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Kypp Saunders’ name is a familiar one to those in the food and beverage industry in Waterloo Region. A few years back, he was co-founder and co-owner of Waterloo’s popular White Rabbit bar, a venue with a cool vibe and great cocktails.
Today Saunders, along with co-owner Justin Vail, runs Sugar Run Rum Bar, downtown Kitchener’s “speakeasy,” located between King, Queen, Charles and Benton streets.
The subterranean bar also has a cool vibe and moregreat cocktails: it seems that the combination of vibe and mixology is Saunders’ métier.
And after decades in the industry — he got his start in the business (having told a little white lie about his age) in Kingston, Ontario — Saunders has started a podcast that focusses on the industry, as weighty as that phrase sounds.
His intent with the project, which started just before the pandemic hit, is to open up a view into this important industry. He’s currently focussing on guests from Waterloo Region and the surrounding environs.
“We’re hoping to expand the reach eventually,” says Saunders, who usually schedules recording the podcast on Monday evenings — traditionally a quieter night for the industry which some bars and restaurants occasionally bill as “industry night,” saluting employees’ on their day off.
He’s supported in the endeavour by co-host, producer, audio engineer and technician Dan Sereda. “He does all the heavy lifting and the hard work,” says Saunders. “I just roll in with a glass of wine and talk.”
The weekly podcast, which has run a dozen or so episodes, has included bartenders, wait-staff, cooks, owners and wine and liquor reps.
You can find “The Industry” on major podcast platforms. You can follow them on Instagram @the_industry_podcast.
The discussion with Saunders, below, has been edited for clarity and economy.
andrewcoppolino.com: Why this podcast?
Kypp Saunders: Dan and I have both become interested in listening to podcasts. We realized that there was a sort of hole in podcasts when it came to the industry. There are podcasts about making cocktails, there are podcasts about cooking. But there didn’t seem to be podcasts about the behind-the-scenes in the service industry. We thought there was a gap there.
And so many interesting stories, I’ll bet.
Saunders: Yes, for sure. What got people into it and some often hilarious stories. In this business, you will meet, literally, every kind of person. There’s not a whole lot of jobs that are like ours.
Right, yeah. What has been the theme here then?
Saunders: I want guests to tell their story, however they see it. I have a basic guideline I try to follow — and I’m relatively new at this, so I’m improving — but I want the conversation to flow in the direction it wants to flow. The theme, if there is one, is anything to do with the industry. I don’t want to pin-hole it.
Guests have responded well to that, would you say?
Saunders: Yes, I think it’s gone well. It’s interesting though. I’m surprised sometimes at the nerves you hear from people who spend their entire working hours essentially talking to people as their job.
What have you learned?
Saunders: Well, they all have a very interesting story to tell, unique perspective if I just let them talk.
From the perspective of what I do, I’m interested in knowing if you have been able to get subjects to talk a bit, say, about customers? If you know what I mean.
Saunders: I encourage a little bit of drinking before we get started! I’ve often thought I’d do my “Pet Peeve of the Week” about customers, but …
I’m sure you must hear a bit of that?
Saunders: Oh for sure. But don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the podcast to come across as we hate our customers because obviously we love our customers. That’s why we are in the industry.
Yeah, and again, you have to deal with different customer “personalities,” shall we say.
Saunders: Some guests are a little more guarded, but I’m working on being able to get guests to talk about things that are issues.
What have you learned so far?
Saunders: That I hate the sound of my own voice? I think though even after 30 years, I’ve learned that I could still do what I do better. That comes from talking to these people from all over the industry and hearing their perspectives. I’ve learned many things about how I could do my job better as a bar owner. I hope listeners will hear that too.
Saunders: Yeah, it’s like I don’t know anything. After 30 years! Seriously, though, it’s what the podcast is about. Everyone can get better.
Both inside and outside the industry, would you say?
Saunders. Sure. I think it’s terrific for people who work specifically in the industry, but I think it will be great for people who just enjoy going out to bars and restaurants and hearing our perspective about what it’s like to be in the industry.
Yep, everyone has to eat and drink. Thanks Kypp.
Saunders: Thank you. I hope this gives everyone a little peak behind the curtain. The industry has a special skill set, and it’s not an easy job. The people who do it, do it because they love it.
[Mic image/Wikimedia Commons]