years ago. We moved to Port Alberni, Sharie’s hometown, in 2010, and got married shortly after. We have 4 young children and are active members of our community. We love Tofino and jumped on an opportunity to open a business there, Bravocados, last year.
Q. How has your partnership with one another impacted the way Bravocados has developed?
A. Having a partner in business can definitely be a challenge at times. It’s always easier to make decisions by oneself. But there’s a lot of value is having someone to bounce ideas off of and Sharie and I have very different skill sets and backgrounds, so we are a great team.
I do the on-the-ground, day-to-day running of the restaurant, and Sharie is more on the long-term planning and strategy side. As with any new business, you learn as you go, and I think after about a year and a half at this, we’re really each settling into our roles.
Q. Does managing Bravocados take up all of your time, or do you have other pursuits as well?
A. Running Bravocados is a huge time commitment! But, we have many other ventures. We’re currently in the process of opening a second restaurant, Brie & Barrel, in Port Alberni. Sharie has run a business as a mortgage broker the last ten years, and is actually the newly elected Mayor of Port Alberni. We have hugely supportive families to help us balance all our endeavours and amazing employees at our businesses. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them.
Q. What are the challenges of running a restaurant/working in the service industry? Did anything surprise you along the way?
A. We’d be lying if we said there have been no surprises! As business owners, you need to be constantly able to adapt to changing situations and new challenges. Our first full year in Tofino, we really didn’t know what to expect. We knew summers were busy, but were surprised (pleasantly for the most part) at HOW busy!
We’ve been really fortunate to have a few long-term, consistent employees who have really been the backbone of our operation. In a community like Tofino, where there are a lot of short-term residents, it’s incredibly valuable to have those long-term employees. Consistency is key in the restaurant business, so we really appreciate our committed staff.
Q. Why did you decide on vegetarian food?
A. I (Colin) have always had an understanding and respect for vegetarianism. I grew up with my mother and sister vegetarian a lot of my life and was always interested.
I’ve eaten vegetarian for short periods off and on, but about three years ago, it really stuck for a number of reasons. There’s no question that eating plant-based is the healthy way to go, but until Bravocados, I had no idea how delicious it could be.
Q. What traits do you look for when hiring staff?
A. Of course all the regular traits – honest, hardworking, multitasker, etc. But Bravocados is a small restaurant, and our staff work very closely together. So attitude and authenticity are really important to us.
Our staff enhance the vibe of our restaurant and connect with our customers. It’s really important for us to choose the right people. On top of that, a huge amount of our staff are vegetarians or vegans and that’s really important. We want people working for us who truly appreciate the food we’re serving and believe in the lifestyle.
Q. How do you get customers in the door? Have you found any marketing/branding strategies particularly helpful?
A. We do a lot of social media and try to really focus on consistent, professional content on the various platforms. But Tofino is a word-of-mouth town, and we’re seeing this even more as our sales are hugely exceeding last years’.
I’d say the biggest thing that gets customers in the door is our reputation for amazing food, and that word-of-mouth reputation grows every day. We can’t say enough about how much we appreciate the people of Tofino and their commitment to spreading the word about our little spot.
Q. What’s the most popular dish on your menu?
A. Cauliflower Wings! You can’t beat them!
Q. What do you see as the next steps for Bravocados? (Menu changes? Franchising?)
A. We’re always looking at the possibility of opening Bravocados in different communities. Because we live in Port Alberni, we’d really love to open one here. But we’re also looking at other communities like Nanaimo, the Comox Valley, etc.
Q. Do you have any advice to share with others looking to open a restaurant?
A. Be prepared to work hard and adapt to a constantly-changing work environment. Creating a great atmosphere and appreciating every customer who comes through your doors is key!
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