The Friday Lunch is a focus on the restaurant’s Lunch menu along with the Interview of a notable Business or Cultural leader who is joining me as my guest at restaurants in and around Vancouver. Each of the places I visit is unique for what is offered along with the type of service and selection of dishes.
For my first Friday Lunch in this series, I was joined by John Evans, Founder, Owner, President of OPUS Hotels over lunch at Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar.
With over a twenty-five year career in real estate, John Evans is considered one of B.C.’s foremost business and community leaders. His career accomplishments range from the conceptualization and development of Trilogy’s internationally acclaimed boutique hotel, Opus, to his role as the lead developer for Intrawest’s Resort on Blackcomb, which set the benchmark for the billion dollar explosion of real estate development in Whistler beginning in the mid ‘80s.
Demonstrating a unique insight into the needs and wants of today’s consumer, whether it be for retail goods and services, a resort home or a unique hotel or restaurant “experience”, John’s ideas are grounded in a solid understanding of business, finance and real estate dynamics. John’s award-winning mixed use retail and luxury hotel projects continue to push the development planning and execution parameters in both Vancouver and Whistler today.
Trilogy is a fully integrated group of real estate companies, pro-active in the development, leasing and management of investment-grade retail and hotel properties including OPUS Vancouver, and others.
Have you always had an interest in business, specifically real estate?
I had an opportunity at an early age, I worked with Xerox Corp for 5 years after graduating from UBC. Then built Lonsdale Quay (worked with Intrawest), my focus was on specialty retail buildings. Then in 1986 while I was the Senior Executive at Intrawest we purchased Blackcomb Mountain.
How did you end up founding Opus Hotels?
Built The Westin Grand Hotel first, then decided to create our own brand and management in Yaletown, opening on September 14, 2002. Built a brand from nothing, I started with the Opus Hotel Vancouver, then in 2007 bought a hotel in Montreal which was branded Opus Montreal, (this hotel closed in 2011).
Have there been guest situations in the hotel good and bad over the years? And if so tell us both the good and bad?
1) Ben Aflfeck –National Enquirer broke the story while he was staying at the Opus Hotel (he was engaged to Jennifer Lopez at the time).
2) Lady Gaga – carries her own teacups when she travels.
3) A notable guest would roam the hotel in his pj’s.
How do you define exceeding hotel guests expectations?
Rather than waiting for you to tell me where I should go to eat. We enhance the experience with food, tour guide, shoe polish etc. Not just doing! In the summer we serve you a glass of champagne, in the winter we serve you hot chocolate to the room after check-in. It is an art to it in a hotel that has over 100 guest rooms.
We are on the cutting edge, we added I-Pads in each room that the guest can take out of the room into the lobby to use. Now I-phones are replacing the landline in each room.
Every 2 weeks we have a management meeting to keep it fresh and different, exceeding service.
It is all about the message, we learned to put together great brands, such as after Caffe Artigiano opened it was immediately successful.
John had an Iced Tea and the Gotham Chopped Salad, while Richard had a sparkling water and the Halibut special. For dessert, John had the Pecan Pie and Richard had the Sticky Toffee Pudding.
What is your favourite food?
Love everything, love Asian.
What are your favourite restaurants in Vancouver outside of your own?
Where ever I dine it is all about the experience, I had great Indian food on Fraser recently, and I love the Patio at Il Giardino.
What do you do in your off time?
1) Have dinner parties at home
Where is your favourite vacation spot?
Somewhere new, recently Morocco was amazing.
What and where is your favourite restaurant anywhere in the world?
N’Ammos in Mykonos, Greece
Has Social Media played a significant role in your business operations? And if not, how do you plan to embrace it into the future?
Embracing it as early as we did was pivitol for staying on the cutting edge of society. Since day one in 2002, social media was a discussion point. We have evolved with social media which is key today. It’s all moving so quickly.
What’s next for you or what’s on the horizon?
1) Working on a new Opus Hotel in Richmond (new build)
2) Looking at taking the brand to China where it is all about the brand and positioning.
Attire: Business Casual
Lunch Service: Monday to Friday 11:30am – 3:30pm
Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar
615 Seymour Street, Vancouver
For Reservations call 604-606-8282
Stay tuned to my next guest Interview along with the next Friday Lunch in and around Vancouver.
By: Richard Wolak