Building a Restaurant Empire

Ram and Olga Khanal Southern Alberta.

Pictured above: Picture Butte Hotel and Tavern.

Enduring support for an entrepreneur’s budding idea – to three thriving businesses. Sit down with Ram and Olga Khanal at one of their three restaurants and you’re immediately comfortable.

With Ram’s energetic passion and Olga’s calm kindness, it’s easy to get lost in great conversation. Engaged in the community both personally and in business, the pair are proud of their adopted country and Southern Alberta where they call home. Their love shows up in how they’ve built their businesses; creating meaningful relationships with local suppliers and giving back to the community through various local charities. While the Khanal’s ambitions don’t stop with their current three restaurants, it did begin with one: The Picture Butte Hotel and Tavern. This restaurant, which provided the foundation for their company, would not have been possible without the support of Community Futures.

A history of ambition Ram, who was born and raised in Nepal, and Olga, who was raised in Ukraine, met on a cruise ship. But they weren’t lounging poolside – they were working in one of the many restaurants on the ship. After years on the high seas, the pair decided to settle down and start a family. Instead of settling in one of their home countries, they chose to start their next chapter in Canada. During the immigration process, they laid down roots in Picture Butte and Ram found employment using his MBA in the Oil and Gas industry. “It was a job I had dreamed of for 17 years – and I hated it every day,” Ram said. “So at that moment, when I was travelling back and forth to work, I decided to open a restaurant.” Pushing for a dream

Both Ram and Olga had plenty of experience in the hospitality industry, but they didn’t have the capital needed to start a business. All they had was a savings account earmarked for the home they intended to purchase in Butte.After a long discussion, the couple decided they wanted a home and a business, so they put a down payment on The Picture Butte Hotel and Tavern where they could live and work. After buying the hotel and moving in, they took out a loan to renovate the space and get it back in working condition. However, midway through renovations, they ran out of money and Ram found himself trudging from bank to bank looking for someone to help fund his dreams. Bank after bank shut their door, leaving him out in the cold. Finally, a banker suggested Ram and Olga try speaking with the folks at Community Futures.

Recognizing – and stoking – entrepreneurial passion What Ram and Olga found when they walked into Community Futures was completely different than the banks they had previously approached. “Community Futures come in as advisors or counsellors instead of coming as a lender who is only greedy to make the investment to grow,” Ram said. “A bank always looks at you as a customer and the discussion is only whether you are good enough or not. And when I walked in the door at Community Futures, I never felt judged in that particular area that way.” Instead, Community Futures looked at Ram’s potential as a business owner, and his vision, then chose to help. With that critical support from Community Futures, Ram and Olga were able to finish renovations and open up their very first restaurant. Sustained support, year after year As Ram continued to build his brand, Community Futures remained steadfast beside him, as a mentor, and as a source of financial assistance when he needed it.

Even recently, when the fallout of the pandemic all but halted the hospitality industry, Community Futures was able to step in to help once again. In early 2020, Ram and Olga, who already owned both The Picture Butte Hotel and Bar and The Telegraph Taphouse, had their sights on the newly vacant Water Tower. Following their instincts, they purchased the space, and once again, experienced unbridled success in the first couple of months after opening. Then COVID-19 hit and sent the world spiralling. Because Ram and Olga’s third business did not exist before 2020, they were not eligible for CERB or most of the other government aid. However, through Community Futures, they were able to secure alternative government aid to access the money needed to make it through the worst of the lockdowns and find success on the other side.

Building a thriving future for our community With the help of Community Futures’ loans and mentorship, Ram moved from a job that didn’t fit him to owning and running three successful restaurants with his wife Olga. Not only has this given them a chance at living their dreams, but it has allowed them to build back into the community they love by partnering with local producers. As Ram and Olga’s Butte Hospitality chain of restaurants continues to grow, they are excited to bring the best of Southern Alberta to the rest of the province – and even to the nation. Visit Ram and Olga’s three restaurants for delicious global cuisine.

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