‘Excited to be here’: Vegan restaurant chain MeeT puts finishing touches on Victoria location

'Excited to be here': Vegan restaurant chain MeeT puts finishing touches on Victoria location
MeeT On Blanshard/Facebook
It's official: Plant-based restaurant chain MeeT is opening soon at 797 Hillside Ave. in Victoria, replacing the former Boston Pizza that operated there for more than three decades.

Another food option is coming to Victoria, minus the meat.

Owners at MeeT Restaurants, a B.C. plant-based restaurant chain, are gearing up to open the doors to their first-ever Vancouver Island location called MeeT on Blanshard.

While an official opening day has yet to be announced, co-owner and restaurateur Jason Antony says a launch event spanning several weeks will welcome customers to the up-and-coming eatery, likely starting early next month.

“We bring people in a very scaled way just to get our systems down and make sure that we’re operating the way we want to operate,” Antony told CHEK News in an interview.

“That launch event goes for about two weeks and, if all goes well, would start as early as the end of next week. So I would say by mid-December, we should open to the public.”

The new restaurant, located on the corner of Blanshard Street and Hillside Avenue at 797 Hillside Ave., is replacing the Boston Pizza that operated there for more than three decades before closing early this year.

“It is with heavy hearts that today, after 35 years of operations, we close our doors permanently,” wrote Boston Pizza Hillside owner Jeremy Dewey in a Jan. 9 closure notice posted to the restaurant’s front door.

“We have tried to navigate through every wave of this global pandemic, Public Health Orders, staff shortages, and overall increases to the cost of living, with no success.”

At the time, Ian Tostensen, president of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, said the industry was facing a new wave of challenges after around 3,000 B.C. restaurants were forced to close amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At MeeT’s three existing Vancouver locations, including on Main Street, in Yaletown, and in Gastown, staff also felt the impacts.

“We were impacted like a lot of other businesses,” Antony recalled. “We ended up having to shut down one of the spaces in Vancouver and we had to lay off lots of people. We had to pivot like everybody else.”

But the chain, established in 2014, is coming out stronger than ever thanks to changes he and co-owners Linda Antony and Ivo Staiano made in how they do business.

“Before the pandemic, we didn’t do delivery. And during the pandemic, we figured out how to integrate that into our business. We’ve made a lot of changes, and we’re still around,” Antony said.

“We’ve been really grateful for the support we’ve got so far.”

Along with “a large, eclectic menu” featuring about 70 per cent comfort food and 30 per cent healthier choices, MeeT on Blanshard will also offer some nostalgia, according to Antony.

“Our philosophy, in general, is we try to reuse what we can, just from an environmental perspective. There is a lot of new and a lot of used pieces and a lot of elements that we’ve had from other spaces,” he said.

“For instance, one of the things we’ve reused from Boston Pizza is the floor in the bar. We made a whole section of tables out of the hardwood flooring. We try to reuse materials in a lot of different ways.”

To be served on those tables is vegan, vegetarian, gluten-friendly, and dairy-free food options, ultimately catering to “a wide, diverse range of dietary needs,” Antony explained. 

“Our food is great proportions, good value and big flavours that will satisfy a broad audience,” he said. “Most of our customers don’t have dietary restrictions, it’s not like we’re catering to dietary restrictions, but we work well for that kind of audience.”

The Hillside location, however, wasn’t MeeT’s initial choice.

“We’ve been looking for four years. We had a location down on Yates that ended up falling through…right before the pandemic,” Antony said.

“We were about to sign the lease, but then the landlord told us they were going to be doing some construction on the front of the building. We decided it wasn’t going to be a good fit for us.”

Nevertheless, MeeT is eager to expand off the mainland.

“The Island, it feels like a natural fit for us. So it’s kind of been a long-time coming. We’re excited to be part of the community,” Antony added. “We’re excited to be here, we’ve been waiting a long time.”

MeeT on Blanshard is still hiring for various positions, including a general manager and a kitchen manager, prep and line cooks, dishwashers, and a photographer, with more information found on the chain’s website. 

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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