By Marilyn Assaf
In 1976, Warren Erhart graduated from Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) as a young, enthusiastic business student who already grasped the importance of hard work.
Three decades later, he’s president and CEO of White Spot restaurants.
When Erhart joined White Spot, there were 27 locations. Now there are 64 locations throughout B.C. and Alberta, and more than 50 Triple O’s in Western Canada and Asia, employing more than 4,000 people and serving more than 17 million customers annually.
Erhart will receive VIU’s Distinguished Alumni Award Jan. 28 at VIU’s convocation ceremony.
The award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of alumni who have earned provincial or national prominence as a result of their exceptional professional achievements and/or service to society.
“I’m honoured and humbled to receive this award,” said Erhart, a graduate of the Hotel and Restaurant Management program in 1976. “VIU provided a solid foundation for my career.”
After graduating, Erhart spent 15 years of service with Keg Restaurants, including ownership of the Keg in Nanaimo and the largest Keg operation in Ontario. He joined White Spot in 1990 as division general manager. Within four years, he was promoted to president and has overseen the development of the restaurant chain as one of B.C.’s most popular restaurants.
Recognized as a leader in the restaurant industry, Erhart is quick to recognize others for White Spot’s success.
“Our people are the best,” he said “We accomplish this by hiring the best, training the best, expecting the best, and then creating an environment where individuals can make a positive difference.”
White Spot is the first restaurant to offer all components of a full indentured apprenticeship program in-house for their chefs.
The Red Seal certification is a nationally recognized symbol of quality and is the standardized certification for Canadian chefs. The comprehensive training program is only available at post-secondary institutions and Erhart was instrumental in creating a partnership with VIU’s Culinary Institute to train White Spot’s chefs in the Red Seal program.
Erhart also supports VIU through several initiatives including the creation of a student award sponsored by White Spot, supporting employment opportunities for Hospitality, Business and Culinary graduates and speaking to students. He says he enjoys sharing advice and wisdom with future entrepreneurs.