Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dan Hnatiw, Director of Marketing and Technology of Esplanade Restaurants, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Esplanade Restaurants is a family-run business nestled along The Esplanade. The Old Spaghetti Factory & Scotland Yard Pub have been Toronto institutions for over 50 years. We have been proudly independent since 1972 and landmarks of the St. Lawrence market neighborhood in Old Town Toronto.

We offer comfortable and casual places for our guests to come, relax and enjoy themselves. Scotland Yard has an array of draft beers from around the world as well as the best local product available; there is something to please everyone’s taste.

The Old Spaghetti Factory serves delicious meals and is your perfect destination for families and large groups who are visiting Toronto. We offer incredible value, amazing service, and decorations that will keep you coming back for more!

Whether it’s a quiet lunch meeting, a night out with friends & family, or a private function, Scotland Yard and Old Spaghetti Factory are definitely worth investigating!

Tell us about yourself

I grew up in the restaurant & bar industry, following my Dad around as a kid. These institutions were started and formed into the giants they are today by my father, Peter Hnatiw. My brother Graham and I have been running these two stores together since 2008.

I finished my undergrad at Queens University in 2008 and explored some job opportunities I had an interest in, but found none of them provided the level of experience and knowledge I could achieve helping run established small businesses. I loved the idea of being able to observe and react right away and see the positive (or negative) effects of your decisions.

Learning that failure is ok; it is just how we learn from those failures. Not having corporate red tape to hinder or slow our desired changes allowed for much more agility. I loved the idea of not being placed in a box performing the same routine every day. Every day is different for me, and I love it - it keeps me on my toes and really makes me focus on time management.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I could provide a list of small accomplishments over the years that I am proud of, but probably wouldn't be too impressive to others. But on the whole, the biggest accomplishment I have had is seeing all of those small accomplishments and victories help our business achieve year-over-year growth for the better part of the last ten years and the thousands of customers who have left our establishments happy!

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

This is a tricky question to answer because the truth is, there are so many things that make it hard to be a business owner. I think the hardest thing that comes with being a business owner is the risk we take to ensure that we can continue to provide for the families of all the employees that work for you.

Knowing that they all depend on you for their daily/weekly income, add's tons of stress. We all start or operate small businesses for the goal of making a profit, but we can't lose sight of the fact that our amazing employees are the ones who help us achieve that financial success. I feel stressed to not only deliver financial results but to ensure we remain open to continue providing for our employees and customers.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Set high standards and stick to them - if you asked most people, they would most likely answer that they'd prefer to work for a business that has high standards rather than low standards.
  2. Success shouldn't just be measured in dollars and cents. Customer satisfaction & employee satisfaction, and work culture are integral to healthy business operations and ultimately success.
  3. Never be complacent - this world is rapidly changing, and we need to make sure we are changing and adapting to the world. If you don't adapt, you will ultimately fail.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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