Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Mystique of White Spot


The Mystique of White Spot

By Inari Fushimi
The Daily Magi
November 30, 2066

White Spot is a Canadian restaurant chain based in Vancouver, British Columbia, best known for its hamburgers, Pirate Pak children's meal and burger sauce. Some locations have carhop drive-in service. n the 1920s, Nat Bailey operated a travelling lunch counter, using a 1918 Model T. A prominent location was Prospect Point in Stanley Park. Hotdogs were a dime and ice cream was a nickel.

The restaurant was founded on June 16, 1928, by Nat Bailey. His first idea for a name for the eatery had been Granville Barbecue, but Nat instead took the advice of a friend who suggested he call it White Spot after a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California—in part because the name sounded spotless and clean. The original White Spot was located in the Marpole neighbourhood, at 67th and Granville Street, at what would be known as Granville House, in Vancouver. The restaurant was called White Spot Barbecue Sandwiches, evolving into a drive-in and dining room. By 1955, the chain was serving 10,000 cars a day and 110,000 customers a week.

By the 1990s, some White Spot Drive-ins were phased out due to an increase in franchise restaurants and a gradual decrease in popularity of drive-in's. Granville House was a popular dining spot until 1988 when a fire in the kitchen damaged the building. The restaurant closed permanently at that location shortly thereafter, despite some talk of rebuilding. The carhop drive-in service began further west, at a viewpoint off Marine Drive in Point Grey, when Bailey served food from a vehicle. Drivers parked nearby asked if food could be delivered to their cars, so Bailey hired servers who "hopped to it" to do so. Similar drive-in carhop service, with servers bringing trays and food to diners' cars to eat on-site, using trays that fit across the seats between vehicles' windows, which became standard at White Spot outlets. Some locations still offer drive-in service.

The chain was sold to General Foods in 1968 when Nat retired. In 1982, White Spot returned to local ownership when the company was purchased by BC businessman Peter Toigo, becoming part of Shato Holdings Limited. After his death in 1993, his sons Peter and Ron Toigo took over ownership. In 1986, the chain was sued in the court case Gee v. White Spot, which helped set Canadian case law. The plaintiffs, Mr. Gee and Mr. and Mrs. Pan, claimed damages for botulism poisoning related to a beef dip. The decision made it easier for diners to sue restaurants for breach of contract and implied warranty instead of the harder-to-prove negligence (Canadian tort law expressly disavows strict product liability). In 1993, White Spot introduced franchising. Since 1999, their franchises have been installed on some ships in the BC Ferries fleet. By the 2000s, the chain was opening burger-focused takeout locations with its Triple-O's locations. In 2012, 64 White Spot restaurants and 62 Triple -O's served 17 million customers and generated $200 million in gross revenues.

White Spot is known for its "Pirate Paks", a children's meal introduced in 1968. The meal is set in a cardboard model of a pirate ship with small details like a chocolate coin wrapped in gold foil, a cardboard sail on a drinking straw mast, and a cup of ice cream in the captain's quarters. In the past, chef like Chuck Currie has been featured in marketing campaigns alongside guest celebrity chefs hailing from Vancouver, including John Bishop, Rob Feenie, Umberto Menghi, and Melissa Craig. "Triple-O's by White Spot" restaurants, named after the trademark "Triple-O" hamburger sauce (made of mayonnaise and hamburger relish), have been established in BC. For "Triple-O" sauce, it has been reported that, as the condiments used in the restaurants came in large containers, the excess dill pickle juice was swirled in the depleted mayonnaise jars, this mixture was then put into the depleted ketchup containers, then adding relish from the depleted relish containers, to which was added the juice and residue from the slicing of tomatoes, adding the resultant mixture to a commercial Thousand Island dressing. According to a plaque on the wall at the Surrey (Guildford) restaurant, "Legend has it that the name Triple-O was part of the shorthand language of the carhops: guests could choose from mayonnaise and relish, and the order slips were printed with three X's and three O's. An X meant hold, an O meant extra, and Triple "O" meant plenty of everything."

In the 1990s, White Spot experimented with opening outlets across the nearby U.S. border in Bellingham, Washington, without much success. Abroad, White Spot has in the past few years expanded its Triple-O's fast food chain into Hong Kong and, most recently, Bangkok. In Hong Kong, four such stores can be found at the basement of Pacific Place, and in Exchange Square, on the Hong Kong Island; and at Cooked Deli in the Harbour City shopping mall in Kowloon and in Shatin. The three Hong Kong franchises each record more than twice as many sales as the average location in BC. A location in Seoul, South Korea, opened in September, 2008. It is located near Dosan Park, in the Apgujeong neighborhood. 10 more locations are also located in Seoul.

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