This article from the Georgia Straight, Joe Fortes Golden Plates Winner’s Circle – Georgia Straight, came into my Inbox awhile ago from a colleague. He thought I’d enjoy it given my families involvement in Joe Fortes.
Reading this short blurb literally brought a tear to my eye as a flood of memories about this Vancouver institution and its people entered my mind. My father was a very minority partner in the restaurant and I clearly remember November 1985 when my father brought us to this magnificent place that he had a part of. I was proud, very proud, and of course at 11 not understanding corporate structure, thought it was all ours! I was fortunate enough to start working at Joe Fortes in 1995 and throughout the next couple of years forged my ideologies of what a restaurant was and how its people are truly the #1 factor in its success.
You see, what makes Joe Fortes truly unique isn’t just the structure, the atmosphere or the food but the people that work so hard within its four walls (ok and maybe the patio!). I am now 2.5 times the age of when I worked at Fortes and yet I can probably still tell you every table number, the names on the ownership placard on the grand staircase, the names of all the regulars with nameplates on the bar, eg. Todd Hilditch, he spent way too much time there! However, I can also tell you the names of so many people who forged my attitude in service, who I call friends to this day and to whom I call experts in their fields. It is those people who drove and continue to drive the success of this restaurant.
I had a few GM’s and managers that formed my ideologies and that I considered mentors, a couple of them I followed to other restaurants and bars as I carved my career path in this great industry. I followed Thane Campbell to Steamworks, Bennie Graydon and Lou Mihailides to Century Grill. I had impactful mentors like Pino Falbo, Michael Paulhus, Shaw Pemberton, Gerald Tritt, Gilbert Marino, Oyster Bob and Terry Multhauf. It is indeed a family, a brotherhood and sisterhood of forged friendships that last forever, between both staff and guests (you all know who you are). A family led by none other than the famous Robert Gagne, aka ‘Frenchy’, a unique personality that never forgets a face and treats every guest like his family. This is how he and the others taught me to work, to believe and to carve a career path in this industry.
It is rather ironic that my path would lead me to another “Joe’s”, Joey’s Franchise Group, a company that is led by another “frenchy” in their namesake, Joe Klassen. It’s that history that has forged my path at Harding’s – Your Improvement Company, it’s what brought me here because the people here work with the same brother and sisterhood. As a franchise company, we instill the same attitudes towards service and the treatment of our clients at Harding’s that have become synonymous of Joe Fortes. I like to think I landed at home, in a completely different vocation with people that are so integral to how we run our franchises at Harding’s today.
The family that this restaurant has built envelopes me to the point that even though I do not know every staff member at Fortes right now, I feel their pain in the loss of Emily Sheane to a tragic car accident. This is what creates the restaurants success and its longevity, it’s people, its family. The same we try to create at Harding’s. May Emily rest in peace not only as part of her own and extended family but as part of the Joe Fortes family.
Rob Hilditch, President
Harding’s – Your Improvement Company