The Story

Anyone familiar with the restaurant and hospitality industry knows launching a new restaurant is never easy. There are so many moving parts that need to come together: New staff, equipment, menus, vendors, interior design, branding, and marketing. And nobody gets into this industry because it’s easy, they get in because they have a relentless passion for it. This energy is what builds a successful restaurant from the ground up and it’s what keeps people coming back.

Executive Chef Kayla Dhaliwal and Operator Michael Gayman own Blind Sparrow on Denman St and are the owners of Hook Seabar. Hook took over the iconic English Bay location that Milestones occupied for 27 years.

English Bay is a place like no other. It’s where one of the best cities in the world connects with one of the best parks, at a beach with one of the best views. You can tour an incredible seaside park and enjoy the sun setting into the Pacific backed by mountain views; while being steps away from world-class cuisine.

It doesn’t matter how much experience or success someone has, setting up shop in this rare location means there’s going to be pressure to pull it off. Kayla and Michael wanted their launch to catch as much of summer as possible, being primetime in English Bay for tourists and locals alike. They got the keys from Milestones on April 1st and planned to open at the start of July, giving themselves only three months to build the restaurant.

“Hook Seabar has a “Come as you are” mentality. Expect high-quality, and delicious food, without any pretentious vibes. Whether you’re out on a date or coming right off the beach with friends, everyone should feel welcome and have fun.” – Scott MacKay, Project Manager

The Launch

We connected with them and saw they had great ideas when it came to branding, but with only three months to build their restaurant, they needed our help to develop and then market it. Aiming for an early July launch, we had a tight timeline of two months to create and execute their brand. With the restaurant and menu still in development, we had the challenge of adapting our creative to fit it on the fly, while promoting it prior to launch.

New restaurant branding guide Vancouver
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We began marketing this new seafood concept with nothing more than a logo and moodboard of the interior decor. Our graphic designers developed a brand guide for our media team and social strategists to use as a benchmark for developing creative assets and media content.” – Scott MacKay, Project Manager

We needed to build up hype through June for the early July launch, without a finished restaurant or menu to share. We developed a series of teaser content with short social videos, cinemagraphs, motion graphics, and Instagram grid. This content featured their new branding, some lifestyle imagery, and also staff recruitment. A week before their opening, we bumped up their brand awareness with a post in the Daily Hive, letting their massive local audience getting a sneak peek and an interview with the two owners.

The Lifestyle

Like with any restaurant, our marketing plan revolved around Food-Beverage and Guest Experience. From casual fair to gourmet, their dishes were all very photogenic. Through social content, we focused on their local and seasonal offerings, along with their relationship with local food suppliers and sustainable seafood. A perfect match for their seaside location in our seafood-friendly city.

Their Guest Experience is an excellent example of “casual fine dining” pioneered by Cactus Club and Earls. But thanks to their menu and location, their experience is unique. Casual for this Seabar is arriving from the beach or on your bike for a refreshing round of cocktails and appys. This blends into a fine dining experience with “surf or turf” and a raw bar.

A third marketing message we wanted to deliver was the “Lifestyle” of Hook Seabar and its neighbourhood that truly sets it apart. The quintessential experience of English Bay, Stanley Park and the West End is like no other in the world, with Hook front and center. We reminded locals and guests of how amazing our slice of the West Coast is, especially in the summer. Beautiful sunsets, volleyball and relaxing at the beach, bike rides on the seawall, a dip in the ocean. All perfectly complemented by the local, seafood-based menu just steps away.

The food, drinks, and setting at Hook are top quality. We also needed people to know it welcomed everyone to enjoy these things together. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a suit after work or flip-flops from the beach, come as you are.

The Hook

Launching a new restaurant might be one of the hardest things to do in the hospitality industry, but Hook pulled it off without a catch. We were happy to be a part of this new icon in English Bay. Do yourself a favour and head to Hook Seabar, this hidden gem shouldn’t be missed.