Gerald Tritt Shares Secrets Behind Vera’s Award-Winning Burgers | Restaurants & Franchises Series

How can an entrepreneur build a thriving burger franchise and elevate the customer experience through an unwavering commitment to quality, consistency, and continuous improvement?

In this episode, Gerald Tritt, co-owner of Vera’s Burger Shack, shares his journey from taking over a beach concession to establishing an award-winning burger brand with 10 locations across Canada. Despite the challenges of a competitive market and evolving consumer preferences, Gerald’s dedication to crafting the perfect burger and providing a warm, friendly atmosphere has been instrumental in Vera’s success.

Gerald discusses the importance of using top-tier ingredients, making patties fresh in-store, and constantly refining cooking techniques to deliver an exceptional product. He also emphasizes the value of fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement, both personally and within the business.

As a disciplined and open-minded leader, Gerald aims to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs to stay true to their vision, embrace change, and never stop learning. He shares his experiences navigating the challenges of franchising, adapting to delivery app trends, and maintaining quality control across multiple locations.

Gerald sees Vera’s as more than just a way to sell burgers – it’s an opportunity to create memorable experiences that keep customers coming back. Through his team’s efforts, he hopes to continue expanding the brand across Western Canada and beyond, while staying true to Vera’s core values of quality, consistency, and hospitality.

Mentors that inspired Gerald:

  • Continuous learning through diverse reading materials and being open to new ideas and perspectives.
  • Believing in the importance of independent thinking and allowing his children to learn from their own successes and failures.

Tune in for valuable insights on building a thriving burger franchise, navigating industry challenges, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement from Gerald Tritt, a seasoned entrepreneur in the hospitality space.




Welcome to another edition of inspired stories where leaders share their experiences so we can learn from their successes, how they’ve overcome adversity, and explore current challenges they’re facing.

Anthony Codispoti (08:59.171)
Welcome to another edition of the Inspired Stories podcast, where leaders share their experiences so we can learn from their successes and be inspired by how they’ve overcome adversity. My name is Anthony Codaspodi and today’s guest is Gerald Tritt, co -owner of Vera’s Burger Shack, which started out as a beach concession in 1977 under the watchful eye of Vera and her husband, Frank. Vera prided herself on serving the best possible food and as she got older, they handed it down to their granddaughters.

Eventually, Gerald, who was a family friend and his partner Noah Cantor, became involved. They have maintained Vera’s commitment to providing an excellent customer experience that turns people into returning customers by using only the best ingredients and making the burgers fresh themselves. They have been voted Vancouver Canada’s best burger 15 years running. They have 10 locations and counting and are actively engaged in franchising conversations.

Gerald also has a wider range of other interests, including a cigar brand, which we’ll hear more about, and is the president of Jolt Health, a health and wellness company, which is currently engaged in identifying opportunities in the AI space in regards to medical development. Now, before we get into all that good stuff, today’s episode is brought to you by my company, Adback Benefits Agency, where we offer very specific and unique employee benefits that are both great for your team and fiscally optimized for your bottom line.

One recent client was able to add over $900 per employee per year to their bottom line by implementing one of our proprietary programs. Results vary for each company and some organizations may not be eligible. To find out if your company qualifies, contact us today at addbackbenefitsagency .com. Now, back to our guest today, the co -owner of Vera’s Burger Shack, Gerald, I appreciate you making the time to share your story today.

Gerald (10:49.428)
Thanks for having me Anthony, happy to be here.

Anthony Codispoti (10:51.458)
So Gerald, tell us in your own words, what is the customer experience like at Ferris?

Gerald (10:58.038)
It’s a warm and friendly experience. I think we’re not the type of company that gets out there and, you know, flashy, screaming, yelling, a lot of hoopla. We provide an experience that’s friendly, inviting, and most importantly, quality.

Anthony Codispoti (11:15.617)
That’s terrific. Now to win Best Burger once is impressive. To win it 15 years and counting is kind of absurd. What are you guys putting into those things?

Gerald (11:27.478)
Well, good question. We’ve been making the burgers by hand in store every day since we started. That for us is a non -starter in terms of having somebody else produce our products for us. We also built a proprietary spice mix that we put into every burger. The difference in our burger as well is we charbroil them. We don’t griddle them. They’re not smash burgers. They’re your sort of thick steakhouse style burgers. And I think that people appreciate that.

Every burger is over six ounces. We don’t skimp on the ingredients. We don’t skimp on the quality. We make sure we only use top tier ingredients. And I think for that, people respect it and people respect the fact that we care greatly about the burger.

Anthony Codispoti (12:12.225)
So the cooking process, it’s on a traditional open flame grill. Is that what you were describing? OK. And six ounces, that’s a pretty good sized burger.

Gerald (12:15.573)
Correct. Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah, it’s, you know, it’s fine. I’m not a small guy. My partner’s not a small guy. Vera and Frank weren’t small people. And it was one of those things where we’re not going to make food that we’re not going to eat. And it’s as simple as that. And, you know, I, we didn’t want these two and a half ounce patties that were frozen, that were made by somebody else. And it’s funny over the years, you know, every beef provider within Western Canada has come to us and say, we should make your patties. And.

You know, my partner and I always laugh. We’re like, why would we let somebody else make the one thing that you’re coming for? You know, we don’t make ice cream. We don’t make ketchup. We buy those things. We make our patties.

Anthony Codispoti (13:03.329)
So you’re buying fresh ground beef and molding it into the shapes and mixing all the spices in and doing it right there on site.

Gerald (13:07.126)
Correct. Correct. Yep. Yep. And anything we can do to make that product even a little bit better, we do it.

Anthony Codispoti (13:17.761)
So what was the opportunity that unfolded that allowed you to get involved with Barrett’s? Had you been in the restaurant space before? How did this all come about?

Gerald (13:28.983)
So I was in the restaurant business for a number of years across Canada and I owned a tapas bar here in Vancouver and around 2000, Vera’s the last single granddaughter that lived in Vancouver was getting married and going to be moving away. And they had one year left on a contract on the beach concession. So I spoke to them and I took over the beach concession.

And I did it for a couple of reasons. In 2000, the burger landscape was very different than it is today. There was nobody doing a real sort of charbroiled, and I’m not going to say gourmet burger, but upmarket burger. And so I took the concession over with the thought of, let me see what I, let me see what this is all about. Let me see if there’s legs to this. Let me see if there’s something there.

