“A great customer experience,” says CEO Ryan Moreno, is the “secret sauce” behind Joseph Richard Group’s meteoric rise since its launch in 2009. “It’s about our product, our people and the experience we provide our guests,” he says.
JRG increased its revenue 234 per cent to more than $34.4 million between 2012 and 2016 and is set to close out 2017 with revenues of more than $50 million. Last year the company, helmed by principles — and childhood friends — Moreno and André Bourque, was ranked number-32 on Business in Vancouver’s list of B.C.’s fastest-growing companies. The Surrey. B.C.-based company’s diverse portfolio currently includes Micky’s Irish Public House, The Henry Public House, Edith & Arthur Public House, The Hemingway Public House, Oak & Thorne Public House, The Buck & Ear Bar and Grill, Townhall Public Houses and S+L Kitchen + Bar. It also operates three private liquor stores.
In 2016, chef Matthew Stowe, who won Top Chef Canada in 2013, joined the company as director of Culinary Operations alongside chef David Jorge, who won MasterChef Canada in 2015. Stowe now oversees the company’s culinary operations, which includes the S+L Kitchen & Bar brands. “We wanted to bring an elevated culinary experience to your neighbourhood pub — that was our vision,” says Moreno.
Aside from its seven Townhall locations, JRG operates seven other individually branded pubs. “These are brands where we saw opportunities in the markets we were already in, but didn’t want to cannibalize our own brands,” Moreno explains. “It also gave us the opportunity to be creative in terms of interior design because they didn’t have to fit the existing mold.”
All JRG pubs have the same core menu — with the exception of one or two unique signature items — same uniforms and same experience, but each has its own distinctive identity reflecting the community it’s in.
Its three S+L Kitchen + Bar locations offer a casual upscale environment focused on unique locally inspired dishes.
In 2018, JRG will debut an Italian concept called The Italian Osteria & Cheese Bar, as well as Sudo Asian Kitchen. It will also be releasing a private-label beer. An additional two or three more pubs will follow by the end of the year. But the jewel in the JRG crown will be a new chef-driven concept opening in collaboration with chef Stowe. While its existing locations are corporately owned, Moreno says JRG has been working on a franchising model for the last two years. “We realized a long time ago that in order to build the business quickly, we had to grow fast,” he says. “But there are challenges operating locations from a distance. If we wanted to scale the pubs, we needed to look at a franchising.”
JRG considers franchising “a vehicle for rapid expansion in areas where, logistically, it would be harder for us to have a corporate store.” But, in terms of growth, he says there is no definitive number the company is aiming to achieve. “We want to ensure the integrity of the brand is kept, the location works and the operator is good. We’re not looking to pump out 50 of these things just to have them, but if 50 great operators and 50 great locations pop up, then we’d look at it.”
The team has been mapping Canada out and has its eye on 12 to 15 potential new locations. “We have a vision and we’ll start with a handful [of locations],” says Moreno. “There will be growing pains along, but we have a great team and once we get a couple under our belts — away we’ll go.”