Tiffin Project

Profile | Karri Schuermans

by admin on February 7, 2007

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Urban Diner: How did you start in the restaurant business?

Karri Schuermans: My husband Nico is a chef and I had the business, design and marketing background to make the other side of the business work. I also wanted the opportunity to design and build a restaurant.

UD: Any advice for an aspiring restaurateur?

KS: Have all the money you need in the bank before you start, plus a 30% contingency – no joke.

UD: In your opinion, what are the three keys that led to Chambar’s tremendous success?

KS: Hype Marketing. Interesting and reasonable food. An atmosphere where people can come for different reasons.

UD: How did you decide that Beatty street was where you wanted to open Chambar?

KS: I looked at the development applications at Council and looked for cheap rent in a high residential area with very few services. There were over 2000 units within 2 blocks of our location. The space we chose was the only one that we didn’t have to compromise our concept for – ultimately it felt right.

UD: In your vision, what does your neighborhood look like in 5 years?

KS: A diverse group of people from various demographics and interests, Widened footpaths, Trees on our street, increased lighting, angle parking and a village atmosphere. Maybe another park instead of a tacky mall. A plan to solve the drug and homeless problems of the Downtown Eastside and a commitment to an implementation strategy. Nothing being done gives the message that no one cares.

UD: In regards to Vancouver’s dining scene, what is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness?

KS: The service, selection and value is a great strength. Our weakness is a lack of a unified culinary tourism campaign.

UD: There is also a shortage of food and beverage talent in this town. What is your strategy for dealing with this situation?

KS: Treat your people right, make your business a fun place to work and the people come to you. Be willing to wait for the right people, and offer training opportunities from within.

UD: What is the biggest challenge you have faced since the opening of Chambar in the summer of 2004?

KS: Creating a strategy to buy out our investors.

UD: Do you and Nico have any plans to open another restaurant in the future?

KS: No. We did but decided the journey is as important as the destination. It’s better to enjoy life than wake up 10 years from now rich and miserable. We have plans to open a cooking school within the next year, plus a few other opportunities.

UD: Other than your own, what 5 restaurants you would recommend for a cross-section of Vancouver dining?

KS: West, Fuel, Rinconcitas, Sushi Maki (or Tojo’s depending on the budget), and Crave

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