And so I ran it for the first season. It was great. It was a successful season. It was good timing for myself because my wife and I were also expecting our first child, who’s not named Gera. And so it was a good opportunity for me to sort of check out the lay of the land. Noah Cantor, who’s my partner, had been friends with me for a number of years and played professional football up here in Canada in the CFL for the BC Lions.

And he had always said, if he has an opportunity to maybe do something else, let me know. And so in 2001, a space became available and I took the opportunity to approach Nolan’s, asking if he wanted to come in on that location with an opportunity to, if things went well, to buy into the company. So in 2001, we opened our first standalone restaurant and 2002, Noel became my partner and we’ve been partners ever since.

Anthony Codispoti (15:17.6)
And so you guys are up to 10 locations now.

Gerald (15:21.175)
Yeah, we have 10 locations and we’re just a finished one in Calgary.

Anthony Codispoti (15:26.656)
Is that the first one outside of the Vancouver area?

Gerald (15:29.881)
Yeah, we had one in Calgary a few years ago in the stadium redevelopment area in Edmonton. It was a casino that licensed us and that casino pulled out, so we pulled out with them.

Anthony Codispoti (15:43.009)
Okay. And so is it the burgers that is really what is getting people to come in the door? Is that what people are talking about? That’s the hook?

Gerald (15:52.825)
I think, well, I mean, obviously the hook is the burgers and we’re here at Burger Shack. Obviously the hook is the burgers, but it’s everything. You know, like, you know, our fries are fresh cut, double fried. You know, our patties are fresh. We use potato buns. We don’t, you know, we use Hellman’s mayo. We use, you know, Heinz ketchup. We use French’s mustard. We, our burger experience isn’t just.

the burger like it’s everything that’s sort of layered on. We use real cheddar cheese. We don’t, you know, and we’re not for everybody. There’s a market obviously like, I mean, look at the other guys out there. They’re using American cheese, smashing the burgers down as thin as you can get. And there’s a huge market for that. Maybe we’re wrong, but this is the burger that I want to eat. This is the burger my partner wants to eat. And ultimately this is the burger that I think that when people really want a…

an exceptional burger experience, the one they’re going to turn to. We don’t scrimp. We don’t cut corners. I don’t want to use that to align from Dave Thomas from Wendy’s, which is why he made his burgers square. We don’t cut corners. It was a great line when I heard it. I’m like, that’s a great line, but I can’t make square burgers. But for us, it’s about being up to a quality, not down to a price.

Anthony Codispoti (16:49.631)
So where do you want to go ahead, Jerome?

Anthony Codispoti (17:14.591)
Focus on quality, yeah, you usually don’t go wrong there. So where do you want to take the concept from here, Gerald? What’s the growth plan?

Gerald (17:22.553)
For us, we’re a BC based company. We’ve looked at the states in the past. If there’s opportunities there, we’d certainly engage them. But for us, our focus is Western Canada. We’ve got one store opening in Calgary, we’d like to get a second and third one. We’d like to open up and expand throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and really create a Western Canadian footprint. I think that’s our backyard, so to speak.

And I think there’s real opportunity there.

Anthony Codispoti (17:53.758)
How many of the locations are corporate owned versus franchises?

Gerald (17:57.819)
Now they’re all franchised. It was a decision that we made during the tail end of COVID.

Anthony Codispoti (18:04.318)
How did you guys sort of manage that through the COVID time?

Gerald (18:10.394)
We managed well because we didn’t wait for the fight to come to us. We brought the fight to it. And what I mean by that is as soon as we sort of saw things happening with COVID that we thought were going to be game changers, we adapted. We engaged the delivery services, all of them. We talked to our franchisees. We worked out some accommodations with the franchisees before they got to that point where they were struggling at all.

And because we were proactive about it, because we got ahead of it, we managed it well. We managed to survive and thrive through it. So.

Anthony Codispoti (18:49.79)
And so are you actively searching for new franchisees, specifically in Western Canada?

Gerald (18:53.69)

Gerald (18:58.938)
Listen, Western Canada is our preferred space, but we’ll take beers anywhere and we’re pretty sure that everyone will like it.

Anthony Codispoti (19:06.046)
Okay. So for people who might be listening now, they’re considering different franchising opportunities, what is it about the Veras concept that is particularly compelling?

Gerald (19:18.683)
Well, I think that it’s the fact that it’s a product everyone can stand behind. I think that’s the most important thing. You know, one of the reasons I got into the business, the hospitality business period was because you can’t fight a good plate of food. You can stand behind it. You can be proud of it. You can feel good about it. And there’s a lot of businesses out there that are just, you go through the motions that, you know, if you own a dry cleaner,

You’re standing behind the quality of your cleaning, but you’re a dry cleaner. It’s a good business, but you’re not handing somebody a folded shirt saying, look at that shirt. Doesn’t that shirt look great? There’s no emotion behind it. I put a plate of food in front of you and I watch you take that first bite of a burger and you are just like, wow, that was great. That inspires me. And that should inspire any franchise partner that we have.

Anthony Codispoti (20:01.149)
There’s no emotion behind that, huh?

Gerald (20:18.043)
because that’s how we feel about it. That’s how we feel about our franchise partners. That’s how we feel about our food, our customers, and that should trickle down.

Anthony Codispoti (20:28.985)
I’m curious, you know, in the time that you’ve been involved with Veres, obviously it’s grown from a single, you know, beach concession stand to now 10 locations. What are some inner innovations that you’ve introduced to Veres since getting involved?

Gerald (20:44.252)
So a couple of things. So when we first got involved, we were up until we had three or four stores, we were hand forming our patties. And then we got something called, it was called the Hollymatic and it was an automated burger machine with a big hopper in front. So we’d mix all the meat, put in the hopper and it would spit out all these burgers perfectly formed around Pucks Beautiful. Round about 2007, eight, we sort of looked at them.

when they were sitting on the grill, my partner and I were like, you know, they look great. They’re really tightly packed. They’re these really like perfect, two perfect patties. And so I said, you know what? I think we can do better here. And we built this plate basically. We threw this $15 ,000 patty machine out the window basically.

and built these $60 stainless steel plates with a handle on the top of them. And we made meatballs, big, big six ounce meatballs. And then we use those plates to form the patties. So every patty looks a little different. Isn’t quite packed as tight. So the juice flows a little differently in them. And they just, they felt more homestyle. So that was a big, for us, I mean, it’s silly now to think about it.

