Heather Hospitality Group Tops Out at 10

Rainier Provisions | BCBusiness
Rainier Provisions in Gastown.

Now that Heather Hospitality Group employs 140 staff, Sean Heather plans to slow down and deal with “the boring stuff”

Restaurateur entrepreneur Sean Heather is the first to admit that since opening Rainier Provisions things have gone much better than he’s expected.

“We’re way beyond our dreams for volume, that’s for sure,” says Heather of Rainier’s performance in the weeks since it opened in mid-February. Though, he adds, “We thought the retail would take off and the food would be slower, and it’s been the opposite.”

The tenth establishment to join the Heather Hospitality Group (HHG), Rainier provides yet another link in the self-supporting cycle that sustains Heather’s mini culinary empire. For example, artisanal products such as D Original Sausage Company sausage, Moccia Urbani charcuterie, Rabbit River Eggs and specialty cheese from U.K.-based Neal’s Yard Dairy—all on offer at Rainier’s oversized deli counter—go to Salt, the Irish Heather and other HHG eateries if not sold.

The 102-seat eatery sits in the historic Rainier Hotel at the corner of Cordova and Carrall Streets in Gastown, an address which put it in the target zone for protestors who would prefer to see such locations—including neighbouring Pidgin restaurant—used for housing the neighbourhood’s homeless. But Heather says that by renting the space and providing that revenue to the building, he’s helping to keep the Rainier Hotel, which provides economical accommodations for women, open.

“I don’t think we’re gentrifying the area, I think we’re bringing it back to what it used to be. In the 1920s and ’30s this was the area in Vancouver. It was the centre of the city. If I don’t pay these rents than the people upstairs don’t have a place to live, because the take the rent—the revenue—from this building and fund what’s upstairs, and their funding is drying up,” he says.

Rainier Provisions also provides free hot meals for the women who live upstairs.

Heather says he has no plans to launch more establishments for the next three to four years. With 140 staff on board, he says, HHG needs an HR department and other internal fine-tuning before he can continue to expand. “I promised myself I’d do that boring stuff and then I’ll take a reward,” Heather says.

That said, he’s already got Seattle on the radar for a second Salt location, is entertaining a line of Salt products (think: cornichons and mustards) and is eyeing up a space a couple doors down from Rainier, in which he envisions a Bavarian beer parlour.

“I need that like I need a hole in the head. I’m trying to run away from my Bavarian beer hall idea,” he says, laughing.