Take a quick stroll through the village and look around. What do you see? Restaurants. Lots and lots of restaurants. Thai, sushi, Italian, fine dining, fast food — you name it, we have it here in Whistler.
According to the Tourism Whistler website, there are well over 90 restaurants within Whistler Village.
But until recently, the men and women running the show at these many establishments didn’t really have a way to deal with concerns and issues that arose in their industry.
All that is about to change with the establishment of the Whistler Restaurant Association.
Chris Quinlan, the owner and operator of Behind the Grind, is the president of the newly formed association. He explains that while there was an existing food and beverage association, it catered more to bars.
“The concerns that were being dealt with there were more specific to bar operations… we wanted an association that more specifically represented the issues that restaurants deal with on a day to day basis,” said Quinlan.
The restaurant association’s basic mission statement is to provide a unified voice for licensed restaurants in Whistler, and they will be looking at things like marketing and purchasing, and how local promotions are run.
“One thing that is really important to remember is that the restaurateurs that started businesses in this town were here in the beginning of the town, so they’re a part of generating all of the excitement that originally got Whistler going,” said Quinlan. “So when these type of people have a voice in how things are promoted, we can provide real input and feedback on issues that are relevant to our industry, and it’s going to be better overall for the industry.”
Now, they can meet with their membership and gather real feedback, which should more accurately reflect the industry as a whole.
“It’s amazing — on a day-to-day basis, restaurants are effected by so many different licensing bodies,” said Quinlan. “There’s the health department, the liquor licensing, the building department or fire department or any of these issues. So basically we provide one voice, whereas before somebody might speak to one restaurant or two restaurants and consider that they had consulted the restaurant industry, and that’s not the case.”
Quinlan also sits on the board of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, and says having one central association will make life a lot easier for everyone.
“When we look at an issue like the temporary housing issue, and staffing challenges, we don’t really have one body that we can go and talk to about issues that affect restaurants — or we didn’t.
“Now, we do. So at our restaurant association meeting, I was able to, as president of that association and part of the chamber board, say, ‘okay, here’s what’s coming down the line.’”
Antonio Corsi at Quattro and Andre St. Jacques of the Bearfoot Bistro agreed about four months ago that local restaurateurs needed an association.
“Then they got together and had a meeting with a group of our friends and it all kind of came together,” said Quinlan.
So far, they’ve held a few meetings to establish their membership criteria and mandate, and are now in the process of working out legal details.
“There’s a real basic way that you have to set certain things up when you set up an association. If it’s a society or a non-profit organization, you have to set it up within the regulations set by the British Columbia government, and there are certain regulations that you have to follow,” Quinlan explained, adding that they are still in the building blocks stage, developing a system to help decide how things will be added to the Whistler Restaurant Association’s agenda.
So far, almost 35 licensed restaurants have signed up, and meetings are being held on the first Wednesday of each month.
It’s hoped that having a more organized industry will benefit not only the restaurateurs, but everyone down the line, including staff, residents and tourists.
“This town is a tourist town, and our guest satisfaction is the success of the resort,” said Quinlan. “And that’s what our objective is — to increase our guest satisfaction.”