Anthony Codispoti (22:12.22)
But it almost looked too industrialized before, from what you described.

Gerald (22:12.818)
but it looked too industrialized and people were taking that position like, now that you’re growing, you must be using frozen patties. And we had to sort of take a half step back and say, no, we don’t, we’ll never do that. So it was sort of, you know, it’s silly to think about now, but it was just one of those things, you know? And then, I mean, going back to French fries, my God, the amount of work we did.

in terms of figuring out our French fries and how to fry them right and get the right temperature, the right crisp, the right feel inside, because we use fresh potatoes. That was a work in progress. I mean, and we were, you know, our first fries coming out were terrible. We were hitting them with 12 different types of spice to try to cover up the fact they all tasted a little burnt. And it’s, when I think about all the things that we went through to get to the quality of the product that the average consumer gets now.

It is one of the reasons I get so worked up if I see something where somebody says the fries weren’t crispy or somebody says the burger was greasy. I take it personally for a lot of reasons. I take it personally because I’m a proud guy. I want to do good work. But second of all, we care more than anybody about that burger that you’re about to eat.

Anthony Codispoti (23:18.172)
You take that personal.

Gerald (23:37.373)
And when somebody speaks ill of our product, it hurts me to my core. Yeah, it hurts me to my core. So.

Anthony Codispoti (23:43.259)
You’re bashing one of your kids. Yeah.

You mentioned before that the fries are double fried. What does that mean? Like two different oils, two different temp.

Gerald (23:52.223)
Yeah, so that means basically we blanch them in hot oil so they get cooked and then we take them out of the oil and we let them cool and then when you order your fries, we fry them again.

Anthony Codispoti (24:08.507)
so they’re like steaming hot.

Gerald (24:11.486)
Yeah, so what happens when they come out of being blanched, they’re basically just about cooked, but they’re not crispy.

Anthony Codispoti (24:20.252)
Okay, so you need to finish them off. Yeah.

Gerald (24:21.406)
and then when you finish them off, and so what happens is when they come out hot like that with a little bit of oil on them, the steam actually helps cook the inside of the fry. So when you take those fries and you put them back in, that second fry crisps the outside and the inside is soft.

Anthony Codispoti (24:42.843)
Now, I’m not a chef. I’ve never operated a restaurant before. I did work at a Wendy’s once as a teenager, but I’ve never heard of this idea of double frying a potato. Was this an innovation that you guys came up with yourselves, or how did you discover this idea? This has been around for a while. Okay, this is well known. Okay.

Gerald (25:00.224)
No, no, no, lots. It’s been around for a long, long time. Yeah, it’s just, there’s, depending on the potato that you’re getting, the type of potato, if there’s too much sugar in the potato, it can get black very quickly. So when you’re doing the double fry, if it’s the wrong potato, it’ll look burnt. It’ll taste great, but it’ll look burnt. Have you ever been to Quebec?

Anthony Codispoti (25:26.778)
I have not. no, I have. Montreal. I’ve been there once.

Gerald (25:28.383)
Okay, so much real, yeah. So if you had french fries there, you would have noticed they’re darker. The potatoes they use there are higher sugar content, so when they fry them, they get naturally darker.

Anthony Codispoti (25:37.626)

Anthony Codispoti (25:42.778)

Gerald (25:44.255)
Yeah, we learned a lot about potatoes when we were coming up with our fry recipe.

Anthony Codispoti (25:49.21)
And so where do your potatoes come from?

Gerald (25:52.8)
Our fries are Kennebec potatoes from Canada and then during the growing season, the last bit of the growing season gets shipped over from California when they’re turning over the growing season. Kennebec potatoes have one harvest, so they harvest them all at once and then they go through the course of the year.

Anthony Codispoti (26:11.066)
Got it. Talk to me about store openings. You guys do anything fun or outrageous when you’re opening a new location? Try to get some attention.

Gerald (26:15.743)

Gerald (26:20.383)
We don’t really, I mean, we’re not, again, we are not the type of people that have the big cow standing out front handing out burgers and stuff like that. We tend to, you know, we’ll do gift certificates, we’ll do giveaways, we’ll do social media announcements. Our biggest thing is we give away these things called burger bucks, where we just go out and we just hand them out and they’re five or $10 for opportunity for people to come in and try the product.

Our general feeling is you come in and try the product once, you’re gonna come back and have it again.

Anthony Codispoti (26:57.05)
Makes sense. Let’s shift gears for a moment. I’m curious to hear more about this cigar brand. How did you get involved with that?

Gerald (27:06.016)
So, Freud cigars, named after Sigmund Freud. I got involved in that about, I’ve been friends with some guys for 20 years now, and they’re heavily invested in public markets here in Canada, and it’s a family office. And about several years back, we were having a birthday party for one of them, and we were having cigars.

love the cigars and everyone wanted with their merry way. And then the senior partner of the company was in Greece and having a cigar and he’s sitting there in the Four Seasons Hotel having a cigar and all these other guys are having cigars. And he’s like, this is a great experience. And, you know, he sort of said, well, you know, maybe I want my own cigar company.

And it was sort of born out of that. And then it turned out he had a contact who was a, who had been in the cigar industry, who was on the shelf. And so he talked to them, talked to his primary partner. They started the cigar company and then they brought me in, to look at building a, an alcohol side to the company. And, you know, sort of. We, we successfully developed that that’s on the shelf right now, getting ready to launch.

But they got, as they got, it’s gonna be our first release, it’s gonna be a bourbon. And as the cigar company started ramping up, they asked me to get more involved in the cigar company to the point where I’m involved daily on the cigar company side of things.

Anthony Codispoti (28:32.249)
What type of alcohol?

Anthony Codispoti (28:49.785)
And so tell me what is the distribution like, tell me more about the brand for people who know cigars, what would be the differentiator here with your product?

