Takeaways from this episode:
Write About It Online — Though she was fairly new to the restaurant biz in 2020, Joelle Parenteau was not new to business. The COVID-19 pandemic caused her to pivot like most business owners, but navigating the complexities of trying to stay afloat in the midst of such times created a steep learning curve. She wrote about that in her viral popular Medium blog post with a provocative title (see article below). Telling her real story online let her connect with a huge international audience and garnered her and her business lots of media attention.
Haters Gonna Hate — In more eloquent terms, courage will not come free of trials. Joelle Parenteau’s writing is impassioned. It comes from a place of transparency and vulnerability rarely seen from anyone, let alone somebody trying to build a business. But that’s what makes her story so beautiful. And why it has connected with so many readers.
Collaboration Over Competition — Joelle Parenteau fully understands the value of working together. Whether that collaboration is in the form of mentors, investors, or other restaurant owners, she has benefited greatly from alone not trying to go at it. Everyone needs to ask for help.
Wolf Down restaurant owner Joelle Parenteau is a passionate entrepreneur who has been able to channel her fearlessness and zeal for her business with blogging and Smartphone Storytelling.
“I feel like everything we do is a little unconventional,” says Joelle Parenteau when describing habits that have made her restaurant successful on the Restaurant Influencers podcast to host Shawn P. Walchef of https://calibbq.media.
“Unconventional” has been a theme in her rise to fame within the restaurant industry. Tired of the false narratives and negativity surrounding the industry, Joelle expressed her frustrations the most constructive way she knew how, by writing. She penned a fantastic article called Why Restaurants are So F***** that was published on May 18, 2020. The article was riveting enough to garner over a million views and have her as a guest on media platforms across the globe.
“The first one was basically just a rant of just stuff that I had to get off my chest,” says Joelle Parenteau. “Just seeing some of the things we were going through and how we were struggling. So the first one was mostly focused on the lack of understanding…for, like, what it takes to serve you a great meal.”
The unconventional methods also cross into her business. Joelle’s inspiration for opening Wolf Down, a Berlin dönor shop, came from a chance meeting with a “German boy” that took her on a trip to Germany. After singing the praises of this particular German street food from her now husband, Daniel — who just so happened to originally relocate to Ottawa to help his friend with a startup called Shopify — she finally got a chance to try the acclaimed kebab wrap.
“I had my first bite and it was just mind blowing,” she described.
That encounter got the wheels turning on how she could have this delectable food as often as she wanted and find a way to share it with everyone.
Betting on Restaurants
As a professional poker player, Joelle Parenteau is accustomed to gambling. She had no restaurant experience. She had no background in the food industry, but she bet on herself and opened the first Wolf Down in her hometown of Ottawa in 2018 with the help of key investors and mentors. Three years later, the second location went live in Las Vegas, where she and Daniel spend a lot of time playing poker. They have since opened two ghost kitchens in Toronto and Calgary with more on the horizon.
“We have a bit of an unusual growth trajectory,” Parenteau remarks on Wolf Down’s rapid expansion into virtual kitchens.
Just over a month after her article on the inevitable downfall of the restaurant industry, Parenteau has recanted a bit with another hit entitled Why Restaurants are not F*****. The article highlights the need for restaurants to pivot in order to remain successful, and how it could be done.
A year and a half later, Parenteau underwent another swing in her emotional pendulum and composed Why Restaurants are so F***** – Part II which details the lingering uncertainty due to the aftermath of COVID’s subversion. Despite a change in feelings, one thing remains constant, she is true to herself. Parenteau has used Medium to speak her truth from inside the belly of the beast that is restaurant ownership becoming her very own media source. She uses her writing to lend a unique voice to the ins and outs of the hospitality industry during these uncertain times.
“Is it worth it?” Parenteau says she often asks herself. A question that she answers with a response, “Yeah! At the end of the day, I will always say yes. I won’t be silenced and I believe in speaking up.” She continues, “I just feel like the industry as a whole doesn’t have enough people speaking up for it, and for some crazy reason, I decided I would try because I have such a passion for this industry.”
That audacity and unconventionally radical candor and passion for service is how Joelle Parenteau has taken Wolf Down from a description of her fast eating style as a kid, to an idea based around a unique experience, to now a renowned restaurant with an astronomical upside.
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