By Adam MacDonald
Smitty’s restaurant has been a staple of Fernie dining for the past 23 years, offering a wide range of food that spans breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks.
The current owner, Qaiser Hamid, moved to Fernie last December with his family and bought the business off a friend, after having been a partner for some time. “I really enjoy working in the restaurant business,” says Hamid, “but it was Fernie that brought me here. Within five days people knew my name, and I thought that was really great. I feel like I am a part of a family here.”
Hamid notes that he likes running a Smitty’s restaurant, in particular, because it isn’t fast food, but it also isn’t expensive. “You get lots of food for cheap,” says Hamid, “and lots of variety, with healthy choices. Our food is fresh food, made the right way.” Hamid has spent the past six years in the restaurant business, both in Texas and in Montreal, but says he likes the family aspect of running Fernie Smitty’s. “I lived in big cities for a long time. Everyone here respects each other, is very nice, and very family oriented.” He notes that Smitty’s is truly a family restaurant, offering a seniors’ and kids’ menu, as well as free meals for children under eight-years-old. “This is the best family restaurant in Fernie,” says Hamid.
There are 110 Smitty’s restaurants in western Canada, and Hamid tries to take advantage of the discounts that the head office affords him. “We have a 10 per cent discount for locals before 2 p.m. and a 20 per cent discount after 4 p.m,” he says. They also offer $5 vouchers for Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, and as of September, they will be providing a free lunch or dinner coupon per month to one student from each of the Fernie schools.
The restaurant currently employs 13 staff, with experience levels that stretch from 2 months to 20 years and that include both local and seasonal workers. Although most of the staff has previous serving experience, each staff member is trained upon hire to ensure service is top-notch, as Hamid believes that an enjoyable restaurant experience is half food and half service. He notes that he can trust his employees, as well, and knows they are good workers, not only from his daily interactions with them, but from the various awards they have won, including a secret shopper award from Smitty’s head office and several Kootenay Business’ “Best Place to Eat and Drink” awards. “We have a really good chef,” says Hamid, “but I want people to always speak up when we make a mistake — that way we learn. I haven’t heard a complaint yet, though, and I think it’s because a good rule we live by is if you would eat it, yourself, you can serve it, but if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t serve it.” Hamid’s favourite item is the Smitty’s Classic Burger, but he, and many customers, like the pancakes and waffles, as well.
Normally, Smitty’s is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., but are extending their summer hours to 9 p.m. to see if they are able to expand into the dinner market. Drop in to Fernie Smitty’s, located on Highway 3 beside Husky, to try their varied and family-friendly menu for yourself.