Gerald (28:59.042)
So we created a brand, Freud Cigars. The name of the brand came out of building a brand around somebody who was a prolific cigar smoker. And not a lot of people know this, but Sigmund Freud smoked 20 cigars a day. He had a cigar lit almost every day. And so what happened was we built this company, we launched the first cigar April, 2021, called it the Super Ego.

after one of Freud’s concepts and launched that in New York. And gradually the line has grown where we’ve got four different cigars, nine different sizes. And we started a secondary company called Carlosa Maria, which has five different, two different cigars, five different sizes. We’ve been rated in cigar aficionado. We’ve been mentioned in cigar aficionado 15 times. We have,

They’re all Dominican cigars right now and we have two fantastic blenders. If any of your fans have heard of Davidoff cigars, the master blender for Davidoff cigars for over 30 years is a gentleman by the name of Eladio Diaz. He’s blending for us now. One of his understudies, Weaver Ventura, and one of his blending partners, William Ventura. So Weaver Ventura is also blending for us. So…

You know, one of the reasons why I got aligned with the cigar companies because the philosophy of the cigar company is very similar to the philosophy of, Vera’s it’s up to a quality. You know, we’ve got great blenders doing great tobacco’s doing interesting blends. And it’s grown from there to the point where we’re 140 retailers across the U S some big, some small, some well known, some not so well known.

We’re in 15 different countries and growing daily.

Anthony Codispoti (31:01.208)
I’ve been looking at your site here as you were explaining all of that and the product is beautiful. The packaging is next level. I am.

Gerald (31:09.73)
Yeah, you’re looking at the Sigmund? Yeah, the Sigmund packaging, the Sigmund box, that’s a limited edition cigar we launched on Sigmund Freud’s birthday last year. And it’s a great, great cigar.

Anthony Codispoti (31:13.976)

Anthony Codispoti (31:26.2)
And when you talk about the blenders and the blending that is taking place, these are different varieties of tobaccos that have been prepared differently. Talk a little bit more about that.

Gerald (31:35.139)
yeah. yeah. So one of the things that I over the, you know, as I got more involved with the cigar industry, I sort of, you know, did my homework, did my research, did a small cigar sommeliers course. So I could learn and speak in an educated manner about the cigars. And what you really learn is how many different styles of tobacco leaf there is. What makes a good wrapper, what makes a good binder, what makes a good filler.

why cigars burn the way they do, why the cigars don’t burn the way they do. You know, there’s our director of international sales, Mandy Diaz, is a Ladiose son, and he’s a walking encyclopedia himself about cigars. He took a cigar apart for us, showed us each layer of the cigar, why this one burned, why this one didn’t burn. It is a, it is, you know, in cooking, they say cooking is art, baking is science.

Cigar making is both because you have to understand why the tobaccos are going to be layered the way they are to get the flavor profile that you’re going to get. But you also have to understand the science of why you need to use this part of the tobacco tree for a plant to use your wrapper, your binder, your filler. And it is really an interesting science when you break it down.

Anthony Codispoti (33:04.086)
So I’m not a cigar guy myself, but I have many friends who really enjoy it if I was looking for a gift for somebody that hey This is something a little bit different a little bit special. Is it the the sigman here that you would recommend?

Gerald (33:19.909)
Well, the Sigmund, the Agapi, if you can find it, that’s just about finished in terms of its exclusivity. We don’t have many boxes of that left. So when you find an Agapi, you should definitely grab one. And the Sigmund, you know, the Alter Ego is a really interesting cigar for us because we use some very interesting tobaccos in that. We use the tobacco called Pelidoro, a hair of gold. It’s based on the Peruvian strain of a very hard to get tobacco.

Anthony Codispoti (33:32.854)

Gerald (33:50.18)
So it’s got a very different flavor profile. That to me is like, if you put a gun to my head and say, you know, who’s your favorite? Probably the Alter Ego or Augusto. Just cause it’s got the Mexican San Andreas wrapper, which is a little oilier, a little darker. It’s got the Pelle D ‘Oro tobacco inside. I just, I tend to gravitate towards that. The Sigmund’s an excellent cigar, but the Sigmund’s a commitment because it’s a double Corona, so it’s a longer Vitolo.

Anthony Codispoti (34:01.526)

Gerald (34:18.918)
so that you definitely have to be committed to sitting there for an hour, an hour and a half. But you know, the picture that I always paint for people with the cigars is, you know, you come home from work, had a stressful day, you’ll pour yourself a cocktail. You know, pour yourself another. You know, after an hour and a half, two hours, you might have had four or five cocktails, and you’re sort of wound down for the evening. You have a cigar,

You pour yourself a drink, you go sit on your back patio. You’ll sit there for an hour, you’ll have one, maybe two drinks, have the cigar, and you are way more relaxed and feeling way better than if you’re having four or five drinks. It’s, watch.

Anthony Codispoti (35:05.142)
You moderate a little bit more on the alcohol side and then the effects from the tobacco.

Gerald (35:09.477)
It’s a natural moderation because you’ve got something else to sort of take your attention away. And I’m telling you, sitting on your back porch, having a cigar and a drink and watching the sun go down, nothing relaxes you more.

Anthony Codispoti (35:29.622)
And that’s of course shortly after you’ve just had a nice Vera’s burger to fill up your belly for the night.

Gerald (35:34.983)
Well, you have that for lunch to get you through the rest of the day.

Anthony Codispoti (35:38.165)
I like it. So people can find these cigars, can they buy directly from your website or are they only through the retail distribution that you’ve got?

Gerald (35:45.158)
Retail distribution, but there are online retailers as well that have them, that carry them. I think Cigars Direct carries them online, so they’re a good contact. But locally, I mean, I know that there’s retailers in Columbus that carry them. I know that there’s retailers across, I think we’re in 40 odd states. And we’ll be launching a new cigar in early 2025. News about that one is gonna be coming out in the coming weeks.

And I think that’s going to be a real interesting collaboration that we’re doing with a very well -known person.

Anthony Codispoti (36:20.277)
Okay, and people can make sure they can find out more about it by, is there some place on your website that they can sign up for information?

Gerald (36:29.862)
You can go to our website. The best thing to do is follow us on social media, Instagram, Froy Cigar Co.

Anthony Codispoti (36:30.965)
Looks like.

Anthony Codispoti (36:35.093)

Great. And what’s the growth plan for this? Is it just to continue sort of some of these interesting collaborations like you just mentioned the one coming out in 2025 or there are more retail outlets coming?

