Sawmill is a big part of the history of Edmonton. Launched by Tom Goodchild November 7, 1976, the original and subsequent locations that spread across the province always enchant with the brand’s signature wooden beams and elevated rustic charm. And the beef! It just can’t be beat. Canadian beef combined with an ageing and preparation process proprietary to the steakhouse have kept diners flocking to the restaurants for decades.
There is a danger in having such success early on; a restaurant can fall back on the tried and true and never progress – but not Sawmill. Tasker Goodchild, STEAKholder, is taking Sawmill through its newest evolution while retaining all of the charm that made its first iterations such a triumph.
Tasker aspired to work with his father in the restaurant business since he was six years old. He started in the industry outside the family business in his early years while living in Florida working for several independently owned restaurants as well as a global chain. Washing dishes, cooking, and waiting tables is how he got started in the business, just like his father. Tasker moved back to Edmonton to joined the family business in 1995, and in 2013 sold a couple of pieces of real estate and borrowed money from a dentist and an auto body repair shop, to vest in several new locations.
“Sawmill has been a place where friends, family and business associates have come together for literally generations to celebrate, commemorate, and negotiate business,” says Tasker. “For the past 45 years, for its teams and the communities they serve, Sawmill is a second family. We have built friendships that have lasted a lifetime, and it’s also where I met my wife!”
As a lead STEAKholder, Tasker is determined to keep the legacy going, and to show patrons that Sawmill and the new Mill Craft Bar + Kitchen, in the words of Fort Saskatchewan General Manager, Corey Norgren, are “better together.”
“There are eight locations across Northern Alberta, including our catering kitchen where we have just introduced a ghost kitchen concept called Market by Sawmill,” Tasker explains. “Sawmill gift cards are in more than 275 retail outlets and our Sawmill sesame steak sauce has sold more than 330,000 bottles in the last 12 months from 800 retailers in 141 cities in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. We are in all the major grocery chains (Save-On-Foods, Safeway, Sobeys and more) along with independent grocers like The Italian Centre and Freson Bros.” Before the end of this calendar year we will introduce to market our signature Sawmill Caesar salad dressing, prime rib rub, and blackening spice to retail locations.”
The past year and a half was arduous on the restaurant industry; Sawmill dug into its creativity and entrepreneurial roots and used this time to develop a new dining concept to complement the brand.
“It’s the first new concept for us since Tom Goodchild’s Moose Factory opened in 1996,” says Tasker. “I’m proud to present The Mill Craft Bar + Kitchen. Over the last year we have worked with Chris Krock from CDK Hospitality Consulting and together we developed an idea that would give our group another concept that would appeal to a broader scope of diner.
“Recognizing that several of our properties have large footprints, we hatched the idea to do something new to the province of Alberta by having two great concepts under one roof. As with anything in life, ideas come easy, but it took team of people, committed to the vision, to develop The Mill Craft Bar + Kitchen.”
He continues, “We’ve recognized the landscape of hospitality has shifted to a more casual style of dining so we developed something that would appeal to this market. What can you expect at The Mill Craft Bar + Kitchen? An elevated, social and relaxed atmosphere where you can mEAT friends after work for good conversation, great food and even better drinks, with the quality you would come expect from Sawmill. Aimed at a broader demographic, there will be lighter fare, shared bites, Alberta craft beer, and seasonal cocktails. It’s the next generation of dining for the next generation of Sawmill patrons.”
Tasker adds, “We’ve been fortunate to have very long-term people committed to the Goodchild family and the Sawmill Group including; Corporate Chef Joe Ferreira; who has been key in providing the highest level of quality to our signature Sawmill dishes. Joe was instrumental in working with Chris to make the The Mill Craft Bar + Kitchen menu one of which we could be proud. Paul Doucette, Partner and General Manager of Sawmill Catering Center and Market by Sawmill, coined the phrase, ‘Service is not an industry, it’s a state of mind.’ Also following in his father’s footsteps, Sterling Goodchild, has proven his level of commitment and leadership ability as General Manager of the Leduc Sawmill location. In addition, we have a tremendous team who continuously demonstrate commitment and dedication to this brand.”
He pauses to reflect on Director of Operations,
Len McCullough. “He has dedicated almost 40 years of his life to the Goodchild family and The Sawmill Group,” says Tasker. “He has become a very close friend to my father and I and we both hold him in very high regard. While Len has been in the role of Director of Operations since 1996, he held other senior management roles prior, overseeing multiple operations. Over the years Len has sacrificed time with his wife Deborah and three children to be there when the company needed him. He has always puts others before himself, recognising the team for their success and wins and has never accepted credit when credit is due. His natural talents and ability to build teams and adapt to change and resource solutions has allowed Sawmill to grow, adapt and change as our industry has done over the years. There hasn’t been a single challenge he hasn’t accepted or project too large, from the Edmonton Indy, Grey Cup, and the Edmonton Elks, to selling franchises and constructing new locations… all with a smile and a positive can-do attitude.”
There is very special team member that is returning to The Sawmill Group, and this one holds a special place in Tasker’s heart. “I’m very excited about Carolyn Goodchild returning as the special event coordinator and reservation concierge,” he smiles.
“I started at the original Sawmill when I was 18, where I met my husband Tasker,” says Carolyn. She took a career break from both the hospitality industry, and later the oil and gas industry, to raise their two children. Carolyn’s attention to detail, creativity, love of hospitality fuels her passion for delivering memorable guest experiences.
Sawmill’s legacy endures then, now, and into the future with recognitions and awards from decades of hard work beyond, including but not limited to Consumer Choice, Rotary International, Open Table, Alberta Beef Producers and Business in Edmonton Leaders.
“To be recognized by your peers is very humbling,” concludes Tasker. “Running a successful business is about surrounding yourself with smart and talented people. We are only as strong as the teams we build, and we have been fortunate over the years to have had very dedicated and loyal people work for the brand, which is why we are still here today. The Sawmill Group remains committed to a core value of personal and professional development and we work hard to inspire our teams.
“Whether you love the dining experience of the Sawmill, the new concept of The Mill Craft Bar + Kitchen, a personalized catered experience, or Sawmill sesame steak sauce for your pantry, we are here to add flavour to your life.”
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