Running UTM’s only pub: Shane Madhani


Shane Madhani strolls to his hidden corner office at the Pub, high-fiv-ing students and patting their backs on the way. The air smells like deep-fried oil. The room hums with chatter. It’s Wednesday afternoon at the Blind Duck Pub.

He makes himself comfortable in his black office chair, wearing a dark sweater and jeans, two navy blue lanyards slung over his neck with the words University of Toronto outlined in white.

He grins when a student walks in to pass him a cheque at the door.

“Thanks, buddy. I’ve always liked money,” he jests.

In an exclusive interview with The Medium, Madhani opens up about BDP’s turning point—from deficit to profit—the value of personal connection, working hard, and maintaining balance.

Another student appears, this time asking for a square head. Madhani politely declines.

“They always come to me for everything, you know?” he chuckles. And they have. Madhani, 37, currently manages the Blind Duck—and is doing a pretty good job of doing it, too.

Before UTMSU hired Madhani in 2007, the BDP was consecutively losing around $200,000 per year. Nearly $500,000 worth of student funds were used to cover the losses. Students were not purchasing food and beverages and the BDP was simply not making enough money to keep the operation sustainable.

However, under Madhani’s leadership, the BDP managed to break even at the end of its first year.

“It was amazing!” UTMSU’s current president, Vickita Bhatt, gushes. The year after that, the BDP made a slight profit, and have continued to generate revenue ever since.

Although the money doesn’t add up to too much ($3,000 to $4,000), whatever is made goes back towards financing the BDP in order to provide better services for students. In the past few years, the pub has received a “facelift” from said profits, sporting a new TV, tables, chairs, brighter curtains, repainted walls, and retiled floors.

Nowadays, the BDP is full to the brim with students from the moment they open at 11 a.m. until closing time at 7 p.m. from Monday-Thursdays, or 4 p.m. on Fridays, whether it’s for wings, a pint of beer, or an occasional salad. They cater to student clubs and social events at the Student Centre, ranging from academic to leisure, and have regulars among the faculty as well.

“It’s crazy,” Madhani exclaims, scratching his silver-stubble beard. “But I went above and beyond the call of duty.”

“A satisfied customer is a returning customer. I think that’s what really helped us. That was the transformation for the BDP.”

When asked what former background or education led to his success as an entrepreneur, he laughs.

“You know what? I didn’t even go to school,” he says. “I didn’t even go to college or university. I was sort of self-made.”

From the time he was 21 years old, Madhani has been self-employed. Initially motivated by money, he worked hard developing his own dry-cleaning business before eventually moving on to hospitality and the casual dining industry. Now 16 years down the road, he has accumulated countless networking associates, business experiences, and world knowledge under his belt.

“Now, it’s not about the money anymore,” Madhani admits. “I just like to do what I enjoy. I don’t want that stress anymore. I’m content with getting a paycheque every two weeks and just enjoying life.”

To the young entrepreneurs and students alike on campus, he advises, “Have balance in everything that you do. It is paramount.”

  • Sumeet

    It’s great to hear that Madhani made it and managed to have the pub turn a profit. The food is great. However, why do they close so early – especially on Fridays? Why does the beer on tap often taste awful? Why is there no weekend service? I think if the pub were to stay open later on Friday and open in the late afternoon on Saturday and stay open late, it would attract students. There is a large amount of students on residence and a lot live walking distance from the school(Homestead). The easiest bars to go to in Mississauga are up Dundas street and most of them are not that great. Sure, you could go to square one, but the bars there tend to cost more and the 110 south stops running before 11 p.m.. I really think if the pub were to get serious about being open late on Friday/Saturday and advertise it and maybe provide some drink deals on beer, they would attract a crowd. They don’t have to try to turn it into a club, just provide a bar like atmosphere for students to enjoy without having to trek downtown or spend too much money.

  • Tim

    I agree with the guy above ^^… to be called a pub it should have to be open past happy hour. Other schools have pubs on campus where you can go and watch the hockey game and a have a beer and UTM is lacking in comparison.

  • Novy Warouw

    Hi Sumeet, Tim.

    These are very valid comments/questions that will be directed towards Shane.

    Thank you for your input.

  • Jeremy

    I would credit Erindale population boom over the years as the main reason for the pub’s recovery.

    The main problem with the pub is that it has a horrible layout that wastes space (no fault of anyone except the architect who built the building.) Its bad for service, its bad for customers and I commend everyone who had worked at the pub ever since its moved to the student centre for having to put up with its home.

    Its hard to create ambiance when you have 2 story ceilings and the flood lights from outside illuminate the place, sound echoing all around the place. People just don’t want to hang out at a fishbowl.

    But here is a key point… as long as food services doesn’t open more places to eat… the pub will be able to stay afloat, otherwise it will return back to its $200,000 loses.