Gerald (36:49.288)
We’ll add retail stores, we’ll add more countries for distribution, we’ll add more cigar lines as we grow. We’re slowly moving to Europe as well. And so I think that for us, it’s about continuing to do interesting, continuing to keep our core blends in stock and ready to go for the consumers that use those and enjoy those as their sort of daily and weekly smokes. And…

continue to provide interesting blends for limited editions and make those really inspired.

Anthony Codispoti (37:28.245)
I want to shift gears again and this time I want to hear more about Jolt Health. As we described it in the intro, this is a health and wellness company currently engaged in identifying opportunities in the AI space in regards to medical development. What does that mean?

Gerald (37:47.303)
So, you know, one of the things that’s happening right now in the world, obviously everybody hears the term AI and, you know, then you’re going to start hearing about AGI, which is now starting to hit mainstream as a concept. What’s so special about AI isn’t the, it’s not how quickly AI is developing. It’s how many different things

are being developed through AI. And there’s opportunities with the right precepts, the right concepts put into the AI mind, so to speak, and having antagonistic entities that push back against each other, AI really does spin the wheel very quickly in terms of development in all segments. And we’re seeing that now.

within medicine where you’re starting to see certain vaccines, certain medicines being developed almost through the concept of giving the parameters to the, writing the parameters in code and then allowing an AI module to develop an idea because it doesn’t have any preconceived notion of what should or shouldn’t work.

If you just push everything into the, you know, if you, if you just push all of the information into it and let it run, it will sometimes surprise you. And it did, there’s, there is, I can’t remember the name of it. Halicin was the first AI generated, antibody. And it was strictly done by AI with the concepts being put into the system and allowing the computer.

to do its work. And the way it works is it is, you know, it’s almost in simplified forms. It is having a computer that says yes to everything and then having a character computer saying no to everything. And they sort of push back against each other and fight. And in that process and that antagonist process, it learns really quickly. And that’s how they did it with.

Gerald (40:15.785)
chess, that’s how they’ve done it with checkers. And they’ve, it turns out you can apply that theory to just about anything where it’s, where it’s learned machine learning. And for medical, we’re now seeing it, we’re seeing it live and in person. And so for Joule Health, we’ve, you know, we’ve had several things involved in the company over years, and we just sort of looked at it and said, this is the direction that it needs to be.

this is where medicine is going, this is where medical development is going, this is what the next 10 years is gonna be. And we’ve identified some core assets that we think that would be good and we’ve identified some key people that we think would be outstanding in terms of helping us on that journey.

Anthony Codispoti (41:05.619)
And so what does this look like? Is there an ultimate product that’s on the horizon?

Gerald (41:12.298)
Well, the interesting thing about AI is once we’ve identified and finalized any agreements with an acquisition partner, we’ll determine that as we go down the road.

Anthony Codispoti (41:26.898)
And so paint a little bit more of a picture for me. Help me understand where the company is now, where you want to take it, what is it doing in the moment that is public facing. So early days, but you guys have got big plans. Yep.

Gerald (41:35.53)
It’s a nascent company right now. It’s a shell and early days. Yeah. Early days. Yeah. And what we’ve done is, you know, there are several things that we’ve looked at, several things that we looked to put into the company. And then for various reasons, we’ve decided that we really need to focus on the AI side of things. We really need to focus on the medical side of things. And that’s what we’ve decided to do.

Anthony Codispoti (41:59.474)
So if you and I talk again and say be 12, 18 months, what would you hope to have be the announcement at that point?

Gerald (42:09.29)
I would hope to have the announcement be that we’re heavily involved in the development of something in the medical field that is AI driven.

Anthony Codispoti (42:18.738)
Okay, all right, well we’ll check back in with you later to see how this is evolving. So shifting gears again, you know, in this show we always like to spend at least a few minutes kind of delving into a personal or a professional challenge that you’ve overcome at some point and lessons that you’ve learned on the other side of that. As somebody who’s been involved in a wide range of businesses over the years, I’m sure that you’ve probably got a long list of things that, bumpy roads that you’ve traveled.

Can you think about one particular example of a challenge, either personally or professionally, that you’ve overcome and some things that you learned going through that experience?

Gerald (42:58.154)
I think the biggest challenge that in everyone’s day to day life, including my own, is that, you know, when there’s, if there’s an issue, you have to deal with it. And I think far too often it’s pushed to the back burner. It’s moved to the side. Other things come up and, you know, small issues become big issues if you don’t deal with them. And for us, you know, and I’m, I’m a,

I’ve done it to myself, I’ve seen other people do it themselves where if you don’t handle the issues, the issues handle you. And I think that’s the biggest takeaway from anything is that if there’s a problem, you deal with it and you move on. And you be honest about it and you learn from the mistakes. I don’t think, you know, I always joke with some of the people I work with that when I’m perfect, everyone has to worry, but it’s not gonna happen for a while. So I think everyone’s safe.

Anthony Codispoti (43:58.258)
Everyone can relax.

Gerald (43:58.542)
So yeah, everyone can relax just for another week. So.

Anthony Codispoti (44:01.97)
Yeah. You know, as business leaders, obviously we always have an eye on EBITDA, which is just a fancy term for profits, right? I’m curious in the different roles that you’ve been in to hear about maybe something interesting or creative that you’ve tried either as a way to lower costs or increase sales. That might be fun to talk about.

Gerald (44:25.962)
Well, I think for in terms of, in terms of Vera is one of the biggest things that we did very early on was we started procuring our own meat. And by buying, by making deals with the meat providers and cutting out the, the, the meat wholesalers, we were able to lock in more consistent pricing. And we’ve been able to protect.

our pricing in terms of the margins, I think a lot better than others. For us, that was an important piece because it really did help us through, we meet as a commodity and it helps us maintain a consistent price. Obviously we can’t combat inflation, but we can at least offset it somewhat.

And so, you know, when we buy our meat, we buy it in bulk. We buy trailers at a time. And for us, it enables us to maintain a price point for our meat. And it doesn’t fluctuate quite as much as others would.

Anthony Codispoti (45:37.618)
That’s something you wish you could teach a younger version of yourself, Gerald.

