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White Spot at 90: how B.C.’s best-known restaurant has survived, where so many have not

Click to play video: 'Squire Barnes on the 90th anniversary of White Spot'
Squire Barnes on the 90th anniversary of White Spot
WATCH: Squire Barnes looks back at the 90-year history of the iconic White Spot restaurant chain in B.C – Jun 14, 2018

Vancouver: it’s a difficult place for an institution to survive.

But one has carried on long enough to reach its 90th birthday, and that’s White Spot.

Coverage of White Spot on Globalnews.ca:

Founded by Nat Bailey as a travelling lunch counter in a Model T truck back, White Spot was named after a restaurant in Los Angeles.

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It then opened as a drive-in where carhops would bring food right to your steering wheel, at Granville Street and 67th Avenue in Vancouver in 1928.

From there, Bailey would come to be known around the city for his bow-tie. White Spot would attract celebrities and couples on their first dates.

The restaurant could draw as many as 10,000 cars every day.

An archival image of White Spot. Global News file

For a time, White Spot was known for its chicken dishes, but that changed with the advent of the Triple “O” burger, which would come to be enjoyed by B.C. teens in the 1960s.

Between then and 1982, it expanded into 10 locations.

“Forty per cent of our guests come to a restaurant — no matter what we create, as far as new items, go back to a Triple ‘O’ burger,” said Warren Erhart, White Spot president and CEO.

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The restaurant will admit there’s mayonnaise and relish in the famous Triple “O” sauce, but they’ll say nothing more.

Archival footage showing the original White Spot in Vancouver. Global News file

“Those are just two of the ingredients,” said co-owner Ron Toigo.

“We can’t tell you the other ones.”

Peter Toigo Sr. bought the company for $60 million in 1983, marking the “biggest deal he’d ever done in his life,” Ron said.

The restaurant continued to expand under his ownership, and it served as host eatery at the B.C. Pavilion during Expo ’86. It then open two concepts and one of them hosted Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

White Spot sign. Global News file

Today, White Spot has locations throughout B.C., in Alberta and even in Asia.

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For them, owning the brand is sort of like owning an icon.

“When you look at 90 years of history, remaining relevant is so important,” Erhart said.

“We can think of a lot of Vancouver and British Columbia institutions that we all grew up with that aren’t there today.”

For Toigo, the restaurant has a cult following.

“It’s something that you were proud of when you brought people to town,” he said.

  • Video report by Squire Barnes

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