Metro Vancouver’s fifth Tap & Barrel location marks the arrival of the expanded restaurant brand in the South Fraser area.
In South Surrey, the new eatery boasts close to 500 seats in 13,500 square feet of second-floor space in the TPC building (The Professional Centre), near the 152 Street overpass of Highway 99, not far from the competition of The Keg, Cactus Club, Milestones and others in the “premium casual” dining category.
Tap & Barrel will be among Surrey’s largest restaurants, if not the largest, when it opens to the public Tuesday (Sept. 27).
“All of our spaces have become sort of community gathering hubs, and it’s nice,” company founder and CEO Daniel Frankel said Thursday (Sept. 22) during a pre-opening party.
“I’ve had smaller restaurants,” he added, “but the problem with that is, you get groups that want to come in that are 12 or 20 people, and I love to accommodate those groups – I hate saying no. I’ve always loved the vibe of large restaurants, having space for everybody. We’re here for that date night or a family dinner, a big group of friends, anything you want.”
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Tap & Barrel debuted in 2012 at Vancouver’s Olympic Village, and locations have since opened at the city’s waterfront convention centre, the re-branded Bridges restaurant on Granville Island and also North Vancouver’s Shipyards district.
In South Surrey, Nicole Gunn is the general manager and Ioannis Gerolymatos the head chef of a menu described as “next-level comfort food” by Kira Enos, Tap & Barrel Group’s marketing manager.
“We have steaks and mac ‘n’ cheese and burgers, those classic dishes, and a lot more,” Enos explained, “but we make them more premium, with better ingredients. We make almost everything in-house as well, so our food is handcrafted.”
Frankel said the restaurant employs close to 170 people.
“It’s always difficult to find good staff, especially right now,” he said, “but we’re blessed, and I think culturally we’ve managed to attract people, and we’re having an easier time than our competitors. We put our people first. I mean, most people in the industry think it’s about how you treat your guests, but it’s not, it’s about how you treat your own people, and they’ll take care of the rest. That’s a beautiful formula.”
Guests enter the long South Surrey restaurant by staircase or one of two elevators. A dining area is located in the north end of the space, with a large lounge/bar area in the south end, next to a patio with a retractable roof.
Frankel, who lives in Vancouver, said he wasn’t familiar with the Surrey/White Rock area until recently.
“In general our goal is to expand into new markets,” he said, “and over the pandemic it’s obvious that people are migrating toward the suburbs, and Surrey is a great location for us. Our president Jason Forbes lives in White Rock, and ever since he came onboard, I think selfishly he wanted a restaurant closer to his house. He kept pushing for this — he did,” Frankel said, laughing. “It’s a fantastic location, especially for him.”
Frankel also said he’s realized that he has a ton of friends who live in the area.
“This is our first suburban location with the Tap & Barrel brand, so I’m really excited about this location, more than any other one since we first opened in 2012,” Frankel said. “It’s kinda the first time I’ve been out of my comfort zone, and you only grow when you’re outside of your comfort zone.”
In addition to staffing, another challenge for restaurant operators is the rising cost of food right now. “We’re trying to keep our prices down, unlike some of our competitors who are increasing theirs out of the market,” Frankel said, “and it’s hard right now with inflation and supply-chain issues, it’s very challenging.”