Gerald (45:47.724)
You have to do your assessments faster, make your decisions faster and don’t allow things to linger. I think the biggest thing that people make, biggest mistake people make now is, again, it goes back to my previous comment. I think you tend to push things to the side and say, I’ll deal with that later. And a lot of times that later is more painful.

Anthony Codispoti (45:58.226)

Anthony Codispoti (46:19.186)
Rip the Band -Aid off now.

Gerald (46:22.316)
So to speak, yeah.

Anthony Codispoti (46:22.93)
Yeah. You know, Gerald, in a competitive job market, recruiting and retaining good employees can be really challenging. I don’t know if you are experiencing the same kind of labor shortages in Canada that we are in the States, but I’m curious to hear about something maybe that you’ve tried and found success with to help both recruit and retain good staff.

Gerald (46:48.812)
Well, I think that generally speaking, you know, at this point, because we don’t own the, any stores where everything is franchised, it’s, it’s no longer sort of part of my day -to -day purview. However, when we did have stores, one of the things that we always did was made sure that if we identified a good employee, they weren’t at minimum wage for very long. We just, we, we bumped them up pretty quickly.

Anthony Codispoti (47:15.73)
You proactively bump them up. You don’t wait for them to come to you.

Gerald (47:17.996)
Yeah, and that’s again, you know, the analogy of ripping the bandaid off. If you’re waiting for somebody to come to you and ask for a raise, it’s going to be more painful. If you give them a small bump before they think they’ve earned it, they’re twice as happy with you because that you’re you’re you’ve now you’ve now given them a bonus instead of not met an expectation. And and I.

Anthony Codispoti (47:43.898)
That’s a good way to frame it.

Gerald (47:47.052)
I think that that’s important because if I make $10 an hour and I come to you and ask for a raise, I want $12. I’m not coming to you to get a raise from $10 to $10 .50. But if you’ve identified me and I’m earning $10 an hour and I’ve been working for a month and you say, hey, you know what? You’re doing a really good job, Gerald. Here’s $10 .75. You’re super happy.

And I use those numbers, but meanwhile, I mean, the average wage, the minimum wage in Canada is around, in BC is around $17 an hour. So, which is, it’s great because it does allow, it does allow people a living wage and that’s important, but it’s also tough because as a small business, you can only afford that for so many people. And if your business isn’t thriving,

Anthony Codispoti (48:20.37)

Gerald (48:41.26)
That means you have to cut somewhere and that cut is in quality. You can’t afford, I had this conversation with my daughter who’s in law school and we were arguing about a living wage and I said, living wage is important. But if you can only afford two people, so you can’t give the customer service that you need to give, that means you either have to raise your price, which might not be competitive.

Or you have to have owner operators. Or you perish.

Now, if the wage was $12 an hour, you might be able to afford four people. So now your business is thriving, your price points are fair, and you’ve employed two more people. What’s better? It’s a tough nut to crack because here in Vancouver, I don’t know whether you know anything about Vancouver, but it is not an inexpensive place to live.

and $17 an hour will barely get you over the finish line. So it’s a tough environment. All of that being said, we’ve never had somebody on minimum wage for more than a month. If they’re good, they’d be given a raise.

Anthony Codispoti (50:02.354)
Okay. If they prove themselves, you’re holding on to them, you want to give them that bump right away. Yeah. Jared, what’s a fun fact most people wouldn’t know about you?

Gerald (50:07.404)
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald (50:14.668)
Fun fact most people wouldn’t know about me. my gosh

I think I’m a pretty open book. I think most people would say he talks too much.

Anthony Codispoti (50:26.066)
Yeah, everybody knows your skeletons.

Anthony Codispoti (50:36.082)
Quite the gabber you are, huh?

Gerald (50:38.252)
Most, you know what, a fun fact, most people wouldn’t know about me. I can be far more disciplined than people give me credit for being.

Anthony Codispoti (50:46.738)
Okay, you come across as a fun -loving sort of shoot from the hip kind of a guy, but underneath the layers there’s a strong discipline. Good work ethic there, huh?

Gerald (50:51.756)
Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald (50:56.844)
Yeah, right now I’m in the middle of something called 75 Hard because somebody challenged me to do it.

Anthony Codispoti (51:02.738)
And what is that?

Gerald (51:05.036)
Work out twice a day, stick to a diet, no cheat days, no drinking any alcohol, read 10 pages of nonfiction, drink a gallon of water for 75 straight days.

Anthony Codispoti (51:15.282)
How many days into it are you?

Gerald (51:17.612)
I’m day 63 now.

Anthony Codispoti (51:19.09)
you’re almost through it. How do you feel?

Gerald (51:24.524)
You know what, I feel probably the same as I did beforehand, which is shocking to most of my friends, other than the fact that I’ve lost some weight.

Anthony Codispoti (51:32.114)
Okay, well that’s gotta be helping you out in some ways.

Gerald (51:33.868)
My wife didn’t believe I’d be able to stop drinking just like that.

Anthony Codispoti (51:40.242)
Now do you still enjoy the cigars? Is that on the allowed list? Okay.

Gerald (51:43.18)
yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s not on the off list, so.

Anthony Codispoti (51:47.09)
Good, that’s gotta help. Gerald, any specific mentors, books, or learning experiences that have been helpful in your personal or professional career?

Gerald (52:00.876)
I wouldn’t say there’s any specific mentors or books. What I’ve always tried to do is I read a lot. I read every day. I read the news, not just one source, several different sources every day. I listen to audio books. I read regular books. I’m pretty voracious about that on a day -to -day basis. And I don’t…

I try not to lock myself into any given concept. I’m open to any discourse about anything. And if somebody has a better point of view or can show me a better concept, I’m open to it. I don’t particularly, like I’m idea agnostic. I have opinions.

And my opinions are formed, I believe, based on 360 degree learning. So like, I can’t, you know, I firmly believe in the concept of, you know, walking somebody else’s shoes before you form an opinion of them. I firmly believe in, you know, how you treat people that can’t do anything for you is how you treat everyone. And.

You know, I firmly believe in that you never stop learning. And that’s those are sort of the things that I try to instill in my kids. I try to instill in my business. I’m not perfect. I still learn every day. I expect if we had this conversation in six months, a year, two years, five years, I would probably think differently about some things because I think that you can’t.

You can’t, if you don’t evolve.

Gerald (54:02.252)
then you become extinct.

