Interview with Dan Wood, Co-Owner of Yaggers, one of the best Restaurants & Sports Bars in Downtown Vancouver
Describe your business.
Yaggers started 10 years ago and we are a food forward company! We are a pub and sports bar, that has a lot of fun, but we also serve really good food. We have free range meats, interesting recipes, and my partner Tom owned a really successful fine dining restaurant, and we’ve incorporated some ideas from it into Yaggers. Our first slogan was fun food and serious drinks. Then we were recognized in the Georgia straight for best pub food, so we started focusing more on our food. Inside, it’s laid back, and relaxed, until everyone decides to turn up the music and party! Our bison burger is amazing. Our blue cheese mac and cheese will change your life. And now we have 2 locations. Downtown and Kitsilano. Our downtown location is kind of a hole in the wall with really good food. Kits opened with a BBQ theme, so we smoke a lot of food there – the menu is quite different. The 3 of us are very hands on owners, because we care so much about making the customers happy. And it’s really nice that after 10 years, we’re still friends, hanging out, having a good time. No one is bigger than the business.
What made you decide to open this business?
It was the brother’s idea. I was actually touring in a rock and roll band. And Tom called me to open up a restaurant with him. I had experience with bartending, and they asked me to be a hands on investor, and I liked the idea, so I went for it!
What was it like when you first started?
It was tough sledden! We were two blocks off Granville street, in a small space, on the ground floor. And in the first year, I was a bartender, the other owner was a waiter, and we had a chef! We’d sell $800 a day, and now we have 9 people on staff. The first two years was really tough, so to do it on the wrong side of town is awesome. We didn’t draw salaries at the beginning, and we just stuck with it, and after 3 years, our head was above water, and we just continued to flourish more over time, and then we were able to open the kits location.
What has surprised you most when owning a business?
The fact that the 3 of us still get along is a pleasant surprise, considering I hear so many horror stories. I was also surprised how much people are educated on their food choices. They really know their beers. And they understand good food. And the Vancouver food culture is very refined. So you can’t put anything past them. You need to give them the best food and experience possible.
What would your customers say they love most about your business?
The Food! And if I had to pick a few things, the “Mac and not so blue cheese” and our “cow burger”, and any of our BBQ dishes, for example, our “St Louis Ribs” are beautiful smoked with corn breed, beans, coleslaw, and french fries.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with a customer?
The gold medal hockey game in 2010, and the entire Olympics in Vancouver was awesome for a restaurant owner. Every single day, for 17 days, the restaurant was packed from open till close. And seeing people from all countries, uniting, partying, being friendly, and having fun together was awesome. And I also had a customer from our of country tell me how luck I was to own a business in one the best cities on earth, and it really hit me that I was. And I’m so grateful that I have 2 restaurants in two great neighbourhoods, and I make a living and have fun.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you want customers to know about?
November 28th, we have our 10 year anniversary party! We’re inviting friends and customers to enjoy the fruits of our labor for 10 years, and we’ll be bringing out our best of Menu, playing a retro sound track, and giving a big thank you to the neighbourhood and the customers who have supported us. Christmas and New Years is also upon us, and we have a private back room, that groups of 20-45 can rent out, at our downtown location, to have some great parties!
What is something most people don't know about the business?
Our private back room in the Yaggers downtown location! People can book these rooms for no charge, as long as it’s a 20-person minimum, and a 45 person maximum. You get your own server, TV, specialized menu’s, hand rounds, fixed price menu’s - we really customize the experience for any group.
Do you have any advice that you want to share with other entrepreneurs?
You have to work hard to succeed. You’re at your own mercy of success. If you try to mail it in you’re going to fail. You must be involved 24/7 with the restaurant, from day 1 to day 100. You can’t cut corners, and do the best you can for the product. And don’t come to work in a bad mood.
What do you love about this neighborhood?
Kitsilano is the greatest neighbourhood in the world. People are super friendly. The actually restaurants on Broadway, we take care of each other. We’re not separated by competitiveness. And the myriad of other businesses on the strip is really fun and cool. My block from Macdonald to Alma, is rife with lots of great businesses.
What are your favorite places to go in the neighborhood?
Chewy’s Rodney’s Oyster Bar And The Fringe Café. The Fringe Café is great for a boys night, and shout out to Tommy the bartender – he’s the best bartender on Broadway! I also love the Coppertank and Elwoods. And one of my favourite places to eat is Baru. Owned by 2 guys. It’s phenomenal food. It’s a great joint that’s been there for a long time. It’s at the end of Broadway. And shout out to Renee and Dave for and awesome fine dining experience.