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A 'difficult' but 'unavoidable' decision: Vancouver restaurant concept shutters both locations within first year

"While we were very confident of the concept, the timing turned out to be very difficult."

As 2022 came to a close, so did business at the two locations of a new Vancouver restaurant concept.

Bamboo World Kitchen, which debuted in February 2022 in South Granville and a few months later launched its second outpost on West Broadway near Oak, shuttered both its restaurants on Dec. 15. 

Sean Flynn brought years of global and Canadian chain restaurant expertise to the table with his Bamboo World Kitchen concept, which was centered on fast, fresh, and nourishing foods that could flex to suit a variety of dietary needs and draw from flavours from around the globe. 

The menu featured bowls, salads, and wraps featuring a choice of proteins and house-made sauces and dressings, in options drawing inspiration from Vietnam, Mexico, or Greece among other areas of the world. Additionally, the restaurants offered breakfast items and smoothies using plant-based milk.

Flynn, who spoke with V.I.A. in person in August 2022 on the heels of the opening of the second Bamboo World Kitchen location, was looking to establish a brand that could serve a number of guests and address not only the typical monotony of the grab-and-go model but also reinforce the practice of mindful and sustainable eating - something Flynn himself has long been passionate about. 

However, as Flynn tells V.I.A. in a Jan. 3, 2023 email, the market Bamboo World Kitchen entered in 2022 was not the one he and the team had anticipated back in 2020 when plans for the concept got underway.

"While we were very confident of the concept, the timing turned out to be very difficult," says Flynn.

Pandemic-era shifts in consumer behaviour affected business

"The coattails of the pandemic have resulted in a couple of critical changes in consumer behaviour," Flynn notes. 

"Firstly, with more people ordering food online from well-established restaurants, it meant that there were fewer shoppers circulating in the shopping districts seeking lunch or a snack," Flynn continues, adding: "Secondly, the work-from-home and hybrid models meant that only a small fraction of people were at their offices and looking for lunch. And for those that were, inflation meant that more and more people were bringing their own lunch to work. This made it very difficult to establish a new brand at this time."

Flynn says that the hope in mid-2020 was that the pandemic would have been a thing of the past by early 2021, but even well over a year later that still wasn't the case. As 2022 neared its end, Flynn said the Bamboo World Kitchen team "had to take a realistic view" and closed both locations down.

"We felt that this difficult decision was unavoidable given the economic headwinds we were facing," says Flynn. 

Curiously, Bamboo World Kitchen's immediate neighbour on the 700-block of West Broadway, Loz Takos, also shuttered Dec. 15, 2022. A representative for the Coquitlam-based "urban taqueria" concept did not elaborate on what prompted the closure, but did indicate the company was prepping to opening a new location this year in Burnaby. Vancouver's Hi Five, a largely take-out fried chicken chain, is set to open in the former Loz Takos on Broadway.