Anthony Codispoti (54:04.396)
I think this is an important point and I think it’s something that most people would like to believe about themselves, but is really challenging in practice, this idea of being open to having your mind changed. I mean, it’s pretty rare to go into a, in my experience, it’s pretty rare to go into a conversation with somebody, especially about something maybe political or something that’s really divisive and have them come in with this viewpoint, but then here,

somebody else’s viewpoint, you’re like, that’s interesting. Is there something that sort of helped you sort of develop that mindset and being open to having your mind changed?

Gerald (54:46.324)
Coming from a broken home. I think it’s one of those things where you sort of as I, nobody is perfect in this world and I think that the moment that you think you’re 100 % right is the moment that you fail.

Anthony Codispoti (54:48.236)

Gerald (55:07.732)
And I think that there’s, you know, there’s multiple truths to every story. There’s multiple stories to every truth. And I think it’s critical that people, you know, I tell my kids, I have three kids and I tell them all the time. What’s getting lost in this, in this world that we live in currently is an inability for discourse. It’s an inability to have a conversation where I don’t agree with you.

Anthony Codispoti (55:13.388)

Gerald (55:36.852)
but I respect your opinion. And, you know, I, yeah, I don’t judge you for your opinions. I judge you as a person. You’re a good person. I have tons of time for you. You’re interesting, you’re engaging, you’re funny. I have tons of time for you. If you’re gonna stand there and tell me there’s only one way to be, and there’s only one way to act, and that is infallible, then I don’t have a lot of time for you.

Anthony Codispoti (55:40.652)
and can allow you to have it.

Gerald (56:06.452)
because you’re not a person that’s gonna ever think about things in sort of a, other than in a linear fashion. And that’s not how life works.

Anthony Codispoti (56:17.963)
Amen to that. I’m curious, you said what allowed you to sort of develop this mindset was coming from a broken home. Was this sort of like an environment where it was like mom had one story, dad had another story. I had to learn to kind of be able to hold both of those maybe opposing stories in my head at the same time.

Gerald (56:38.422)
Here’s what I’m gonna say is, I sort of, I half joke about that, but one of the things that it allowed me to do is become an observer. And I like to be engaged in the story and I like to have fun, I like to have a good time, but I equally like to stand at the back of a room and just watch.

And I think that’s because sometimes if you, you know, broken homes aren’t always nice and easy. Sometimes they’re volatile relationships. And sometimes you just need to stand in a corner and watch. And I think that’s important. I think we all, we all have this, we all have this idea of getting involved and sometimes people get involved when they shouldn’t.

Anthony Codispoti (57:16.682)

Gerald (57:33.109)
I’ve done that and if I brought my wife in here she’d tell you I did it yesterday. But sometimes you just need to stand back and just watch.

Anthony Codispoti (57:44.075)
Hmm. You know, something else you said that really resonates with me is this idea that we should always be learning. And I don’t know how old your kids are. I’ve got two boys who are eight and nine. And that’s something I regularly try to impress upon them. So I think they have this sense of, you know, once they graduate high school, once they graduate college, once they get to be a grown up, you know, they’ll be done learning. They won’t have to go to school anymore. They’ll know everything. And that’s…

you know, that’s something that I really try to impress upon them. I’m like, hey, you know, I’m 50 years old. And I said, if I’m doing it right, every day I wake up, I am learning something new. Like you never stop. Because when you do, you know, I think you, you know, you collect moss, you grow mold, you, you know, and you do a quick decline. And so, I’m curious, as a father, how old are your kids and how have you been able to impress those lessons upon them?

Gerald (58:43.702)
So I’ve got a 23 year old, a 21 year old and a 19 year old. And how I’ve been able to impress that upon them is going through the frustrating act of having arguments with them. And it’s, you know, I’m a believer, I am a strong believer in discourse and having the arguments and having the discussions and, and.

getting, you know, as I say to my wife, our kids need to be independent thinkers. I said, the problem with independent thinkers is they have their own opinions. And those don’t necessarily align with us. And that to me, but you know, it’s, it’s somebody posited the question to me, if you drop dead tomorrow, what do you think your legacy would be? And I said, I think that my legacy would be, I’ve got three kids, it’ll be just fine.

They’re going to be, they might be sad that I’m gone. They might be upset about it, but they’ll be just fine. They form their own opinions. We’ve allowed them to fail. We’ve allowed them to succeed. They’ve done it on their own accord, their own merits. We haven’t helicoptered them. We’ve seen them get upset about things. We’ve seen them be happy with things, but most importantly, we’ve seen them drive their buses. There, you know, I have a niece that

was got married very young and I had a difference of opinion of whether she should get married that young. And I just said, look, at the end of the day, you’re gonna write your own story. And I think that’s the most important thing. Everybody needs to write their own story. Is it a good story or a bad story? Well, it’s still being written. You can change your story today.

That’s the way it is. That’s the way life is. Your story isn’t over until you close your eyes for the final time. Up until that day, you can change your story every day. It’s just, it’s dependent on you.

Anthony Codispoti (01:00:44.617)
I like that a lot. Gerald, I’ve just got one more question for you, but before I ask it, I want to do two things. First of all, if you’re listening and you like today’s content, please hit the subscribe, like, or share button on your favorite podcast app. Gerald, I also want to let people know the best way to get in touch with you. We’ve already mentioned Freud Cigars, Farah Burgers, somebody wants to reach out to you and Jolt Health, but if somebody wants to reach out to you directly, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Gerald (01:01:15.703)
Email me at GeraldTrittGmail .com.

Anthony Codispoti (01:01:19.433)
So that’s Gerald, G -E -R -A -L -D, Trit, T -R -I -T -T, yep, at gmail .com, great. Okay, so last question for you, and we can focus on one of the three businesses or all three of them as you think about answering this question, but I’m curious, how do you see the industry that you’re involved in evolving over the next five years? What are some of the big changes that you think are coming in those spaces?

Gerald (01:01:25.079)
Yeah, at gmail .com.

