One of British Columbia’s fastest growing hospitality companies, The Joseph Richard Group (JRG Group) is a collection of unique hospitality ventures, real estate, retail and other businesses with an unwavering commitment to exceptional service.
Ryan Moreno is co-founder and CEO of The JRG Group, which currently operates twenty-five food and beverage establishments, a private-label beer called Two Pals Lager, wine proprietorship Chapter Estates WineCo., and a catering division called Blank Canvas Catering. Mr Moreno was named finalist for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017, as well as being awarded the 2018 Business Person of the Year by the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce. The Canadian Business Quarterly spoke with Mr Moreno about the evolution of his career, the diversity of The JRG Group’s footprint, and the exciting new venture promising to disrupt the restaurant industry.
An exciting partnership
Mr Moreno co-founded the Joseph Richard Group in 2009 with friend and business partner Andre Bourque. The two men have known each other for a long time, having been best friends since elementary school.
“Like many people in our industry,” Mr Moreno says, “I started as a busboy. Like most, I didn’t really see it as something I would do as a career, but I enjoyed it. It was great while I was in school.”
At age 22, Mr Moreno was introduced to the uncle of a girlfriend, who owned a large restaurant in Burnaby. He agreed to take on the running of the restaurant, believing it to be an excellent opportunity to kick-start his career.
“As most stories go, it didn’t go as planned. We actually had some success right out of the gate, and it did fairly well, but there were a lot of licensing changes and a lot of things beyond our control that changed the landscape of the industry at the time. It was just one thing after another.”
After losing all the money saved for the restaurant, Mr Moreno was offered the chance to invest in a nightclub where he used to work. Without any capital, the only way he could do so was to ask his mother for some much need financial help.
“She lent [the money] to me,” Mr Moreno explains, “and I had it paid back in eight months. It was pretty gutsy considering I had just lost everything in this restaurant and was struggling for the last three years.”
From there Mr Moreno’s career took off. He admits to having started in the nightclub industry at a good time, as well as being lucky enough to work with some extremely talented and committed people.
“We learned to hustle, and it was really about the guest experience. I think that was a guiding principle that Andre and myself separately both really enjoyed. We really embraced that, and I think it was a big catalyst that helped us to grow and find some success.”
After forming a close friendship in elementary school, Mr Moreno and Mr Bourque were well suited to going into business with one another. It was clear early on that the friends shared similar professional interests and goals.
“We both started in the industry, and at about 19 we both took a bartending school course locally, as that was something that we wanted to get into doing. It seemed like a fun job. The school that we happened to take out here, we thought it was pretty dated.”
The friends felt that there was an opportunity to create a similar format that was both more relevant to the modern world and offered a better learning experience. The idea soon grew that they could provide this service themselves.
“It took a bunch of time. Nobody had ever shown us how to start a business, how to set it up. We had some success there, we had a lot of students, a lot of fun doing the business. We liked working together. We were the best of friends, so it was good.”
After a period working apart, the friends were eventually presented with the opportunity to buy a bar together in British Columbia. With their first chance to work together in the hospitality industry, both were excited to form a business partnership.
“The bar shot off like a rocket,” Mr Moreno says. “It was awesome. Again there were a lot of factors in that. We had some amazing people there. It went really well, and from there we opened a handful more bars.”
A big part of the friends’ early business plans revolved around diversifying, taking their talents into a variety of different industries. This desire was the true catalyst for the forming of The Joseph Richard Group in 2009.
“We started in the nightclubs and eventually transitioned into pubs, so we have about fifteen public houses now. We have a couple of different restaurant concepts, and we’ve been into the retail sector, where we have a number of liquor stores around the province.”
Another key area of diversification has been a recent move into real estate, something that Mr Moreno explains was always high on the to-do list. The venture began as a more low-risk part of the group’s portfolio.
“You have the business there, you hope and plan for the business to be there for 20, 30, 50 years, so it makes sense if you can own the dirt to be able to do that. We’ve been fortunate to be able to find some opportunities. We do own a handful of the properties.”
Additionally, the group has recently purchased a winery to further diversify, and has opened a private label beer and wine brand. But perhaps the most exciting area of development is a new venture the group is undertaking called Meal Ticket Brands.
“A few years ago we were at a conference and we saw the emergence of these third-party deliveries, like Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, DoorDash, Foodora, all those sorts of apps. We saw that it was a sector that was really starting to grow.”
It soon became clear that the group could repurpose its existing spaces and equipment to offer a similar kind of service. Whilst attending this conference, Mr Moreno realized that the time was right to attempt this kind of venture.
“Equipment is equipment,” he says, “it’s the people behind the equipment who make the difference. It’s a trend where consumers are saying – this is what we want. We want some better delivery options than your traditional pizza or Chinese food.”
Since then, the Meal Ticket Brands division has launched a number of delivery-only restaurant concepts via the Skip the Dishes app. The core idea behind the venture is to cook and deliver a variety of different dishes from the same kitchen.
“We launched 100 restaurants in just one day, and that’s something that I don’t think has ever been done before. We took our existing restaurants – we had seven concepts spread out through the different cities – and we launched them all online. I’m really excited about it. It’s just a new evolution in the industry I believe.”
Meal Ticket Brands has become the group’s core focus, with the plan being to expand the business rapidly across the province and then the country, with the purchase or lease of a number of assembly kitchens that can service a dozen delivery-only restaurants.
“The focus is just refining, tweaking it, making the adjustments needed. The challenge with this model is that your interaction with the guest is very limited. You don’t really have a second chance [to correct mistakes]. The standard is pretty high, and that’s the whole opportunity.”
With such an exciting start to a venture promising to disrupt the restaurant industry, JRG is in great shape. The group’s diversification looks set to continue, putting it in a good place to experience many more years of success across a number of industries.
Find out more about The Joseph Richard Group of Companies by visiting www.jrg.ca.