Journal: News & Comment

Thursday, February 24, 2005
# 12:27:00 PM:

Vancouver's doomed theme restaurants

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In her reflections on coming to this city from Seattle, Julie Leung writes that Vancouver has "plenty of excellent restaurants. Ted and I would be happy to eat there every day."

Greater Vancouver is unusual in that we not only have thousands of restaurants, we have a lot of good ones, and many of them are quite cheap to eat at. Even the high-end establishments, such as recent Iron Chef winner Rob Feenie's Lumière, cost far less to eat at (and are also usually rather less pretentious) than similar restaurants in other cities. And you can get fabulous sushi almost anywhere. (My favourite is Sushi Garden, near my home in Burnaby.)

I think that's why the many big chain theme restaurants, such as Planet Hollywood, the Hard Rock Café, and the Rainforest Café, have all opened here and then failed a few months later. Those establishments have to pay the costs for all their memorabilia, displays, and bric-a-brac, and in my experience usually the way they do that is to overcharge for mediocre food, served at a breakneck pace to funnel as many patrons through as possible each day.

That might work at Disney World, but it doesn't work in Vancouver (and didn't even work 30 years ago), because we're used to not paying a lot and still getting excellent things to eat. Even our local chains—such as White Spot, Earls, the Cactus Club, and Milestone's—often sell meals that wouldn't be out of place at an upscale eatery, because we Vancouverites won't settle for anything less.

One more reason I like living here.


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