Name: Peter Buckley
Title: CEO and casual antique collector
Business: Old Spaghetti Factory
What do you do and how did you get here?
I am the CEO of Old Spaghettti Factory Canada and the owner of the Gastown OSF location. My career in the restaurant industry started back in 1980 with The Keg. Before all that, I was in UBC studying finance. I remember a time back in high school when our team had won an intermediate boys basketball championship and we all piled into a bus to go celebrate at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown. I was in grade 11 and I recall one of my teammates carefully hollowing out a piece of sourdough bread, placing a meatball inside it, and launching the thing up into one of the chandeliers. Years later, when I purchased the Gastown location, I looked to see if that bread meatball missile was still up in the rafters and to my disappointment, it was gone.
Spaghetti Factory is one of the longest standing original Gastown restaurants. How long have you been here?
Would you believe in March 2020 we’ll be celebrating 50 years in business on Water Street. It all started here in Gastown. This was the first Canadian location and since then we have added 14 locations across the country. In 2019, we’ll serve 2.4 million customers and employ 1400 people. We’re an all inclusive dining experience – one price gets you an entrée, soup or salad, bread, tea/coffee and ice cream. Hard to find a deal like that today. Our general managers are owner/operators and this relationship is key to our success.
How has the neighbourhood changed over the years?
It’s all been quite the ride. Our Gastown location is the head office for all of Canada. It’s nice to have it here on the fourth floor but it wasn’t always this way. Back when the company was still young, our office was in the basement. Anytime we had a big storm, we’d get at least a foot of water. I’ve watched Gastown evolve from a very limited amount of retail, with a larger amount of tourist shops, to an area that is vibrant. We have fantastic restaurants, excellent coffee, interesting shops, tons of creative and innovative companies where entrepreneurs and risk takers forge new and wonderful ideas, and a vibe that can’t be found anywhere else in the city. It’s strange but good because Gastown has totally changed yet it still looks in part like it did 100 + years ago.
You’re known for serving up the classics like spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and spumoni ice cream. How do you keep pace with shifting tastes and trends?
Our menus have evolved significantly over the years. The quality of the product we serve today versus 15 years ago has improved dramatically. Each location has an executive chef, we use locally sourced ingredients, make sauces and dressings fresh in-house, and we have reworked a large number of our classic recipes. We have an additional menu that is entirely gluten free, allowing for a considerable amount of choices, and above all, our price point is tough to beat. We recently added a Beyond Meat 100% plant based meatball that has been a really popular choice for diners.
It’s been long known that your restaurtant in Gastown in haunted? Are we talking tall tales here or genuine evidence of ghostly encounters?
I’ve been with the company for 40 years and much of that time has been in Gastown. I’ve never personally experienced any paranormal activity in the building or the restaurant. What I can tell you is that a large number of people who have worked in the Gastown restaurant have some strange stories to tell. I have sat with many of these people and witnessed them recount dark tales with a face as pale as a sheet. These are completely normal, all-there kind of folk with no reason or motive at all to fabricate such unexplainable experiences. There definitely appears to be spirits or entities of some kind that seem to like hanging around the Gastown location. Maybe they just really like pasta?
Any events coming up that we should know about?
We’ll definitely do something special to celebrate our 50th anniversary next year. For one day only on our 40th, we brought back our original menu from the 70’s with entrée’s at $1.50 (all inclusive too). The lineup went around the block before opening and an hour before close we had to turn hundreds of people away. All proceeds went to the Burn Foundation and everybody had an awesome time. Plenty of people came with stories and nostalgia of coming here as children. Today, many of these people are parents, happy to share The Old Spaghetti Factory with the next generation. It was so much fun that I’m sure we’ll do it all again.
(Pictured left to right): Peter Buckley – President & CEO, Sarah Ghitter (top left of window) – Accounting Clerk, Quinn Kliewer (bottom left window) – Former Gastown Manager, newly appointed Personnel Manager of our New Westminster location, Jennifer Chan – Assistant Controller, Chris Kanuka – Senior Vice President, Andrew Buckley – Director of Construction & Facilities Management, Michael Thompson – Corporate Executive Chef, Carolyn Rivers – Controller, Nolan Wilson – Marketing & Promotions Manager.