Interview with Daniel Frankel

Restaurateur | Vancouver

What are the most challenging elements of running restaurants?

Finding and retaining great people to work with. The people that run the organization can make or break the restaurant. I’m very lucky in this case – I have a great team!

You opened your first Vancouver restaurant in Coal Harbour, then Stanley Park, what was the draw to operating restaurants in city parks?

My father always taught me that the three most important things in the restaurant business are location, location, location. As far as I’m concerned, the city parks offer the most treasured locations in the city.

Many of your restaurants are Gastro Pubs, why have you decided to specialize in this type of restaurant operation?

Gastropubs offer the best of both worlds – the gastronomic element of great food, and the pub environment synonymous with letting loose and having fun.

When growing up in Vancouver did you ever envision yourself as a leader in the restaurant industry?

I envisioned myself as a big time film director but ended up flipping burgers and scooping ice cream cones. I wouldn’t change a thing.

What is your passion outside of business?

I have many passions outside of the business – first and foremost, however, is my family. I love my wife and my kids, my parents and sisters. I’m lucky that I have a very close, tight-knit family. I also love art. I love playing tennis.

I imagine over the years you have had many good and bad experiences in your job, Tell us about two or three of the most interesting experiences.

Shortly after I first opened The Mill Marine Bistro – and you know how busy that patio gets, we serve some 1500 covers a day in the summer, on a couple occasions when I was at the hostess stand, guests came right up to me requesting a table, stating that they “know Daniel Frankel.” – I always thought that was funny, they’re saying this to my face, and I don’t know who the hell they are. However, we are in hospitality and I never wanted them to feel like goofs in front of their friends or colleagues, so we would still treat them like gold and say “yes, right away” and seat them.

Another wonderful experience also happened to be at The Mill. I was driving by Bute and Cordova, and noticed that there were many unmarked police vehicles in front of The Mill. I had called my manager in a panic, asking if everything was alright. You can only imagine what was going through my mind at this time. I was relieved when my manager had told me that the President of Ireland was dining on the patio, surrounded by secret service guards and RCMP. I ended up joining their table, which was a spectacular experience!

A very emotional experience for me was trekking up to Prospect Point on foot the morning after the devastating December 15, 2006 windstorm. I was at the Stanley Park Pavilion and couldn’t get any further by vehicle. I had to know whether or not my building at the Prospect Point Café was still standing. So I set out on foot. I climbed over hundreds of fallen trees, and finally made my way up to Prospect Point to discover that 90% of the surrounding trees had fallen – some on my building.

What are the top 3 Wines or Beers (your favourites) would we find in your home collection?

I have a multi-pack of Granville Island Brewery beers, a whole bunch of Whistler Brewing Premium Lager, and some great Mission Hill wines. I love consuming local products and try to keep my own fridge stocked with it.

What do you like to eat when eating outside of your own restaurants?

I love a home cooked meal! I love anything on the BBQ. At home we make great big salads chalk full of so many goodies.

Which cities around the world provide you with culinary inspiration for your restaurants when you travel?

I love the dining scene in Tel Aviv (Israel). Here The Mill is unique – in Israel on the Tel Aviv waterfront there are so many similar joints with large bustling outdoor patios that emanate “fun, fun, fun” – for me it’s all about the experience. It’s not just about the food, it’s about how all the elements complement each other and interact: food, ambiance, service, and value. I also love New York – who doesn’t! What a source of inspiration! There are also some great treasures near by. Seattle has some very interesting restaurants and I often explore their dining scene. Portland, Oregon has a wonderful organic scene and some very cutting edge concepts.

If you could offer any advice to people wanting to become restaurateurs. What advice would you give them?

A restaurant is a reflection of who you are – go with your gut feeling and build a joint that you’d be most comfortable frequenting. Don’t listen to what everyone else tells you – your convictions are key to your success. You need that level of confidence to persevere in this business. The other thing I would say is “good luck” – something we could all use.

You have just opened your latest restaurant replacing the ever popular Delilah’s, which is a Reality TV Show/Restaurant. What lead you to foraying into this area? and what type of dining experience do you want your customers to have here during and after filming?

This is a very exciting project and a wonderful legacy for the iconic restaurant. First of all it’s not “replacing” Delilah’s, it’s the natural evolution of Delilah’s. The restaurant has been around for twenty-five years and I’m looking to set it on the path for the next twenty-five years. I want my guests to have the most unique dining experience, which is something Delilah’s has always served up – and I can guarantee you it will be unique. I expect some major f—k ups in the beginning, but that’s part of the experience. Our soft opening is June 25th, 25 years to the day after the restaurant first opened (June 25th, 1985).

What is on the horizon for you and your restaurants in the near future?

Sticking to what I know best – the gastropub concept, and opening more great joints.

By: Richard Wolak