Kaeli Robinsong and Jason Sussman started Tacofino in 2009 as a west coast inspired-taco and burrito food truck in a surf shop parking lot in Tofino, Canada. Since then, it’s grown to eight restaurants and food truck locations in Vancouver, Victoria, and Tofino. Tacofino restaurants have become beloved staples and must-try joints for locals and tourists alike.
We connected with Gino Di Domenico, Managing Partner at Tacofino, to discuss the importance of local, sustainable, and owner-operated restaurants like Tacofino. During our conversation, we examined a new, modern type of chain restaurants that could change local businesses and food culture.
Tacofino talks about local, sustainable restaurants
Why is supporting local restaurants important?
We wrote a past blog post on how every dollar spent locally recirculates 2.5 times in a community through jobs, profits, and charities—plus it increases the demand for local products and business. Eating local, seasonal produce is also often better for you, the planet, and for local farmers and producers. Dollar amount and health aside, supporting local businesses of any kind helps solidify a stronger sense of connected community, which is essential for a thriving future for every neighbourhood and city.
Gino—and the owners behind Tacofino—couldn’t agree more.
Co-owners Kaeli and Jason are community members in Tofino, Victoria, and Vancouver and have a vested interest in supporting other locals—many of whom are their friends, family members, and surf buddies.
“Tacofino has been successful because we do our best to stay true to our roots,” Gino Di Domenico said. “We aim to assist in taking care of our communities and try to keep money flowing through them. We value quality, local products and do our best to obtain them when we can. Canada’s West Coast has great produce and allows us to keep our carbon footprint low by sourcing local ingredients and supporting sustainable farms and sustainable fishing. For example, we get tuna from Natural Gift Seafood on the island and our chicken from Kent Chicken in Chilliwack.
Tacofino talks about a new, modern restaurant chain
The fact that they serve delicious local products that people enjoy in beautifully-designed, unique restaurant locations also might have something to do with their success. In fact, Tacofino’s fifth location on the mainland, Ocho, was nominated for Best New Design in Van Mag 2019’s restaurant awards and Best Chain Restaurant.
This begs the question: at what point does a local, owner-operated restaurant become a chain? Where does Tacofino stand on the sliding scale?
“Tacofino has been called a chain, but maybe there’s a modern chain on the rise,” Gino explains. “Unlike your standard cookie-cutter chains, our restaurants are owner-operated—and the owners are on-the-ground involved. They work hard to stay true to their vision, contribute to local communities, and create entirely unique spaces.”
“There’s no cookie-cutter manual to follow and reproduce over and over again with us,” he continues. “Everything is from scratch—from the concept to the menu and design.”
“Chain restaurants have huge buying power, but most of them aren’t sourcing the best local suppliers and farmers, visiting their farms, and bringing that back to the community. It’s not the most cost-effective way to run a business but it’s environmentally-friendly, community-driven, and allows us to put quality meals on the table.”
Kaeli Robinsong, co-founder of Tacofino said in a press statement to The Georgia Straight that we “take pride in creating beautiful spaces and being part of vibrant, growing communities like Mount Pleasant.” Every time they open a new location, they think about the community vibe when it comes to menu and restaurant design, look and feel.
“Each Tacofino location has its own unique restaurant design, thanks to Shiloh Sukkau, our designer for most of the locations,” Gino continues. “We want to compliment every community and add to the local food culture in that area by proving a new cool space. It pushes us to constantly innovate and push boundaries on what local food experiences could and should be.”
Thank you, Gino, for chatting with us!