"Keeping it simple" is a mantra that Jeff Hetherington has used to build a loyal base of customers and staff and ultimately expand on his successful restaurant format.
Pig BBQ Joint opened five years ago as a tiny takeout window downtown. It then moved to larger quarters at the Atrium building. Now, people are "pigging out" on pulled pork poutine, beef brisket sandwiches, baked beans, fries and coleslaw at an additional Pig location, at Westshore Village Shopping Centre on Phipps Road in Langford.
As Small Business Week kicks off across Canada, there may be some lessons here for entrepreneurs.
"The menu is simple. It is built so we can do volume of the same thing, which in turn [means] you can negotiate a better price for the product you're buying," Hetherington said Monday.
Labour costs are kept down because there are no servers and the cooks are tops at their jobs and are paid well, he said. "I know I have the best staff in Victoria ... We are just efficient at what we do and I've got people who have been with me since Day 1."
Hetherington's Pig BBQ Joint is among 391,700 small businesses in British Columbia. The small business sector - defined as enterprises employing fewer than 50 people - is considered a major driver for the province's economy, employing more than one million people and contributing about 30 per cent of B.C.'s gross domestic product, or the value of goods and services.
In 2009, Hetherington opened a second Pig in Col-wood Corners Plaza, but he was forced to close to make way for redevelopment of the site. In the meantime, Heatherington served customers with the "Pigmo-bile," a food truck parked nearby.
Both of Hetherington's restaurants, which employ 25 staff, use smokers and alder wood to prepare the meats. Last year, 75,000 pounds of potatoes were hand chopped by staff who have developed "very strong forearms," Hetherington said with a laugh.
He is committed to fast and efficient service, but also wants staff and customers to have a good time. "When you come here, you can tell that we're not taking ourselves seriously," said Heatherington. "You are going to get what you paid for good value and the food is good. There's not many frills. Everything is just honest, I think."
He said it's also important to understand your customers. "I've got a lot of stools that are facing out because [some] guys don't want to talk to anybody while they're eating. They just want to sit there and eat. I know my demographic really well."
Hetherington favours the pulled-pork sandwich but said "we sell an outrageous amount of pulled pork poutine."
A former sous chef at Brasserie L'Ecole and Temple, Hetherington got the inspiration for Pig in 2006.
He toured some of the famous barbecue restaurants of the southern U.S., including Memphis, where the tastes and the simplicity of the menus won him over.
The father of two boys, ages two months and four-and-a-half years, said the Westshore location is roomy. Hetherington jokes "it's Cheerio-friendly" and the menu has a "piglet" section for youngsters. Since opening Oct. 2, "we've been solid" in customer numbers, he said.
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