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October 21, 2016

Life Lessons from Founder & President Richard Jaffray

Winner of the Fraser Institute Founders’ Award.

Peter Brown, Fraser Institute chairman credits Richard Jaffray as the man responsible for creating “Canada’s most distinctive restaurant chain.”

In recognition of his entrepreneurial excellence, the Fraser Institute Founders’ Award was recently presented to Richard Jaffray, Cactus Club Cafe Founder and President. It is the institute’s highest honour, presented annually in four markets across the country. Past recipients of the award include the likes of Keith and Ryan Beedie, Chip Wilson, George Melville and Brandt C. Louie.

In a live Q&A with Breakfast Television’s Riaz Meghji, Jaffray shared life and business insights including why “dressing for success” was important in his early entrepreneurial years. To a crowd of 600, he reminisced about humble beginnings, when he lived in his baby blue Dodge Dart and worked as a waiter while writing a business plan.

Jaffray opened his first restaurant at age 21, stating that “often times people would think the contractor was the business owner.” He quickly learned that wearing a suit and tie to business meetings would help expedite his entrepreneurial ambitions in those early years.

Almost 30 years and 29 restaurants later, being taken seriously is not a problem for the Cactus Club Cafe leader. When asked about his leadership style, Jaffray mentioned the “all-in or all-out” philosophy he takes with his team, “It’s important to make measured, strategic decisions, but once we decide to take something on, there’s no looking back. Success is the only option.”

He elaborated on the concept of ‘team’ when asked by Meghji what he considers his greatest business risk. Jaffray explained that in a fiercely competitive environment like the restaurant business “having the right team to take on the challenge…(and) hiring people who are already inspired” is critical to managing that risk. “The Cactus team are a group of over-achievers…they even set up a bellini bar for this event” he added jokingly.


The evening ended with a Guinness World Record for the most shooters (580 to be exact) done in a selfie at once… The toast of the night “We’re just getting started!” is well known by his team as they look forward to future growth and leadership in the North American restaurant industry.