Aside from the snow melting and leaves on trees, signs of spring also stretch into the hospitality industry.
I’m not talking about fresh, Canadian-grown produce returning to menus, but rather, change, reinvention and, in some cases, new beginnings.
Long-time Concorde Group chef Garrett Martin, touted for helping bring Bridgette Bar to life but best known for his executive-chef role at Major Tom, has recently left the company to take some time off and work on opening his own venture.
And after working in Calgary for the past two years, Edmonton-born David Leeder is leaving his post as the executive chef of Teatro to work at the esteemed Per Se in New York. During his tenure, he helped garner much buzz for the high-end restaurant, reinvigorating the long-standing Italian staple.
While these moves have opened doors for new culinary talent, other doors have closed for other restaurateurs.
Both Tres Carnales and Rostizado in Edmonton shuttered permanently in February, as did Calgary’s famed dive bar Broken City. Calgary has seen an astounding number of closings in the past month including A1 Café, Briggs Kitchen + Bar and, most recently, Broken Spirits Distillery.
At a time when restaurants, breweries and distilleries are beyond plentiful, consumers have a multitude of choices to stay fed and watered. Staying top of mind is no easy task, and plenty of companies opt for a brand refresh to keep business steady.
Last Best Brewing & Distilling has been operating in Calgary’s Beltline since 2015. Starting with a foundation of craft beers, it added distilling to its repertoire a few years later, and Albertans have been able to find its gins (and other one-off spirits) in select liquor stores since.
But being in liquor stores does not equal success in the retail realm, so a reimagining took place in hopes of finding more shelf space across the province.
Last month, it unveiled a slick new look – and stouter bottles for its three cornerstone gins. The updated bottles have similar graphic designs, but have distinct colouring to help better differentiate among the First Love, Afterglow and Fortunella flavours.
Similarly, The Dandy Brewing Co., launched in 2014 and one of Alberta’s most celebrated breweries for the past nine years, has also changed things.
Its brewery and taproom in the Ramsay neighbourhood are frequented by both beer lovers and foodies alike, all in search of quality. Despite their bricks-and-mortar location getting good foot traffic, the company recently opted for a significant brand refresh.
Brewery co-owner and chief executive officer Benjamin Leon says the new look is a result of an “identity rediscovery process.”
“When we built our last brand, we were young and focused on the beers. We worked with some really cool and talented folks to have something to put on the bottles, but that was about it,” he explains. “We loved them – and we still hold them dear – but we never took the time to think long-term and establish something that can evolve alongside us.”
Now that Dandy has, for lack of a better descriptor, grown up, Mr. Leon explains that he and his co-owners revisited the idea of what it meant to communicate the ethos of the brewery through its canned products. He adds that consumers increasingly correlate quality of design to beer quality.
“These days, intentional and thoughtful design is part of the whole package so much more than it was eight years ago when there was minimal competition,” Mr. Leon says. “Led by our creative director Jag MacKenzie, I would say we leaned into the unique and disruptive design hard, but we always checked it against the fact that you have something like three seconds for a consumer to connect with your product on the shelf.”
While the new look is a bit more polished and less grassrootsy than the original design, it still incorporates the work of many local creatives. From the brewery interior to can artwork, this is something that Dandy has always been known for.
“I’d like to think that customers can sense the authenticity of a company regardless of its size, and Dandy has always sincerely leaned into the things we truly love: art, music, food, and, of course, beer styles,” he explains. “This industry [continues to evolve] quickly. Continuing to be a part of it and launching something new has really breathed some excitement back into Dandy and we’re so excited for what’s to come.”