If tapping into a potential audience of the 300,000 people who annually attend the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the Vancouver Playhouse is appealing, Vancouver Civic Theatres is offering the enviable opportunity to an experienced and qualified restaurant operator to open a restaurant at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza.
In an interview at her office, Vancouver Civic Theatres director Sandra Gajic told the Georgia Straight that this initiative is part of a larger project to revitalize their theatres.
She explained that she and her colleagues are reviewing all elements of their operations—from identity, website, and community relationships to processes, infrastructure, and resources—in an effort to "elevate patron experience in every possible area".
"What became very clear within a month on the job," Gajic, who started her position in June 2014, said, "[was that] the food and beverage here portion of our business has been, I would say, neglected."
Consequently, food and beverage manager Jason Gordon, whose position was created in January, was hired to oversee the 32 bars at theatres and is also involved in the revival of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre restaurant.
The 2,800 square-foot space, located at the southeast corner of the plaza at Cambie and Georgia streets, formerly housed a restaurant that operated since the opening of the theatre in 1959. It closed 11 years ago and has been a rental space since then.
On August 20, the City of Vancouver released a request for proposals (RFP) for operators to submit proposed restaurants.
Gordon said they're seeking something distinctive to open and aren't interested in a chain opening up there.
"The vision is to make it something that is cool, hip, and edgy, that's unique, and it needs to fit in with the theatres," he said. "We have a target market and it is very streamlined in a way."
Gordon said they want to make it a one-stop shop for before and after shows, thus the restaurant's operating hours must accommodate lunch, dinner, and post-show socializing seven days a week. The restaurant also will automatically be added to their preferred caterer list for all licensees.
What will make the location different from other eateries is that the restaurant, particularly the service and kitchen staff, will be aware of performance times.
"Your operation runs around the theatre which makes it an advantage because the last thing you want to be doing is walk in to a restaurant at 6:30 and stressing whether you're going to be able to eat to make it to the show," Gordon explained.
Advantages for theatre patrons include not having to walk through the rain before or after the show, having a convenient social spot for post-show discussions, and the potential to benefit from any possible promotions that might be offered, such as dinner packages or early-bird specials.
Gordon said that the venue has a potential maximum seating of 140 people inside. He added that Vancouver Civic Theatres is allowing an extension of patio seating on the plaza to accommodate 120 people, for a grand total of 260 seats. According to the RFP, the basic rent minimum will be $120,000 and a set percentage of gross revenues from food and beverage sales will be established.
Other requirements that the RFP stipulates are that the restaurant must have both environmental and social sustainability practices and the restaurant must work together with civic theatre management.
That all said, Gordon also emphasized that they won't be directing everything.
"Our goal is not to tell the restaurant operator, 'Okay, you have to put croissant on the menu because we like croissants'," he said. "We won't get into the details—the bigger picture is we would like you to be open when we have a show."
In addition to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the Vancouver Playhouse, the restaurant would also be accessible to audiences attending events at BC Place and Rogers Arena, companies at the Nordstrom building such as Sony Imageworks and Microsoft, Telus Garden tenants, the CBC building and the Post at 750 cultural hub (which houses four arts groups), the Vancouver Public Library, development at the former central Canada Post site, and the site for the new Vancouver Art Gallery at Cambie and Georgia. The Orpheum is also another potential partner for promotions, such as offering discounts with tickets.
Marketing manager Krista Edwardson, whose position was also created as part of the Vancouver Civic Theatres' revitalization effort, said that they hope to increase outdoor programming on the plaza, which the restaurant will benefit from and could potentially be involved with.
"An understanding from the future operator of how all of this is going to fit into the wider landscape is really essential," Gajic said. "So it's more than a restaurant that we'd like to see."
Gordon said they hope to have the restaurant open by August or September 2016 for their new season.
An information meeting and site visit will be held on September 10; the deadline to register attend this meeting is September 2 at 3 p.m.
The deadline for inquiries is October 13 and the call for proposals closes on October 19.
Full details and forms are available at the City of Vancouver website.