Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Justin Tisdall, owner of Juke Fried Chicken, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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

We are an independently owned Hospitality Group. We are Cross The Road Restaurants, and we began with Juke Fried Chicken and have since created the award-winning Chickadee Room Cocktail & Snack Bar. We are located in the heart of Vancouver's historic Chinatown. Our guests are people of all ages, backgrounds, and demographics, as fried chicken is for the people! We are two friends who grew up in the restaurant industry and wanted to create fun rooms where our staff enjoy their work, and our guests feel at home.

Tell us about yourself

I parlayed the personal attributes I developed as a high-performance athlete into a professional career as an entrepreneur, mentor, and business owner of three popular and much-loved establishments on Vancouver’s bustling culinary scene — Juke Fried Chicken, Beetbox, and The Chickadee Room.

Born and raised in Toronto, my role as a member of Canada’s National Swim Team brought me to Vancouver. While training and studying at the University of British Columbia, I made my initial foray into hospitality as a bar-back. It was an instant fit. I quickly established myself as one of the city’s most well-known personalities behind the pine and a familiar face at such local hotspots as Feenie’s, Lumiere, the original Boneta, and the Shangri-La Hotel before transitioning into my tenured role as General Manager at Chambar from 2010 to ’16.

In 2016, I opened Juke Fried Chicken with partners Chef Bryan Satterford and Cord Jarvie in the Chinatown district and carved out Juke’s reputation for serving the city’s best Southern-inspired fare. In 2019, we added a new concept to our portfolio with the launch of plant-based comfort-food hotspot Beetbox in the West End, and in 2020 opened the contact-free cocktail bar known as The Chickadee Room.

Some of my most enduring personal and professional connections have come directly from the industry — I turned a friendship with Satterford that was first forged while working together at Feenie’s into a successful business partnership, and met my future wife and mother of our two children, Sameena while working at the Shangri-La Hotel.

The mental dynamics that you develop as a high-performance athlete translate directly into how you operate in a business environment. Time management, leadership skills, team building — all these things are critical. Kindness is also an important quality in a lot of ways. If you can treat people well and really hear them, that authenticity goes a long way in developing relationships and loyalty. We truly have had some excellent humans walk through our doors and choose to work with us. They continually inspire me.

Do you have daily rituals for work / wellness / fitness / mindfulness?

As a former national team athlete, I have always focused on both physical and mental training. My daily ritual begins as soon as I open my eyes in the morning. I begin a breathing exercise that lasts for about 10 minutes. I then do gratitude practice for 5 minutes to loosen up my body.

After my coffee and getting my kids off to school, I head straight to the gym or pool. I need at least 45-60 minutes of time to get the hardest part of my day out of the way, and being at the gym helps me focus and feel great.

Work - my day is always different, so my routine is to get emails out of the way first thing, and then I am ready for whatever can come my way. Before bed each night, I do either a 15-minute meditation or visualization. Then I read for an hour.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Great question. I don't really know. I have never really been one to sit back and think about what I/We have accomplished. I think the fact that we are still in business six years later is great. We still have day one staff with us, and I feel that is a testament to how we treat our team and how close everyone is as a group. The Juke Family! Also, being adopted, I know that I have had a lot of opportunities that others would not have had access to. Due to this, I love that both my partner and I realize we have been fortunate in our lives, so we take the opportunity to continually give back to our community and our charitable work with local and international charities.

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

You are always on. No matter how much time you carve out for your family or how many managers and procedures you have in place, ultimately, the buck stops with you. I am always conscious of what is happening at the restaurants, even when I am not present. Though that being said, I love it. That allows me the freedom to not always have to be at the restaurant, knowing that my team feels comfortable running the operation while knowing they can always contact me with any issues.

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

  1. Know your business better than anyone else.
  2. Do what you do (whatever your business is) better than anyone else.
  3. If you can't do 1 or 2, a) either don't open a business or b) make sure your business is unique in some way and offers something that people need and can't get anywhere else.

Lastly, two things. Love the hell out of it. If you don't love it, no one else will. If it doesn't feel right to you, don't do it. Meaning if you do not 100% believe in it, don't go forward with it. You will never give it the attention it needs to grow and thrive.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I love what I do. We get to meet and take care of funny, unique, and great guests each day while at the same time working with the best team. I love what I do, even on the hard days.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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