Gerald (01:01:50.04)
So I think in the hospitality space, I think the big thing is going to be, I think the delivery apps will continue to grow. I think you’re going to see some pushback on companies maybe doing their own deliveries and sort of cycling back to what it used to be where pizza and Chinese restaurants used to do their own deliveries. Because I think that the amount…

of money that the delivery apps take off of the restaurants is significant. And as margins get tighter, that becomes tougher to do. So I think from that perspective, I also think you’re going to see more varied influences. You know, 25, 35 years ago, 40 years ago in the restaurant industry, the concept of fusion cuisine became the hot spot. I think that there is going to be more of that

in terms of the how food is prepared, how they have cooking techniques. So I think in the restaurant business, you’re going to see some pretty wild stuff over the next five to 10 years. I don’t think anything is off the table anymore. In terms of cigars, I think the legislation is the toughest part because people view cigars the same. They lump cigars with tobacco and

It is tobacco in the sense of the word, but nobody is smoking, you know, 25 cigars in a day. Not like somebody who’s got a pack of cigarettes have it. Plus the fact that you’re not inhaling cigars. Cigars are more of an experiential thing. They’re not as highly, in my opinion, they’re not as highly addictive. If somebody said to me tomorrow, you can’t smoke cigars anymore, I’d be fine with it.

I wouldn’t like it because I enjoy a cigar, but I wouldn’t say, my God, how can I live without cigars? I’d have a tougher time giving up coffee than I would cigars. And so for the cigar industry, I think that the legislation stuff is tough. I really enjoy, I go to the States, I go to Las Vegas, I go to a cigar lounge in Las Vegas. I enjoy sitting there having a drink.

Gerald (01:04:13.081)
having a cigar, great environment. That’s a, that’s a, that’s a good night in Canada. You can’t do that in some States. You can’t do that. It becomes, you know, you’re, if I want to have a cigar here in Vancouver, I either have to be in my backyard or I have to be a 10 meters from the front door of any building. There are no cigar lounges. They’re not allowed.

You know, they have, here in Canada, we have brown paper, like plain paper regulations. So every cigar is over wrapped with a brown paper packaging.

in a cigar store where no minors are allowed. Because they basically want to make it, they don’t want to sell, they don’t want you to be able to use the Sigmund Box design as a selling feature for tobacco. So you’re sort of looking at, it’s silly because a cigar store itself, no minors are allowed in.

Anthony Codispoti (01:05:00.871)
What’s the point of the packaging? It’s just to disguise what’s in there.

Gerald (01:05:27.355)
So when people are walking in looking for a brand, they’re looking for their brand. They’re looking for the cigars that I like to smoke. They’re not available or they are available, but you have to go through the entire humidor to find them. And because every cigar looks the same, I find things like that. You’re, you create layers of bureaucracy to make it more difficult for people to just enjoy themselves.

And again, a cigar is not a cigarette. I can’t stress that enough. Cigar is not a vape. You know, I find, so for me, that’s the bureaucracy, the legislation, the preconceived notions. Like there’s talk of banning cigars for anyone born after a certain date.

It’s inconceivable for me to think that the government is going to say, Gerald, because you were born in 2008, you’re never allowed to have a cigar, ever, at all.

Anthony Codispoti (01:06:35.301)
So your hope is that the momentum that some of this legislation has going in one direction, you’re hoping that it sort of gets rolled back in another direction.

Gerald (01:06:45.583)
You know, I think that society in general is a pendulum swinger. We swing hard one way and then we got to swing back hard the other way. And then we got to find the middle somewhere. Is plain paper packaging good? I could see an argument for it. Banning cigar use for anybody. I mean, I would, you know, at the risk of getting sued by Coca -Cola, I’d say that.

soft drinks are probably worse for more of the population than cigars are. Cause more people have a soft drink addiction than they do a cigar addiction. You’re going to say to, or what would happen if people said, if you’re born out in 2008, you’re not allowed to have Coke. You’re not allowed to have Pepsi. Right? You know, if you look at, if you, if you read the data, the amount of, the amount of cigar smokers,

Anthony Codispoti (01:07:30.981)
Yeah, it would make quite a bit of noise.

Gerald (01:07:41.18)
has grown marginally in the last 35 years. The amount of sugar consumed by individuals has grown by a factor of 10. What’s worse for you? You know that, go ahead.

Anthony Codispoti (01:07:53.253)
Skyrocketing, yeah.

Gerald, do you want to go ahead? Sorry, I was just going to shift gears and see if you wanted to take a stab at the same question for the the AI health company. That’s that’s that’s a tough one. I mean, five years might as well ask about five months. Yeah.

Gerald (01:08:06.91)
AI, listen, it is, it is the wild west. It is the wild west. You know, the, the, the information cycle, the, the speed of computing is doubling almost every 18 months. You know, what we, it is, it is literally the wild west. I’m reading a book right now on it and how fast AI is developing and on how fast things are moving and how, you know, the pre.

And the good and the bad of AI and, you know, Microsoft had to shut down one of their AI modules several years ago because it basically cycled into a rabbit hole that was racist and started learning until the point where all it was spewing out was racist information. And it was such a nascent

industry at that time that they ended up shutting the module down. That was the solution. Like we just have to shutter it because we can’t, it can’t unlearn what it’s learned. I found like the AI is going to AI. We don’t even realize in a day to day operation, how much AI is involved in our daily life. If you do a Google search on anything, business cards.

Anthony Codispoti (01:09:16.484)
for a while.

Gerald (01:09:36.767)
all of a sudden, if you punch in something else like photographs, and then your list of things that Google comes up with, it’ll say business cards with photographs on. Because it’s taken your search of business cards, and through its AI algorithms, it is now saying, well, now if you’re looking for photos, but you were looking for business cards, maybe you’re looking for business cards with photos on.

AI is contingent on everything in our life. Waze, the GPS app for travel, that uses AI to tell you where to go and how to go. User input, and then it uses the user input of there’s a car accident over here to tell you don’t, instead of going over here because there’s a car accident, which is a user input, that’s a human input, but now AI says your best route to get to your destination is going this direction now.

Anthony Codispoti (01:10:37.316)
Cheryl? Yeah, fascinating stuff. I want to be the first one to thank you for a really interesting interview. Appreciate you sharing your time and your story today.

Gerald (01:10:37.534)
It’s crazy.

Gerald (01:10:48.958)
Anthony, I appreciate you taking the opportunity to reach out and have a good time.

Anthony Codispoti (01:10:51.844)
Yeah. Folks, that’s a wrap on another episode of the Inspired Stories Podcast. Thanks for learning with us today.


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