Canada: The Daniel Group: From Ice Cream Cart To Restaurant Empire

Daniel Frankel is President and CEO of Daniel Group, a Vancouver-based company whose roster includes the explosive Tap & Barrel brand. Tap & Barrel has two locations in downtown Vancouver, at both the Convention Centre and Olympic Village, with a third 'Shipyards' set to open in North Vancouver's Lonsdale Quay. Daniel attributes his success to determination and commitment, but reflecting on his experiences, it's apparent that Daniel has a gift for dealing with people and a natural entrepreneurial spark.

Daniel's first entrepreneurial endeavor was in grade nine, when he started an ice cream cart business in Stanley Park. He recalls with pride how he built the cart himself, completing it with a "metal frame, wood, a big four tube freezer, extension cord plug-in, and wheels..."

Daniel comes by the business naturally as the son of seasoned takeout restauranteur, George Frankel, who grew up in New York and moved to Israel before settling in Vancouver. In 1984, George won a public tender for a spot at Prospect Point in Vancouver's Stanley Park., where he then built a concession. This is where Daniel had his first summer job scooping ice cream.

Daniel observed tour buses that brought visitors to the scenic look-out by Prospect Point to enjoy the view and then continue on. He recalls thinking, "We are not capturing that market. There is a massive market that does not come back to consume anything." A strategy was born: "If I had sort of an interruption point there, where they could actually buy something..."

It was after two summers that Daniel approached his dad and put forward his proposal: he would build the cart, buy the ice cream from Prospect Point, and remit a percentage rent based on his ice cream cart sales. "It was like a 14 page proposal and it worked. This little ice cream cart, back then, was doing anywhere from a terrible day at $250 to my best day at just over $1,000" recalls Daniel. "I hired my first employee and ended up making a fair bit of money for a nine year old."

After high school Daniel followed his passion for the arts and music as he had always been exposed to world-class artists at a very young age. "My father taught me early on that in New York, you get to see the second half of the play for free" he says winking, "and this exposure to thinking outside the box and being creative was invaluable." Daniel still does all his own interior design work, "from sourcing materials, designing lighting, furniture and every little detail – because it's all about the details."

Daniel was continuing his immersion in arts and film when someone showed him a newspaper ad for a Parks Board Request for Proposal (RFP) at the soon-to-be open Coal Harbour Community Centre.

"I looked at it and thought: this is really cool and could use a change of pace - why don't we open up a little café?"

And so the Daniel Group was born.

Daniel was determined. He drove to Costco for supplies and found staff by persuading his girlfriend to help out. "It was hard," he explained. "We got up really early and went to bed late with only a few hours of sleep. Coal Harbour wasn't what it is today, there was only one building [in 2001], and we opened one month before Sept 11th. All of a sudden it was really hard. People weren't spending or going out, they were both financially and socially hit. We were opening up at 6am, getting home at 11pm when we would start to do the accounting. It was 2am by the time we went to bed to get up again at 5am. We were lucky to sleep three hours per night."

Then two things happened almost simultaneously. First was a call from the Parks Board. By now they had a strong relationship, and the board let him in on a space that was going to be put up for tender as a small coffee shop. Daniel jumped at the opportunity to expand.

The second was an offer from Daniel's dad, George. "He saw me working really hard and said how would you like to run Prospect Point? I'd love you to help out; it looks like you know the business and I'm really impressed". Daniel seized this chance too. He continued to purchase and build restaurants, developing a sizeable fleet under the Daniel Group.

Now, running a larger empire, Daniel continues to hold steadfast to his values. "From the very beginning, business is a choice, not a necessity. And you have the choice of who you do business with. You need to ask: do they have the same moral standards? We've done business with people that were more expensive, but it came down to: who do we want to be friends with and who do we want to spend our time with? Who do we want to build relationships with?"

For Daniel, confidence has been pivotal to his success. "You have to be confident with whatever decision you make, even if you fail at it, you have to own it. I'm often wrong, but never in doubt."

Another is surrounding yourself with good people. "My aspiration, as I grow the company, is to be the dumbest guy in the room. When you are surrounded by really smart people, that's when you know you've succeeded. I love it when I can say: how did they come up with that? They're brilliant!"

Daniel also looks to industry leaders: "One of my favorite quotes is from New York restauranteur Danny Meyer who said, 'Business is all about how you make people feel. It's that simple and it's that difficult.'So I have great relationships with my bankers, my purveyors, my food suppliers and that ensures that I get the first call, the insider info and keep my finger on the pulse. People are always calling me to ask 'Daniel, do you want to get in on this?'"

The biggest challenge that Daniel has faced is "the people and the culture." As the business grew from six different restaurants with varied identities, "fast forward to Tap & Barrel where I realized I was doing everything wrong. I needed focus and leverage, to do everything I loved but within one brand. What do I love? Everything local. I want to support local economy, breweries, wineries, and even our own internal growth with environmentally sustainable programs."

Daniel talks about the need for culture to be clearly defined, especially as the business grows. "The focus moving forward is number one the people – let's find phenomenal people with our core values, that's where it begins. Number two – let's build systems that when followed, we cannot fail with, period."

"Bringing financial expertise on board was a big shift for me" Daniel admits. "Let people know about the numbers so they can do better, and give them performance-based incentives". That along with financial transparency was key for continuing motivation.

Daniel's advice for those interested in entrepreneurship:

"Find something you are passionate about and just do it. Don't be afraid of failure. So many people are afraid of change and failure. Fail a few times and embrace that as your education.

"A mentor or a coach is invaluable. If you want to become an entrepreneur, talk to as many entrepreneurs as possible. Be a student of that world, see what other people do, read a lot of books. Get out there, do and explore, and don't give up.

"Don't be afraid of hard work. I've heard from a lot of people that they want to open up a chain and get investors and hire a president. But you have to do that all yourself before you hire a president!" Daniel laughs.

"So many people just see the end result and say - that's what I want. Blood, sweat, tears – you can't be afraid of it. It's what builds you."

What is next for the Daniel Group? "We have an aggressive growth plan; our internal mantra is "25 X 25": 25 stores by 2025 with the Tap brand. We have number three opening in 2015 and we need to find another 22 locations in the next 10 years - that's an average of 2.2 stores a year. It's aggressive but it's also attainable" he describes excitedly. "If we can share our vision with our leaders internally, then really our business is to create leaders who develop leaders who develop leaders... and become sustainable."

Their training program "Tap University" was created for just that reason. "We're looking at our company not just as a training company or restaurant company but a training, development and leadership company churning out great leaders" Daniel explains. "When we look at people to identify leaders, it's about personality and details – because at the end of the day, how you do anything is how you do everything. If you don't care about the small details then how could you really care about anything else –it translates to how they treat their guests, their level of respect and their commitment.

"We want to build a very important, self-sustaining company that allows people to live their dreams. I feel really fortunate to be in this place where I am. We were at an unbelievable crossroads and we've made the right turn."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions