Justin Tisdall, Restaurateur
We had the pleasure of speaking with restaurateur Justin Tisdall, to talk about Vancouver’s restaurant scene, BIPOC owned restaurants, and how he used COVID-19 as an opportunity to re-examine his whole business. Tisdall and his restaurants have made a name for themselves by remaining consistently ahead of the curve.
Juke’s Fried Chicken Sandwiches (+ they’re gluten-free!)
1. What inspired you to open your restaurants? What inspires the menu and food?
“Juke opened in July 2016 and BeetBox opened in October 2019. We have two main owners: Justin Tisdall (Front of House) and Bryan Satterford (Chef), and a third silent partner Cord Jarvie (former owner of Meat & Bread).
I had been working in the Upper-End Casual / Fine Dining restaurants for years. I noticed that the place I wanted to go out and have fun in, didn’t really exist in Vancouver yet. I had come up with this idea for great quality comfort food, served up in a small room (opposite of the restaurants I had been working in), with great music and just a fun vibe. I was a bit unsure how to execute a great cocktail bar and dining room with takeout. My wife, Sameena and I, agreed that we wanted to open our own restaurant. We had the concept, but we were lacking execution. I had never seen anything like our restaurant Juke and was hesitant about how we could make this work.
Sameena and I went traveling and stumbled upon an Indian restaurant in London, UK. Once we saw this traditional Indian restaurant with a modern take-out counter, something clicked. I knew how we could make a Cocktail Bar & Fried Chicken Restaurant with Take-Out work, but I knew I needed help. Sameena said, ‘we’ll only do this if Bryan is on board.’ Bryan and I had worked off and on for about 15 years together and became very good friends, but also trusted co-workers. I pitched Bryan and he was in. Bryan was doing some chicken research while he was opening the restaurant Meat & Bread in Vancouver, and Cord said he wanted to open something similar. So we all got together.”
Bryan Satterford & Justin Tisdall
2. Tell us about the 2 different concepts and menus behind your restaurants:
Juke & Chickadee Room: “Juke is the reason the chicken crossed the road. Launched at 182 Keefer Street in 2016 by Justin Tisdall, Chef Bryan Satterford, and Cord Jarvie. Juke has quickly carved out a reputation for serving up an elevated-yet-fun menu, comprising the city’s best southern-inspired fare. Beyond its trademark gluten-free, non-GMO-grain-fed, free-range fried chicken and sticky pork ribs, Juke also features a mouth-watering selection of seasonal snacks, salads, sides, wine, local craft beer =, as well as an array of signature and classic cocktails, served up next door in a new contact-free cocktail hotspot called Chickadee.“
BeetBox: “An exciting culinary concept located in the heart of Vancouver’s West End, BeetBox is a counter-service restaurant offering an ever-growing community of vegans, vegetarians, and ‘flexitarians.’ A homespun menu of plant-based comfort food perfect for dine-in, quick pick-up, or delivery. The latest project for myself and Chef/Co-owner Bryan Satterford, BeetBox offers a mouthwatering menu of burgers, sandwiches, and wraps as well as snacks, salads, sides, and a bar that features local kombucha and craft beer.”
BeetBox’s 100% Fried Seitan Chick-Un & Fix’ns Sandwich
3. What challenges did you face opening your restaurants?
“I believe the biggest hurdle was dealing with build-out issues brought on by the physical spaces, as well as financing while we finalized the space. I also do not really believe in barriers, as these are detours that help you find creative ways to work around.”
BeetBox’s Warm Bowls
4. How are you navigating the challenges of COVID-19?
“We are very fortunate as a company that Takeout was a huge part of our business model, so;
a) We had already adapted to the changes, where most businesses needed to figure out how to do this.
b) We were already a trusted brand, so I think that worked in our favour. That being said we had a lot to do. We have completely changed Juke and made it into two restaurants; a full takeout side, and then we changed our dining room and bar into the Chickadee Room. In terms of BeetBox, we created a brand new vegan sauce line of 10 different sauces and adapted our menu.”
BeetBox’s 100% Plant-Based Vegan Condiments (available for purchase).
5. What has your experience been like working with delivery platforms, and how has it changed through COVID-19?
“Our experience has always been to grow with these platforms. We are lucky to have gotten in on the ground floor 5 years ago, and that has worked to our advantage in terms of volume and negotiating power. These are very tight business relationships and we need to treat and foster them that way. This is a two way street.”
6. What is the biggest challenge you’ve learned in your journey as a restaurant owner?
“HA, way too much to answer here, but in business and just in life, be kind to people. Also, I have learned that my business partnership with Bryan is solid and we always remove our ego from the equation when discussing the business. I have also learned that we are nimble and resilient, both as individuals and as a company. All of that has helped us navigate the past year.”
6. You mentioned when we spoke that obviously there has been a lot of interest in having conversations with Black/BIPOC restaurant owners. When have you found these conversations to be productive, and when have you not?
“I feel they are productive when they are a discussion and not self-serving for either party. The big picture here is awareness and equality, and not just to get personal recognition or supporting a business because it is good for your brand. The productive part is when new ideas are made or old ones are broken. I think when people are open, something special will rise from that.”
Local Vancouver you can support.
7. What role do you think food plays in the continued dialogue about racial issues?
“Everybody has to eat, and humans eat together, so a huge part of it is fostering community. Communities are built around food, conversations come from eating around a table, where new experiences are formed and memories are made by eating with friends or even strangers (pre-COVID).”
8. How would you describe the Vancouver food scene when you first entered it, and how has it changed?
“Hmm, I am from Toronto originally, and one thing I have always been proud of with the Vancouver Food Scene is how cutting edge and forward-thinking it has always been. Vancouver had so many restaurants making food and drink before things like Farm to Table and such were on-trend. For a smaller city, we have a big food scene made up of so many cultural styles.”
Juke’s Fried Chicken Waffles
9. What would you change about the way the restaurant industry functions right now?
“Hopefully, we can see some liquor laws loosen. During COVID, restaurants have been allowed to do ‘off-sales’ with food purchases. I think this has been well received by the city and restaurateurs have been responsible in how they are serving this.”
Chickadee’s signature and classic cocktails
10. What’s next for you and your business?
“Sky is the limit. We are working on some in-store products (for grocery stores), we are looking at a few other Brick & Mortar Ventures. We have ideas, we just need the time and financing. We are getting there. This is a crazy time, but we are trying to make the best of it and hopefully, we and the restaurant industry as a whole, can come out stronger because of COVID. It has been amazing to see how creative independent restaurants have been in keeping their doors open and their guests happy.”
Cocktail Kits from Chickadee
Ready to order Juke Fried Chicken and BeetBox for your team?
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